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Omicron variant sees Coronavirus again impacting live performance

Omicron variant sees Coronavirus again impacting live performance
December 22, 2021

The spread of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus is again impacting live performance, with events and festivals that were expected to mark a resurgence of the sector again being called off.

Following outbreaks in Newcastle last week that saw the cancellation of the Lunar Electric festival, Faith No More, Jimmy Barnes and the Hoodoo Gurus have cancelled Australian shows in the lead-up to Christmas.

Posting on his Facebook page at the weekend, Barnes said he was “absolutely heartbroken” over the outbreak in Newcastle, where his band was scheduled to deliver three concerts over the holiday period.

Outbreaks have coincided with the NSW Government having relaxed its COVID public health order earlier this month with most venues now allowing people to enter unmasked and unvaccinated.

The in-house booking manager for one of Newcastle’s most popular live music pub venues told Guardian Australia he had cancelled seven gigs in the past week, with bands expressing concerns at the prospect of finding themselves in lockdown on Christmas Day.

Spencer Scott from Hamilton Station hotel said he probably should have seen the writing on wall when he booked two hardcore punk rock groups to perform last weekend. The bands were called Plague Dwellers and I Hate People.

After a potentially infectious case was traced to one of Newcastle’s largest live music venues, the Cambridge Hotel, posted on its Facebook page on 13th December “our staff have all gone to get tested and once they come back negative we’ll be back to rock n roll.”

However, the venue has subsequently announced it will be closed until after Christmas.

In the Sydney, the past week saw the cancellation of a number of live music events, including the Bad Vibrations festival, the Loose Ends Xmas party and Christmas Time in the Inner West.

The ticket retailer Oztix told Guardian Australia more than 300 of its events over the Christmas period - from 1st December to 7th January - had either been rescheduled, postponed or cancelled altogether.

An Oztix spokesperson told the Guardian, “one trend we’re seeing again and again that is really worrying is a member of a band or a band’s touring party becomes a close or casual contact and has to isolate, forcing the entire tour to stop.

“So, a tour may have been rescheduled 2-3 times already, the band finally starts the tour, gets a few shows in … and they have to cancel. That’s always the real heartbreaker.”

On Monday, a coalition of live music and entertainment industry bodies reissued a plea to the Federal Government and state and territory leaders to urgently deliver a government-backed insurance scheme to protect the live performance sector from crippling cancellations.

However, only the Victoria Government has since instituted its own state-run live music insurance product.

The statement from the live performance coalition, which includes the copyright agency Apra Amcos, the Australian Recorded Music Industry Association and the Association of Artist Managers, said the emergence of Omicron showed the pandemic crisis was far from over.

It read “for an industry getting back on its feet, investing nationally and working hard to get shows back on stage and touring, the ongoing threat of future business disruption is very real.”

Sydney theatres maintain vaccination policies
While the NSW Government now allows people to enter indoor venues unmasked and unvaccinated, a group of Sydney theatre companies are enforcing their own COVID rules until at least 31st January 2022.

A collective of 11 Sydney theatres including Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company and Griffin Theatre Company have created a joint COVID policy that goes beyond what is mandated by the NSW Government.

Their rules require all visitors to be fully vaccinated while on-site (excluding those under 16 years), and to wear masks while in the theatres and indoor spaces (except when eating and drinking and excluding those under 12 years).

The State Theatre has released specific guidance for patrons about the need to wear masks.

Sporting fixtures off
A number of sporting fixtures are also being impacted by the Omicron variant with Big Bash League, A-League Mens and FFA Cup matches either postponed, relocated or played behind closed doors.

Unable to play fixtures because of cases in its squad, A-League Mens team Perth Glory will be repatriated from Queensland to Western Australia in time for Christmas. 

The move follows following close collaboration with Perth Glory and the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland.

Players are expected to return to competition in January, dependent on athletic conditioning, to ensure minimal impact to the team’s season. 

Images: The Lunar Electric music festival site in Newcastle set up last weekend but without fans (top, credit: Steve Clark)  Jimmy Barnes has been forced to cancel concerts in Newcastle (middle) and the NSW State Theatre's safety advice to patrons (below).

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18th October 2021 - COVID impact sees Australian Government fund live music sector and leading arts organisations

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9th October 2021 - Australia Council campaign urges vaccination as key to reopening of cultural and creative venues and events

23rd September 2021 - Uneven path to return of live entertainment in Melbourne and Sydney

2nd September 2021 - 22 live music venues across Queensland receive Government funding

18th August 2021 - Victorian Government provides more support to live performance sector

11th August 2021 - Australian live entertainment groups call for federal insurance guarantee

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14th February 2021 - ASM Global’s Harvey Lister looks to ‘full revival’ of live events in 2022

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