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April 15, 2021

Bluesfest director’s blue with state govt

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Bluesfest director Peter Noble with his Keeping the Blues Alive award. The international award-winning event may soon have to move interstate. Photo supplied

Byron Bluesfest director Peter Noble has threatened to move the iconic festival interstate if the Berejiklian government refuses to withdraw its draconian new festival policy.

The policy came about in response to two drug-related deaths at Defqon.1 in Sydney in September last year.

But Bluesfest, which annually attracts tens of thousands of mostly middle-aged visitors to Byron, has been deemed a ‘high-risk’ event by the state government despite never having had a drug problem.

Mr Noble warns the ‘poorly thought-through new policy’ is set to ‘decimate the industry’ and cost hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.

‘Tens of millions of dollars, a lot of it spent rurally, will no longer be generated,’ he said.

Under the new rules, festivals would be required to fork out for the cost of policing ‘at whatever price they levy’, Mr Noble said, and would only be able to sell mid-strength alcohol.

He estimates the cost to the festival and the impact on income would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Festivals cancelled

The latest in the Berejiklian government’s swathe of nanny-state rules is set to ‘destroy the industry in NSW’, he said.

Just days ago, Mountain Sounds festival was forced to cancel, citing ‘impossible’ conditions. Yet another event, PSYFARI, was abandoned last week.

In an open letter sent out yesterday, Mr Noble wrote, ‘I ask the premier, ministers for the arts, tourism and major events, and EVERY sitting politician, why do you seem to be hell bent on destroying our industry?’

No consultation

‘Why have we been given zero recognition in this government’s actions?

‘Our 30-year-old business is to be seriously damaged in a new policy imposed… by a government who has rushed to judgement of our industry without full consultation of stakeholders or meetings with entertainment industry professionals.

‘I charge the government with a systemic failure in fairness and implore all politicians from all parties to quickly become involved with what is a serious injustice.

‘We provide culture to the people of this state and Australia through our good works.

‘Most festivals haven’t had drug deaths and contribute greatly to our society through presenting well-run professional, world-class events.

‘Should our government not see good sense, then I am saying now: Bluesfest will leave NSW – we have no choice, it’s a matter of survival.

‘Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon-to-be barren state.’

And, in case the NSW government doesn’t get the message, Mr Noble said he was ‘requesting all major state events ministers to get in touch. We are ready to bring Australia’s favourite festival to your state as the leaders of NSW don’t want us – and in fact are legislating us out of business’.

Labor listening

Labor’s candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, told Echonetdaily it was ‘absolutely astonishing’ that Bluesfest had been declared a ‘high-risk festival’.

‘Labor, for the first time, has a [shadow] minister for music and the night-time economy. We are passionate about supporting live music right across NSW, particularly on the North Coast, which is the centre of the festival scene in Australia’, he said.

‘It is astonishing and bewildering that they would put an iconic festival like Bluesfest at risk by these outrageous impositions and additional costs on their operation.’

Greens’ crisis meeting

Lismore Greens candidate Sue Higginson said she spoke to Mr Noble ‘who is in LA for the Grammys where a guy of his calibre in this industry would be’.

‘He is in disbelief about the unreasonable approach the government has taken. He wasn’t even invited to be around the table,’ she said, adding, ‘this government has no idea about what is important to regional NSW nor the rest of NSW for that matter’.

‘This absurd policy approach will, in fact, put many North Coast festivals in jeopardy.

‘My Greens colleague Cate Faehrmann has called a War on Festivals crisis meeting, inviting festival promoters and key industry figures to NSW Parliament on Monday, February 18.

‘She will be inviting MPs from other parties to also attend. Hopefully, together they can work out a plan to stop this war on arts and culture and the jobs that it brings – particularly for our region,’ Ms Higginson said


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  1. Using the quoted words above by Bluesfest, to challenge Bluesfest, regarding a similar lack of consultation with festival goers regarding imposition of $ 50 a day for parking or $ 25 a day if pre-booked online. Comments on Bluesfest forum have been censored and removed by moderators, and patrons’ voices are not being heard.

  2. Ahhh the controversy of it all, cripes, I love Bluesfest and have been a few times but…This guy has made a Motsa out of Byron Bay. It’s great the town is in total gridlock for the festival but all the shops are doing well…Drugs and music have gone together at festivals forever. After Sunbury, Mulwala and Myponga… I went to so many Ive forgotten. ..Just do the safest thing for our youth (and oldies) mate and be seen to be doing everything you can to stop harm,OD’s & deaths at festivals (signage, security, rubbish control and advising doctors onsite, free pill testing if poss. are a good start) Go or stay.. But don’t make idle, childish, threats about leaving. Qld will bring in the same laws and you will be a refugee if you screw this up. Just do it , cop it sweet … ps I also realise Blues Fest probably PUT Byron on the map, but so did Bay Kebabs and the Pubs.. hehe….I apologise in advance if I offended any unicorns, but I’m just having a rant because I can 🙂 …

  3. Mildly misleading headline. Blues fest are being asked to pay for policing, and to serve lower strength alcohol. If they don’t wish to pay , the public has to. I am sure they can manage out of their “modest ” profit. No one is forcing them to go anywhere, they are simply being asked to pay their way, which they are not familiar with, lin the manner of most corporate events supported by the public purse.

  4. Bit confused, they have to pay for their own policing, and only serve mid strength alcohol?
    Would have thought as they’re staging a private event for profit any policing would be at their cost.
    Mid strength alcohol.. please explain?

  5. Any of you young people concerned about the loss of these festivals need to enrol in the upcoming state election and vote.A few hundreds of votes against those we loathe will see the arse end of the hard right and the balance of power going to the Greens.Think pill testing ,recreational cannabis and perhaps more important….. climate change armageddon.The enrollment opportunity will shut down in about a month….too busy ,too hard or all they are all the same will not cut the mustard as you watch your kids cooking


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