Catastrophic Australian Bushfires Cause Cancellations, Could End Regional Summer Festival Season
The most catastrophic bushfires in Australian history affected at least five festivals over the Christmas/ New Year break in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria where states of disaster were declared – and forecasts of worsening conditions over the decade sparked concern for the future of regional summer festivals.
In NSW, Lost Paradise in Glenworth Valley (Dec. 28 to Jan. 1) pulled the plug two weeks out, while Lunar Electric in Maitland (Jan. 4) opted two days before to postpone. Yours & Owls scrapped its Jan. 1 Day of Dance to free up WIN Stadium and WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong for emergency relief.
In Victoria, the Dec. 28 to 31 Lorne stop of the four-state Falls Festival cancelled the last two days and evacuated 9,000 campers. Thee Unified Gathering (Jan. 8) was still going ahead at press time but monitoring the situation. Rainbow Serpent (Jan. 24–27 ) halted ticket sales after parts of its site were burned, but will go ahead after changes to the site layout.
Acts, venues and promoters across the country staged impromptu benefit shows and raised $200,000 (US$139, 754) in the first week for exhausted volunteer firefighters. Pink donated a further $500,000 ($347,594), comedian Celeste Barber raised $16 million ($11.12 million) online, and Keith Urban donated $500,000.
In a report by youth broadcaster triple j, Dr Karl Mallon of research group Climate Risk commented, “We’ve got all the components to see festivals being shut down,” citing hikes in insurance and on-site medical and police costs. Climate analyst Andrew Gissing at Risk Frontiers suggested festival might move to cooler seasons.
Lost Paradise event manager Haydn Johnston of Architects of Entertainment said the festival was reluctant to change the location or the period “between Christmas and New Year when people are looking for things to do. The current activity is the issue. And next year it could be a completely different scenario – we wouldn’t be at the back end of a hefty drought, maybe.”