Vivid Festival postponed as lockdown causes chaos in arts industry

Vivid Sydney, which in 2019 attracted some 2.4 million people to the city and was due to start on August 6, has been rescheduled to mid-September due to the COVID lockdown.

With more than 200 associated events, the festival has grown to become one of the biggest annual events in Sydney’s calendar. The 2020 event was cancelled entirely.

Vivid Sydney has grown to become a huge tourist drawcard for the city.

The festival is now slated to run between September 17 and October 9, however, Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres appeared to leave the door open for the timing of the massive event to slip further.

“Vivid Sydney will only proceed if it’s safe to do so,” he said.

With venues and event holders scrambling to re-schedule, the new program will be available in “coming weeks”. Ticketholders can transfer to new dates or request a refund.

Elsewhere, the latest extension to the COVID lockdown has sparked fresh chaos in theatres and concert halls, just as companies were expressing cautious optimism following last year’s devastating closures.

And in an industry that depends on certainty and long-term planning, some organisations privately expressed frustration at the NSW Government’s apparent strategy of extending the lockdown in increments of two weeks.

Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground by the Martu Artists was set to light the sails of the Sydney Opera House for this year’s Vivid Festival.Credit:Destination NSW

Box offices have been kept busy dealing with inquiries and processing refunds or credit notes. Most companies are offering three options to ticket-holders – a full refund, a credit or the option to convert the ticket price into a donation.

A spokeswoman for Sydney Theatre Company said all shows to the end of July had been cancelled, including the ill-fated Triple X, by Glace Chase. Originally scheduled to run in Brisbane last year, the play fell victim to the initial lockdown and was partially cancelled when restaged in March this year in the Queensland capital. STC has now scratched 80 performances in NSW and Queensland.

Kirribilli’s Ensemble Theatre has also taken the red pencil to its schedule, announcing the world premiere of Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club will now be pushed to 2022.

Another big-ticket item under threat is the 68th Sydney Film Festival, scheduled to open on August 18. Organisers said they were delaying the planned July 21 program announcement due to the uncertainty caused by the lockdown. However, they insisted they remained “committed and hopeful for an in-cinema COVID-Safe event”.

Following the postponement to next year of its season of Tales of Hoffmann, Opera Australia executives were still considering how the remainder of the season might be affected. Additionally, there is a shadow over OA’s much anticipated production of Wagner’s The Ring Cycle, which is to open in Brisbane from the end of October, because the lockdown will disrupt rehearsals due to start next month in Sydney.

One of the more significant regional victims so far has been Byron Writers Festival, which was to have been staged from August 6 to 8.

Organisers said even if restrictions were lifted on July 30 that would be too close to the intended start date, especially with many guests coming from Sydney.

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