Festivals forge ahead with plans for 2021 with improved health measures

Festivals across Australia are pushing ahead with dates in 2021 as confidence increases in the ability to put on events that adhere to stricter health and hygiene measures.

WOMADelaide is preparing to present a full-scale festival next year after appointing new co-director Lee Cumberlidge, who will work alongside Arts Projects Australia co-founder and long-time director Ian Scobie.

“We’re working to present a full-scale festival next March; that’s our ambition,” Scobie told InDaily.

“Clearly things can change … if there’s a major spike [in COVID-19 cases], then nothing can happen anywhere, but our sense is that by March next year circumstances should have advanced and improved to an extent that we can do that.”

The organisers are looking at ways to hold the festival safely including creating more open space around the park and open up entrance areas.

The festival is also delaying the first program announcement until November to give the organisers more time to assess the situation regarding international travel.

The Byron Bay music festival Bluesfest is also pushing ahead with plans for 2021, with organiser Peter Noble saying they will do “whatever it takes” to create a safe event in April.

This year’s festival was cancelled following the ban on large scale events, but the organisers have tried to secure as much of the 2020 line-up for next year as they could.

“When we had to cancel this year’s festival the first thing we did was contact our insurance company to check we were covered,” Noble told The Sydney Morning Herald. “The second thing we did was to go to all the artists and see if they wanted to come back.

“A large majority of the artists said they wanted to come back because they need to do what they do, which is get out there and entertain the public.”

Early bird ticket sales opened last week with more than 15,000 tickets already snapped up.

“I’m sure there will be a bunch of people who won’t want to come but there will be another bunch who want to get out and support the entertainment industry,” Noble said.

“I am sure there are going to be hurdles in the road, but we want to do whatever it takes to be able to put those artists on a stage and make an event that is safe for the public to return to.”

Music festival Under the Southern Stars (UTSS) is also looking to go ahead in 2021 in Wollongong. The organisers postponed this year’s event, setting new dates for February next year.

UTSS promoter Andrew McManus has partnered with TEG Live’s Geoff Jones to ask the federal government to use the festival as the “test case” for future live music events.

The ‘Australian Live Music And Music Festival COVID Safe Plan’ includes strict group limits for bands travelling from overseas, Covid-19 testing at both the departure and arrival destinations, band quarantine zones, “military style” transfers between Australian cities for the bands and crew, and locked hotel floors for bands and their crews.

Festival goers must also download the COVID-Safe app to attend the show, submit to temperature checks and abide by strict social distancing measures at the show, which will be capped at 70 per cent of total capacity.