The following excerpt is taken from an Arts Hub article published on the 6th August 2021.
By Richard Watts.
Independent arts festival the Sydney Fringe has pulled the plug on its 2021 festival due to the ongoing COVID situation in NSW.
Citing the health risks to its artists, staff and audiences if the Fringe were to proceed, Sydney Fringe Festival Director and CEO Kerri Glasscock said the only responsible thing to do was pull the plug.
‘Obviously there’s the legal and financial risks, but the health and safety risk with the Delta variant is just so exponential for us, particularly considering that the vast majority of our artists are under the age of 40 and our [average] audience is under 48 – so the likelihood of them being fully vaccinated is very low,’ she told ArtsHub on Friday afternoon.
The ongoing Sydney lockdown, while absolutely necessary for the public good, has complicated the situation for Sydney Fringe staff and artists alike, Glasscock explained.
‘The lockdown has meant that it’s been impossible for anyone to rehearse their shows. And when lockdown began here, end of June, we were eight weeks out from the festival, which is our busiest pre-production period; it’s where we move out of administration mode into hardcore production mode and where we have a huge increase of contractors and staff. But when you’re working on incredibly high-pressure situations with everybody working remotely, it’s just not viable.’
Sydney Fringe Festival is now working to support more than 1,500 local artists who will be financially impacted by the festival’s cancellation.
‘This year has been all about reducing the financial risk and burden on artists and safeguarding the levels of risk that they would undertake this year,’ Glasscock said.
Having already secured RISE funding earlier this year, the Sydney Fringe was able to waive hiring fees in festival-managed venues, registration fees and other upfront costs for the now-cancelled 2021 Fringe.
Festival staff are working to secure new funding that will go directly to affected artists under the Create NSW Performing Arts COVID Support Package.
‘That’s ongoing at the moment. We have to still go through an eligibility process like everyone, but what we have had is confirmation that Fringe can do that on behalf of our artists, which is wonderful. We will work through that over the next week and make sure we get as many people looked after as we possibly can,’ said Glasscock.
‘And what will be wonderful from both a Fringe and artists’ perspective is that essentially, hopefully, we will be able to settle with the artists as we normally would in September or October, after their season was meant to be on, and we can manage all the administrative burden of that for them.’
In addition, Sydney Fringe has announced a new We’ll Fringe Again fundraising campaign, which asks the community to ‘buy a ticket’ to the cancelled festival to support local artists via a programming fund for their 2022 festival.
Jojo Zaho, Queers on the Fringe, Global Fringe 2021. Photo credit: Clare Hawley