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Haves and have-nots: Coast revels in bubble while NSW events tumble

Culture

As the Gold Coast prepares to host tonight’s State of Origin, revelling in Queensland’s relatively safe Covid bubble, events just over the border have begun to tumble with the Byron Writers Festival the latest victim.

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Organisers today pulled the pin on the Festival for the second year in a row, citing NSW Covid restrictions and travel fears.

Festival director Edwina Johnson said writers and festival goers were getting too nervous about attending the 6-8 August event that was to feature Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, author Kate Grenville, Malcolm Turnbull and comedian Kitty Flanagan.

“Regrettably and with a heavy heart we have made the very difficult decision to cancel Byron Writers Festival 2021,” Johnson said.

“We have been following Covid developments in Greater Sydney and nationally very closely over the last few days. As positive cases continue to emerge and borders are closed to NSW, it has become clear that the current restrictions will push too close to the Festival to make it feasible to proceed in early August.”

She said organisers made the decision to cancel the nation’s largest regional arts and culture festival, that was to feature more than 150 writers, commentators and thinkers, following uncertainty over the state’s pandemic status.

“We are devastated and we’re sure everyone associated with the festival will also feel the disappointment and loss that comes with a second year of cancellation. We will continue to watch developments and consider all viable options for future programming but for now, we believe that cancellation is the only responsible course of action,” Johnson said.

The cancellation of the arts and culture event just over the border in northern NSW, couldn’t offer a starker contrast to the bubbling excitement on the Gold Coast that is hosting tonight’s State of Origin.

While Queensland remains relatively Covid free, is able to host major events and provide a safe haven for sports competitions such as the NRL, NSW has been forced to cancel events. While efforts have been made to rescue major sports events, including transferring the State of Origin to Queensland, arts and culture festivals have again been hit hard.

At the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium, preparations are being finalised today ahead of the city hosting its first ever State of Origin, with a sell-out crowd of 27,000 expected for the game.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government worked with organisers over the weekend to safely relocate the clash to Queensland.

“Today will go down in the history of this city – the first time the Gold Coast has ever held a State of Origin,” Palaszczuk said.

“This is only possible thanks to the way Gold Coasters have responded to the pandemic and worked hard to keep each other safe.

“No matter the result tonight, the Gold Coast will be the real winner.”

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate said the Gold Coast did not have to pay a cent to host the game and would cash in on the event.

“We estimate it will be about a $3 million boost to our economy,” Tate said.

“It’s great for retailers, pubs and clubs and accommodation, so it’s very, very welcome.”

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