Byron Bay Bluesfest cancellation leaves $10m hole

The last-minute cancellation of Bluesfest in Byron Bay by the NSW Government will leave a $10 million hole in the festival’s bottom line.

The NSW Health Department ordered the cancellation just hours before the festival was due to kick-off following alarm of a potential Covid cluster in Byron Bay stemming from Queensland.

Live Performance Australia CEO Evelyn Richardson said the festival had copped a “$10 million loss” from the last minute decision.

“We have people being turned away told go home and an operator that has been running that festival for 30 years who has had the festival shut down two years in a row in an environment where nobody can get insurance for that,” she told the ABC.

“We have only just started to get back on our feet and we’ve seen one case of community transmission close down a major festival, having major flow-on effects less than 24 hours before the festival was to happen.

“People being turned way to go home and an operator that has been running that festival for 30 years who has had the festival shut down two years in a row and now in an environment where nobody can get insurance for that.

“This has major implications for the industry. We can’t sustain another six or 12 months of this, of sudden lockdowns and being shut down.”

Organiser Peter Noble said announcing the cancellation of the festival was “one of the most difficult statements I have ever had to make”.

“We feel deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists, and the hard-working Bluesfest team,” he said.

The cancellation of the five-day festival has not only impacted the 15,000 fans expected over the long weekend, but also the stall holders and local businesses that were banking on the spending boost over Easter.

“NSW Health said in a statement it “acknowledges that the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for ticket holders and event organisers”.

“However while urgent investigations and contact tracing are ongoing, NSW Health is adopting a cautious approach to keep everyone safe,” the department said.