In the last fortnight two NSW music festivals have been axed in the wake of the state government’s new, abrupt and eye-wateringly pricy new compliance measures, ostensibly in the service of stopping drug deaths via a strategy of ensuring that there are no more festivals.
But now something has happened which might actually affect Liberal voters – which should worry premier Gladys Berejiklian ahead of the election: Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, one of the biggest and most successful annual Australian music festivals, has said it will leave NSW if the laws aren’t wound back.
In an open letter to the NSW government Bluesfest promoter Peter Noble declared that “I am saying now, Bluesfest will leave NSW. We have no choice; it’s a matter of survival. Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?”
Noble’s letter calls out the government for not consulting with the people who actually put festivals on before bringing the legislation in, pointing out that the final report hasn’t even been released yet.
“Why do you seem to be hell-bent on destroying our industry? We provide culture to the people of this state, and Australia, through our good works. Most festivals haven’t had drug deaths and contribute greatly to our society through presenting well-run, professional, world-class events. Why have we been given zero recognition in this government’s actions?”
“We are the industry professionals, we are the people that are presenting events at the highest levels, I mean Bluesfest has just been inducted into the NSW Tourism Awards hall of fame,” Noble told the ABC. “We are all concerned about people dying from drug overdoses, but in 30 years my festival has never had one and so have the vast majority of festivals, yet we’re all getting tarred with the same brush.”
It also raises a question about another Byron mainstay: Splendour In The Grass, who bought their own site in Byron Bay a few years ago (which is also home to the Byron leg of the Falls Festival) and presumably don’t want to have to make a Queensland trek over to Woodford again, as they did when the site was being established.
This all comes after a report which concluded that NSW is losing out on $16 billion a year thanks to its post-lockout, post-festival nighttime dead zone.
But hey, who can put a price on not having a good time?