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Byron Bay Bluesfest hums back to life after green light from government

Culture

Organisers of Byron Bay’s Bluesfest have announced this year’s five-day festival will proceed over the easter long weekend in April after their comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan received the tick of approval from the NSW Government.

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Almost immediately after being forced to pull the plug on the 2020 festival – which had been scheduled to feature international headliners including Patti Smith, Dave Matthews Band and George Benson – weeks out from its commencement, Bluesfest director Peter Noble resolutely shifted his focus and insisted Bluesfest 2021 would go ahead.

This morning, he announced that tenacity had paid off, with Bluesfest 2021 to proceed – with an all-Australian line-up featuring artists including Jimmy Barnes, The Teskey Brothers, Tash Sultana, John Butler, Xavier Rudd and Kasey Chambers – at half its pre-COVID capacity.

“The NSW Government has indicated that, if the current COVID-19 situation continues in NSW, Bluesfest would be permitted to proceed, following our comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan,” Noble said.

He described the news as “a great day, not only for Bluesfest, but also for the Australian live music industry and our unrelenting efforts to get back to presenting live music safely”.

Jimmy Barnes will be one of the headliners of this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest. (Photo: Supplied)

Bluesfest 2021, which will run from April 1-5 at Byron Events Farm (formerly known as Tyagarah Tea Tree) just north of Byron Bay, will be the first multi-day festival of its size and stature to be staged in Australia since Falls Festival in late 2019 and early 2020.

Noble said he hoped the news that Bluesfest was proceeding this year would provide an overall confidence boost for the nation’s live music industry.

“Whilst our capacity, stages and campgrounds will be approximately 50 per cent of the numbers we have had in the past, it is great to know there is a future for our industry, and that we have been given the opportunity to present Bluesfest 2021 at a level not seen at festivals in Australia since the summer of 2019-20,” he said.

In May last year, Noble and his team began working with safety, risk and emergency management consultancy firm Riskworks to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble. (Photo: ABC)

“We first lodged it with government in August and have continued to refine the plan since that time,” he said. “We have worked closely with NSW Health in developing the plan and are extremely thankful for their ongoing advice.

“Certainly, the NSW Events Task Force and the offices of Stuart Ayres, Minister for Tourism and Major Events NSW; John Barilaro, the Deputy Premier NSW; Ben Franklin, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts; the office of Don Harwin, NSW Minister for the Arts and Paul Fletcher, Federal Minister for the Arts are to be commended for working closely with us on a weekly basis to achieve this milestone result for the music-loving people of Australia.”

Noble said Bluesfest organisers would now be forensically going through the 150-page COVID Safety Plan and would make a further announcement about the format of this year’s festival next week but said patrons would not be required to wear face masks.

“What we can say is that the plan is created in a way where we can adapt to the requirements of the NSW Health Department should there be a need to create higher levels of safety for the public on site,” he said.

“Of course, we are also hopeful that conditions will be further relaxed should there be no further community transmissions.”

Noble said based on current audience caps, this year’s event was already 80 per cent sold out prior to this morning’s announcement, with day tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday expected sell out in the coming weeks.

Noble extended his thanks to the government agencies, artists, agents, managers, suppliers and everyone on the Bluesfest team for their work in helping ensure this year’s festival would go ahead.

“But number one is our gratitude to the music fans, who purchased the tickets from the moment we went on sale and who will join us in making history as major live music events return in Australia,” he said.

“We are looking forward to seeing your smiling faces as you experience the best in Australian music at an outdoor, fully seated event.”

Bluesfest 2021’s line-up also includes Ocean Alley, The Cat Empire, The Waifs, The Church, The Living End, Weddings Parties Anything, John Williamson, Tex Perkins Ian Moss, Kev Carmody, Vika and Linda Bull, Chain, Backsliders, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Ziggy Alberts, Blue King Brown, Kate Miller-Heidke, Dami Im, Russell Morris, Briggs, Jon Stevens and more.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit bluesfest.com.au

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