Festival organizers have been promised immediate financial support for canceled concerts in 2022, but no one can say where the money is.
As the festival season turns into yet another disappointment, furious industry figures are wondering what happened to government funding meant to protect against Covid cancellations.
Last year, the Government of New South Wales announced the creation of an “Event Preservation Fund” with a promise to provide immediate support to organizers if events are canceled or disrupted by any public health orders during the summer of 2021-2022.
Less than two weeks before the new year, this scenario has become a reality for several New South Wales festivals.
Organizers of several canceled events – and promoters of upcoming ones now hanging by a thread – have contacted the government to ask about the money.
But the government still doesn’t say how much money has been allocated to the fund or how much each event can receive.
“Details of our Event Saver fund will be announced shortly,” a government spokeswoman said Friday.
One of the doomed events, Hunter Valley Vine Picking, was due to take place on Saturday but was canceled this week after new restrictions were put in place to ban singing and dancing at outdoor events.
The public health order, signed by Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant, says it was specifically designed to limit music festivals.
Grapevine attendees and groups have been given just four days’ notice, with promoters claiming the Hunter Valley region will receive a $5.2 million hit.
Other canceled events include the King Street Carnival and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Footage of unmasked people dancing and singing to pop music at the Hillsong Youth Camp infuriated those whose events were cancelled.
Prime Minister Dominic Perrotte said on Friday he was “incredibly disappointed” by Hillsong’s public health breach.
Mr. Perrotte also said he understands the frustration of those forced to cancel events and promised financial support.
“Over the last 12 months where festivals have had a significant impact, we have provided financial support to help them get through and we will do the same again,” he said.
“I know the treasurer and the teams are working very closely on this.”
When Event Saver was announced in October, no dollar amount was set and there was little information about how the fund would operate.
Create NSW, which runs the fund, asked promoters to contact the government agency via email for more information.
“I can’t understand the delay,” opposition music spokesman John Graham told NCA NewsWire.
“Despite the promise of immediate assistance, we now have radio silence.”
Surf rockers Yolngu King Stingray were preparing to play Grapevine before the shock’s cancellation was announced.
Guitarist Roy Kellaway said that two years of canceled shows and constant uncertainty had worn him down.
“My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the ever-changing COVID-19 environment,” he said.
“It’s so tiring. This requires a whole new level of resilience.”
The Australian Festivals Association (AFA) reports that a typical medium-sized event costs around $1 million to host.
“Up until the end of last year, festival organizers (all over Australia) received grants of $5,000 or $10,000,” spokeswoman Julia Robinson said.
“These grants do not replace the lost millions of dollars.”
The AFA has joined other industry bodies in calling for the creation of a national insurance scheme to protect organizers from losses caused by pandemic-related restrictions.
But Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
Mr Fletcher argues that since lockdowns and other Covid-19 restrictions are imposed by states, they should also be responsible for underwriting events.
Victoria has taken on that responsibility by launching an insurance scheme last November that will insure events against cancellations due to the coronavirus or reduced capacity.
The $230 million scheme will run for 12 months.
NSW opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord said it was time for the state government to follow suit and introduce its own concert insurance.
Why are we still waiting for this? The time has come for the new minister of arts to act,” he said.
King Stingray’s Kellaway said he expects the situation to continue to be fluid and that he has no plans to quit his day job just yet.
“What a scene – it’s almost like if the concert happens, it’s a miracle and it makes you even more grateful that this happened,” he said.
“I’m just so grateful that I have another job besides music, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to survive.
“I have so much to be thankful for and as the world struggles to deal with this terrible pandemic, I am just so thankful for what I have.”