‘Disgusting’: Anger at Byron chaos
There are chaotic scenes in Byron Bay after thousands of blues fans were turned away from the city's iconic Bluesfest festival in a last-minute cancellation.
Some had travelled from as far away as WA - with one group making a 30-hour drive from Geraldton - only to be told the event wouldn't be going ahead due to fears of a COVID-19 outbreak.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed a public health order cancelling the event.
As a result, food vendors, with fridges and freezers full of produce ready to sell to the festival's 15,000 people attendees, were left stranded.
Artists have also been left devastated, with one band lashing the decision to scrap the event as "absolutely disgusting".
Tyde, who were scheduled to perform, posted on social media following the announcement with a strong message for NSW Health.
"Absolutely cut at this announcement," they wrote.
"While we believe we have to do the right thing to keep everyone safe, it's disgusting that sports events in stadiums with no social distancing still go ahead (e.g. the Aus Open in Melbourne during peak lockdown, all the AFL and rugby games that went ahead in NSW and the Broncos game in Brissy just a few days ago).
"Absolutely disgusting that a seated, socially distanced arts event gets cancelled next to these sports games going ahead."
Ticketholders were also left frustrated.
Jess Shanahan, 19, told the ABC she was left wondering what to do yesterday when she heard the news at Coffs Harbour, six hours from her Hawkesbury home and just a couple of hours from Byron.
"We're pretty annoyed and not sure what to do. Obviously, if we go to Byron it's risky - spending five or six days will mean the possibility of going into a place a COVID case has been," she said.
Others on social media say they had made even longer journeys only to be turned away.
Meanwhile, Byron Bay locals are trying to support food vendors who have been left with stock they can't sell - pitching ideas like drive-through stalls where they can sell fresh food.
Bluesfest injects $100 million into the local economy and its cancellation is expected to have major financial impacts.
Evelyn Richardson from Live Performance Australia, told the ABC, it is "devastating news", not just for one of the country's biggest music festivals, but for the live entertainment industry.
"We have only just started to get back on our feet and we've seen one case of community transmission close down a major festival, having major flow-on effects less than 24 hours before the festival was to happen," Ms Richardson said.
"People being turned way to go home and an operator that has been running that festival for 30 years who has had the festival shut down two years in a row and now in an environment where nobody can get insurance for that.
"This has major implications for the industry. We can't sustain another six or 12 months of this, of sudden lockdowns and being shut down."
When the pandemic forced Bluesfest organisers to scrap last year's event, the financial impact on the Byron Shire and Northern Rivers was just shy of $117 million in lost revenue and 745 full time jobs, according to The Industry Observer.
Bluesfest typically wraps up the summer festival circuit and has won several local and international awards for its show since its inaugural 1990 event.
Bluesfest director Peter Noble said they really wanted to be at the forefront of the return of live music at pre-COVID-19 level.
"We feel deeply for everybody affected, the fans, the artists, and the hardworking Bluesfest team. But in the end, the health of our community must come first," he said in a statement.
He said this weekend they will be packing down the event that was cancelled within 24 hours of gates due to open.
Artists who were scheduled to perform at the event included Tash Sultana, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Kasey Chambers and Kate Ceberano.
Barnes took to his Instagram on Wednesday night to say, while "this is such huge blow for Aussie music - not just the artists, but all the roadies, stage crew, volunteers, the punters, and everyone in between, we have to remember that the health and wellbeing of this country has to come first".
"Thanks to the team at Bluesfest for doing the best they could in preparation."
"Were so gutted that Bluesfest is off," Australian blues musician Ash Grunwald posted on his Instagram.
Fans of musicians who were meant to attend the festival have taken to social media to share their "disappointment".
"So devastated," one person wrote.
"Devastating for you all," added another.
"My heart to all the production crew and artists involved in Bluesfest. Those bruises must be so painful after all your hard work," radio and TV presenter Marieke Hardy wrote on Twitter.
Bluesfest organisers are hoping ticketholders will support the festival and hold tickets to the rescheduled date, which is yet to be announced.
Did you have tickets to Bluesfest, or do you run a local Byron Bay business? Tell us how this decision will impact you below in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published as 'Disgusting': Anger at Byron chaos