18 March 2020

Four Winds and other flagship events cancelled due to COVID-19

| Lisa Herbert
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Four Winds 2019

Musicians and artists travel from near and far, have committed to Four Winds 2021. Photo: David Rogers.

“With great sadness and regret,” the email from Four Winds Easter Festival begins, “we have decided not to go ahead with the 2020 Easter Festival in Bermagui.”

The Four Winds Easter Festival joins the growing ranks of cancelled community events around the country because of COVID-19, which was categorised as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 11 March.

“We are particularly concerned about the risks to the many people who make up our loyal audience, our inspiring musicians who travel from around Australia and overseas, our staff and volunteers who do so much to make the Festival a success, and our supportive local community,” Michael Darling, chair of Four Winds, said.

Here on the South Coast of NSW, the news is particularly harsh as the region was hoping events like Four Winds would contribute to the economic and emotional recovery of bushfire-affected towns.

Indigenous dancers

Many organisations are affected by the cancellation of events. Photo: David Rogers.

But as with many other events, the Four Winds committee believes “we cannot justify holding an event that might put people who travel to the Festival as well as those who live in the area at risk”.

Executive Director of Four Winds David Francis says “we are acutely aware that the Easter Festival not going ahead will be another body-blow to local businesses as well as to the many free-lance musicians and contractors involved”.

“Many local businesses provide services, accommodation, food and hospitality to our audience members and musicians. Typically, the Four Winds audience spends up to $1 million in Bermagui so the loss of this economic boost, on top of the catastrophic financial impact of the bushfires, will contribute to the ongoing challenges local businesses are facing.”

The Four Winds’ and other events committees believe this is the right decision for the health and wellbeing of all involved, even though it will certainly have a significant negative financial impact on each organisation.

For Four Winds this is estimated to be in the region of $130,000, which equates to loss of box office income and costs incurred to date.

However, there is some good news. The majority of artists booked for the 2020 Easter Festival have committed to perform at 4W Easter 2021. Therefore the 2020 artistic program is ‘postponed’ and will be presented in 2021, “when we will then celebrate our 21st Festival”.

Volunteers at Four Winds

The community always come together for events such as Four Winds. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

Four Winds always presents a free concert for the community as their first major Festival event. This year the content of that performance was inspired by the traditional Indigenous stories of the region, and as a response to Captain Cook’s sighting of the East Coast of Australia some 250 years ago.

That performance will now take place on Friday, 13 November 2020 at the opening of the 2020 Spring Youth Festival and will form part of the National Museum of Australia’s Cultural Connections Program.

“You can imagine how disappointed we are not to go ahead with the 2020 Easter Festival, but for the health and wellbeing of all concerned, and to comply with Government guidelines, we feel we have no alternative,” Michael Darling said.

“But because of the amazing support Four Winds has from our entire community, we are confident that we will be able to put the challenges of 2020 behind us and continue to offer you marvellous music next year and in the years ahead.”

Four Winds free concert

Four Winds free concert will be moved to November 2020. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

After contacting many ticket holders, David Francis says “the response has been wonderful, around 80 per cent have transferred their tickets to 2021 or else donated the ticket price back to the organisation”.

“People are not surprised we’ve cancelled, going ahead would have been considered strange. We had made our decision on Friday but we wanted to make sure all our stakeholders were informed before we made the [public] announcement.”

The list of cancelled events in our regions keeps growing.

Oyster Festival cancelled until May 2021, but a few smaller events are planned in between. Photo: Lisa Herbert

Oyster Festival cancelled until May 2021, but a few smaller events are planned in between. Photo: Lisa Herbert

On Monday the Harmony Day Celebrations in Bega’s Littleton Gardens was cancelled, joining the much anticipated Cobargo Unites event which was planned for 3 May, along with many others.

Over the last couple of days came the announcement that the Narooma Oyster Festival will be postponed until 1 May 2021.

“As soon as it is safe to do so we will consider some smaller, bespoke events leading up to next year, events that shine a light on our regional oyster, dairy, seafood and other producers,” says Committee Chair Cath Peachey. “We are not just disappointed for visitors, but our local community, and our sponsors, who are from our local community.”

Like many cultural entities, Gallery Bodalla has announced that “with the rapidly changing coronavirus situation, we’ve sadly decided to postpone ‘Shelter in Place’ an exhibition by photographer Toby Whitelaw and printmaker Julie Mia Holmes, in the hope of helping to ‘flatten the curve’ in the rate of infection”.

Lake Light Sculpture has been cancelled

Lake Light Sculpture has been cancelled, the latest in a list of major events. Photo: ZRS Photography.

Another announcement on Monday was from the highly anticipated Lake Light Sculpture event on Lake Jindabyne. Chairperson Lisa Matthes says “we have worked hard to get the event to this point and are devastated to be unable to deliver what promised to be a wonderful Easter weekend, especially after such a disrupted summer for tourism in this region. However, we need to play our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the health and wellbeing of our visitors, artists and volunteers is paramount”.

At a time when coming together with our communities should have been healing balm, and an opportunity for local businesses and suppliers to do a bit of trade, the precautions for the COVID-19 virus come as a necessary, but still painful blow.

Check the Facebook pages of events and festivals you were planning on attending to see new dates and other ticketing information.

Call Four Winds on 0409 052 980 regarding Four Winds 2020.

Four Winds has contacted all ticket holders by email with options regarding Festival tickets that have already been purchased.

Four Winds Free Community Concert will take place on Friday, 13 November 2020 at the opening of the 2020 Spring Youth Festival.

Narooma Oyster Festival will take place on 1 May 2021.

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