The Cygnet Folk Festival (CFF) committee has announced that the much-loved, world class, annual entertainment extravaganza, staged each January at a number of indoor and outdoor venues around Cygnet, is cancelled for 2021, due to the uncertainty of what COVID-19 travel and social restrictions will look like at that time.
Festival director Erin Collins said that it would be irresponsible to go ahead with preparations, putting the long-term financial viability of the festival and, potentially, the safety of a small, rural community at risk.
“Bringing 6000 people into a small country town is just unacceptable in this climate, and it’s also a huge risk to our patrons,” said Erin.
“The camping facilities are pretty basic in Burtons Reserve and the hygiene requirements would be extreme, and we just don’t have the human resources to deal with more than what we already deal with.” Erin said that, for obvious reasons, artist applications to appear at the 2021 festival were fewer than usual, but those applications that had been received would be automatically rolled over to 2022, which is shaping up to be an exciting 40th anniversary for CFF.
“We want to produce a history project and we will spend some of the time we now have really working on gathering a lot of archival material, so that we can hopefully produce a short documentary,” said Erin.
We are looking for lots of old posters, programmes and photographs, and possibly some video footage from previous festivals.”
Australia’s largest music festival, and lead in to the CFF, the Woodford Folk Festival, has already announced that it will not be able to hold a full-scale event this year, while the Festival of Small Halls (which tours Tasmania following CFF) is yet to make a decision on whether to go ahead or not.
“Most of the information that we’ve received from health authorities is that there will still be major restrictions in place, and the word amongst the festival community is that it’s unlikely that anything will be happening until mid-next year in the way we know them,” said Erin.
Woodford has been hosting online concerts for their artists, and Erin said that CFF is very aware of the difficulties that artists are facing in terms of income during the pandemic.
“It’s hard for artists, and we’re thinking about some online concerts to try and raise some funds, at least for our Tasmanian artists, and, when and if we can, possibly even a Tasmanian showcase in a smaller configuration,” said Erin.
“Depending on what the restrictions are looking like, we would love to visit the idea of maybe one or even a couple of one day events, possibly outdoors in Loongana Park or Burtons Reserve, because then social distancing is quite manageable.”
And it’s not only artists who will be affected by the cancellation, but also local community groups, such as the Cygnet Sea Dragons Soccer Club and the Cygnet Sea Scouts, who run the campsite at Burtons Reserve as their major fundraiser each year.
Local businesses will also be affected, missing out on the busiest weekend on the calendar in Cygnet, and committee members visited business owners last week to let them know of the cancellation.
“A lot were disappointed, and they would be very keen for us to put on a smaller event, which we’re definitely keeping in mind and we will do if we can,” said Erin.
“2020 was a break even festival for us, which basically means we’ve got the money to put back in to the next one, but we will lose money this year, because there are certain things that we will need to keep paying for, but we’ll use the time to improve things, and we’ll be okay with one cancellation, we’d struggle with two, but we’ll just have to hope that 2022 goes ahead.”