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Woodford woes - organiser says beloved folk festival might not return if cancelled

Culture

The director of Australia’s biggest music and culture festival says if the event is cancelled this year it may be gone for good.

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Bill Hauritz said the Woodford Folk Festival could “cease to exist” if it did not go ahead in December, but added it was too early to make a call one way or the other.

Speaking after the Gympie Music Muster confirmed it was cancelling its annual August event earlier this week, Hauritz said a decision about Woodford would be made by “late July, early August”.

If the festival were to run this year, Hauritz said, the format would have to change.

“We’re already past the point in time that we can scale up to a full-size Woodford Folk Festival,” he said.

What would have to change

Depending on government rules and expectations, Hauritz said the event could be a reduced, “half-size” event.

“We would have to let go of our amphitheatre program, probably drop the circus venue and a couple of others, probably reduce the numbers, put a cap on it,” he said.

Every year the festival attracts a total audience of 100,00 people over six days, and features 1,600 shows across 25 stages.

“Because of our capability of putting on the big show, we would have needed to have started long before this, so that’s not an option really for this year,” Hauritz said.

“If there’s still social distancing it’s going to make it incredibly difficult, probably impossible to put an audience under a tent.

“That would probably rule it out.”

If the festival does not go ahead this year, the financial impact “will be huge”, Haurtiz said.

While the festival had operated on its own land since 1994, Hauritz said organisers had continued to invest into the provision of infrastructure on the site.

“Any profits we’ve made over the years have gone straight into that,” he said.

“So we’ve worked on really small margins.”

The not-for-profit event pumps $20 million into the local economy every year.

If he builds it, will they come?

Hauritz said there was also a risk that many people would simply not have the money to attend.

“We suspect there’ll be a lot of people unemployed and not keen on spending, particularly around Christmas time — it’s always a volatile period,” he said.

With some of his small team of paid staff having lost their jobs and others receiving the JobKeeper payment, Hauritz said they had been reduced to “a smaller tribe”.

“It’s not a great time for us,” he said.

“But neither is it for anyone else.”

– ABC / Annie Gaffney

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