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20 May 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Organisers of staple festivals in the region face uncertainty in planning large-scale events in the future.
Last week Victoria joined other states in easing back on some government enforced COVID-19 restrictions.
However, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has ruled out music festivals and nightclubs as unlikely to reopen until there is a coronavirus vaccine.
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Some larger-scale festivals in the Wimmera and Mallee, including Grampians Music Festival, Moyston Pitch Music and Arts Festival and Donald’s Esoteric Festival, were fortunate to scrape through with their 2020 events before the lockdown crunch in March.
However, many key events such as Horsham Country Music Festival, Warracknabeal’s Y-Fest, Grampians Grape Escape and the Stawell Gift were forcibly cancelled.
Tourism leaders stress these events were injecting millions of dollars into regional economies each year and were key for developing profiles for Wimmera locations such as Halls Gap.
Forging ahead, many organisers, now at a financial lost, are also without any guarantee larger-scale events can go ahead early next year.
For this reason, Grampians Music Festival director Carly Flecknoe decided to push her festival, which attracts more than 1000 people each year, back to 2022.
She said it posed too many complications to organise a festival in February next year under the current circumstances.
“We’d really be pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and that’s a really risky position to be in for a music festival,” she said.
“If at the end of February music festivals could run it would be highly likely we wouldn’t find out the information until November or December.
“It is borderline impossible to pull off a music festival in that amount of time and it’s definitely impossible to market a music festival in that amount of time.”
Ms Flecknoe said there could be an opening for event organisers to run smaller gigs in 2021.
“Smaller performances might be available, and we could possibly do things for a local audience and local demographic,” she said.
“Picking a venue where we might run gigs monthly to attract musicians out of places like Warrnambool and Ballarat to support regional music in a much smaller environment could be an option.”
Ms Flecknoe said people should still support artists, who had lost all touring opportunities due to COVID-19.
“The way to do that is ensure you are using a streaming service that pays artists fairly, or purchase an album,” she said.
“But, the best way to support bands is to buy their merchandise, a large percentage of that goes directly into their pockets and that means the band becomes more financially viable to continue touring in the future.”
Tourism leaders are developing a ‘recovery plan’ in response to COVID-19 and the summer bushfires.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said it was wise for organisers to hold off on any major event planning until there was clear directive from both state and federal governments.
“The event landscape will be very different post COVID-19,” he said.
“The only clear thing at the moment is that we don’t know, and the only constant is the unknown.
“We are in new territory here. We are not able to make any decisive decisions at the moment.”
Mr Sleeman said it would be a long road to recovery for the tourism industry.
“This is not going to be a sprint, the recovery will be a marathon and we need to make sure we are in a strong position to get through these next two years,” he said.
“Events are a great way to profile our region, they remain a key priority for our organisation in the future.
“We are forming up some strategic reactivation plans at the moment with our four local government partners and recovery task force to ensure that we have got a really strong recovery plan.”
The entire May 20, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!