After COVID-19, Floods, Bluesfest 2022 Exceeds Expectations
BRISBANE (Australia) — As Australians settle into cooler months, the traditional festivals season comes to an end. Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, one of the great brands on the festivals calendar, wrapped without disruption, and welcomed more than 100,000 guests through its gates.
After a tumultuous two years, which included a last-minute aborted mission in 2021, Bluesfest went ahead as planned from Thursday, April 14 to Monday, April 18 at the Byron Events Farm, with more ticket sales than expected.
“This year we’ve sold more than 101,000 tickets — more than 15,000 of those in the past week,” explains Bluesfest director Peter Noble. “We had a surge of sales in the last 10 days. People waited to ensure that we didn’t cancel again before purchasing a ticket .”
That wait-and-see approach can be traced back to the late cancelation of the 2021 event, through a public health order from the New South Wales government, when a visitor to central Byron Bay tested positive to the novel coronavirus.
That 11th hour development impacted consumer confidence across all live events, promoters say.
Thanks in large part to resilience and good planning (which included booking a bill largely from home and applying COVID safe protocols on the site and throughout its workforce), the 2022 Bluesfest was able to surpass all expectations.
“We did a budget on 80,000, with the hope of 85,000,” Noble told Billboard backstage during the penultimate day.
This year’s lineup included Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Amy Shark, The Cat Empire, The Teskey Brothers, and international acts George Benson, Crowded House and Six60.
Bluesfest was spoiled on more than one occasion by Mother Nature. Tyagarah, the site at the Byron Events Farm was subject to two flash floods within six weeks of the event. This included a flood two-and a half weeks before the event. Byron Bay’s central area was submerged, while Lismore, a nearby town for students, experienced the worst flooding, and then another four weeks later on the day of another flood. Noble notes that this was the second flash flood in six weeks.
The mud didn’t dampen the interest in this event. This year’s festival employed 1,200 staff, 350 stall holders and welcomed 400 volunteers. As a gesture of solidarity with the flood-stricken communities, A$1 from each ticket sold will be donated to flood relief. Hundreds of flood victims and their supporters were also invited to the event.
” We wanted to give flood survivors a joyful moment over the weekend. Noble says that people are hurt. “People in this region are out of work. They rely on the festival’s trickle-down effect .”
The pandemic has been terrible for Bluesfest, its long-suffering workers and fans. When the 2020 edition was scrapped, plans were locked in for the 2021 edition, scheduled for its typical Eastern weekend slot in April. Health officials swooped on that COVID-positive test. When gates were supposed to open, organizers were faced with the difficult task to tell ticket holders to stay away. Later, a condensed festival was announced for October 2021, featuring an all-local lineup led by Midnight Oil, but that too was shelved due to the emergence of the Delta variant, and the uncertainty of interstate — and international — travel.
With a federal election set for May 21, Australia’s live music industry is desperate for more support from the nation’s leaders, whoever takes power. Noble notes that “No matter who is in government, our industry still faces challenging times going forward.” “We must attract people to put on the events. The public is also turning out in large numbers. I didn’t give up. I wanted to be there when it happened. I’m part of the industry. My role is to provide a platform for artists to perform. Get the artists on stage to get the public interested. That’s the essence of
Work is well underway on the next Bluesfest, which will be held Easter 2023.. Noble and his team began planning for it in February this year. He insists that it’s “going be the best f–ing thing I have ever done.”
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