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May 7, 2021

A glimmer of light for local events

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Local event organisers can now submit applications to Byron Council for events that exceed the size and scale limits imposed by current COVID-19 rules.

Many locals have missed the colour and movement that comes with events in the Byron Shire. Image Jeff Dawson

Under an urgency motion passed unanimously at last week’s meeting, the Council agreed to process such applications so that they would be ready to go if and when restrictions are eased in the coming months.

Organisers will still have to adhere to the rules that are in place at the time of their event, but will be able to start planning for a time when the landscape is a little less barren.

‘There are two events seeking support to get ready for summer,’ said Greens Mayor Simon Richardson, who moved the motion.

‘Obviously, we can’t and wouldn’t wish to sit outside public health orders, or do anything that puts our community at risk.

‘But we also need to acknowledge that COVID restrictions in January could be very different to now.

‘If someone applies now and we say “no” because the event doesn’t fit with the health orders we could be missing an opportunity to get our events industry back on track.’

Local creative industries, a vibrant part of the Shire’s culture, have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

The cancellation of major festivals such as Bluesfest and Splendour in The Grass alone has cost this sector hundreds of millions in lost revenue, not to mention the thousands of smaller gigs, exhibitions and events that have also been cut from the calendar.

An 86 per cent loss (economic and jobs) is projected for 2020.

‘I was chatting to North Coast Events recently and they’ve got a staff of 25 to 30 who have done the stages at Bluesfest for years, but who are now employed,’ Cr Richardson said.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, organisers of Splendour in the Grass are calling on the federal government to release critically needed funds to assist the arts sector.

On September 26 the government announced $22.9 million in 2020–21 to support Australia’s national cultural institutions during COVID-19.

While that funding is yet to be made available, the Morrison government says ‘$800 million of additional support to strengthen Australia’s cultural and creative sector’ has been pledged.

Splendour’s Co-founder and Co-CEO of Secret Sounds Group, Jessica Ducrou says, ‘Not $1 of the federal funding for arts and entertainment businesses has reached the industry as yet, and it won’t until January 2021’.

‘Splendour in the Grass 2019 sold out in just hours, culminating in a total attendance of 42,500 patrons per day at North Byron Parklands and generating an estimated $66 million* in gross regional product’.

‘While state governments have relaxed restrictions to allow 40,000 people to gather at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium for football finals and 11,000 at Royal Randwick for the races in the interest of economic recovery, there has been no such assistance for our Australian music festivals, which employed 9,176 FTE workers and injected over $2.7b into the Australian economy in 2019.

‘We need the government to support the industry with a Business Interruption Fund, Event Cancellation Fund or Insurance, led by the industry and underwritten by Government, as has been provided to the film industry.’

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