Festival juggernaut says ‘test event’ will be the best chance at getting Aussie festivals back

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Big Day Out founder Ken West has penned an open letter about the state of the Australian music industry amid the coronavirus pandemic that suggests a “test event” would be local music festivals’ best chance of moving forward.

Originally published by The Music, the letter sees the industry veteran reflect on his history as a festival organiser (including surviving two recessions) and forecast what the likely order of opening in the arts sector would look like, likening it to standing up on a rollercoaster.

 

“The best chance a major festival would have to get a green light would be as a test event,” West said. 

 

“It might require everyone entering to be registered, COVID-tested and have the app to see if it works on a large scale. Governments love tests and PM ScoMo openly wants everyone, especially cynical young people, to download the COVID app.”

 

With many unsure as to when major events will return and with recent reports claiming that it’s pretty unlikely until there’s a coronavirus vaccine, West said priority would “most likely focus on local community and not destination events” and that “anything this side of 2020 will battle to get clearance”, adding that might not be a bad thing for the overall Australian arts and hospitality industry. 

 

“Pubs, clubs and theatres have been struggling for years from a glut of events and festivals,” he said.

 

“They employ a lot of people, cater for locals and desperately need support to stay in business. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt festivals to have a break from the market as well. This can be a great time for supporting Australian and soon New Zealand artists at least until the borders re-open, hopefully longer.”

 

This flows on from the uncertainty surrounding international travel, and therefore the inability to score international headliners, with many events now focusing on all-Australian lineups. Unify Gathering was the first to take this route inviting all the past Aussie artists back, while Falls Festival followed earlier this week with their plans for forge ahead with a local lineup that aims to provide a maximum financial benefit for the Australian music community. 

 

Big Pineapple Festival and Splendour in the Grass are two of the major festivals who are scheduled to go ahead before the New Year, however West made no comment about their likelihood. 

 

Time will tell.

 

 

This story was originally published in Forte Magazine.

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