Another major cultural event in the Hunter was postponed on Thursday, due to COVID-related concerns.
The Newcastle Writers Festival, scheduled for September, announced it would not proceed this year, and will tentatively lock in April 2022 for the next event.
"While the Hunter has avoided a lockdown, there are travel and venue restrictions in place for good reason," NWF director Rosemarie Milsom said. "The risks are too great."
The festival moved from its usual dates in April to September this year in the hope that large events would be up and running with COVID-safe measures in place.
"Until mid-June, everything was looking OK," Milsom said. "I don't think anyone could have predicted NSW would have a public health crisis given how well we'd managed until then."
More than 120 writers were included in the program and Milsom is confident most will be able to attend a rescheduled event in 2022.
The festival celebrates its 10th anniversary in April.
"We have a number of exciting ideas to mark this significant milestone but we're being cautious about confirming them in until the situation improves in Sydney and restrictions ease," Milsom said.
The last Newcastle Writers Festival was held in 2019. The organisation was forced to cancel the 2020 event three weeks out because of the unfolding pandemic. A portion of the 2020 program was presented online with great success, but the festival is eager to return to a live setting for the next event.
Until then, the organisation is maintaining its commitment to supporting writers and readers. So far this year, the festival has held a successful emerging writers' program, hosted a podcast series featuring interviews with Australian and international writers, as well as launching a $5000 prize for an emerging writer in regional NSW. The winner will be announced in September.
The festival's free program for primary students will be held online on September 14 and features leading children's authors and illustrators including Graeme Base, Tania McCartney, as well as Kate and Jol Temple.
"It has been a hectic and challenging year so far," Milsom said, "but we are not alone. The arts sector has been heavily impacted since the start of the pandemic and this current outbreak, while largely confined to Sydney, is affecting artists and organisations throughout the state. We don't operate in a bubble."
The risks are too great.NWF director Rosemarie Milsom
The Wollombi Valley Sculpture Festival, September 11-26, has also been cancelled.
"Obviously, it's a huge disappointment. We were going to have seven indoor galleries this year," festival director Susan Leith-Miller said.
"The real danger is 60 per cent of our audience comes from Sydney and the Central Coast. We cannot bring them up here. Just to preserve the community we are not going to have it this year."
Maitland City Council this week announced the cancellation of its Steamfest celebration in September, aiming for a reset in April 2022 when the event will celebrate its 35th anniversary.
The Newcastle Jazz Festival and Newcastle Music Festival are also among the casualties.
Newcastle Jazz Festival co-ordinator Murray Scoble said that the committee was devastated to call off the festival, given countless hours had been spent organising and preparing for the event.
"There had been many bookings at Newcastle hotels and the festival's cancellation will be a blow to the Newcastle economy," Mr Scoble said.
More than 200 musicians were booked for the festival which had attracted bookings from New Zealand and interstate as well as throughout NSW.
Other shows and events that have been affected include:
- Aroma Coffee and Chocolate Festival (August 14-15) in Maitland, postponed.
- Shows at the Civic Theatre by Australian Chamber Orchestra (July 29),cancelled; Let It Be Live (August 1), cancelled; Paul Kelly (August 8), postponed with no new date; Carl Barron, shows rescheduled to January 2022;
- The Whitlams at Lizotte's (August 10-11), postponed to March 2022;
- Lunar Electric Music Festival, Camp Shortland (September 11) moved to November 20;
- Simple Minds, A Day on the Green, Bimbadgen Estate (December 11), cancelled;
EVENTS GOING AHEAD
The Living Smart Festival at Speers Point in Lake Macquarie, scheduled for September 17-19, and the Offshore Superboat Championships at Lake Macquarie, October 16-17 and October 23-24, are going ahead as planned.
No date has been set yet for the official opening of the new Multi Arts Pavilion (MAP) mima at Speers Point.
The New Annual Festival, Newcastle's fledgling cultural celebration which was first held in March this year, is scheduled for September 24-October 3.
"The City of Newcastle is currently considering the timing and format of its cultural festival, New Annual," a City of Newcastle spokesperson said.
Music events still scheduled include:
Dashville Skyline, Lower Belford, October 1-3;
This That festival, headlined by the Dune Rats and Client Liaison, November 6, Wickham Park.
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