Byron Bay Bluesfest director Peter Noble has written an open letter to the New South Wales Government saying he will take the annual music festival to another state after the government stipulated new policies and guidelines in response to the spate of festival deaths that have happened over the course of this summer.
The letter was published by The Industry Observer today, with Noble reporting the Byron Bay festival had been "designated a high risk event".
In the letter, he says the new measures will cost Bluesfest – which is celebrating its 30th year in 2019 – hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will result in their full-strength liquor license being denied. Noble also says the festival, along with others across the state, hasn't had the opportunity to provide input into the new guidelines.
“We and every other event in this state have had zero opportunity to have any consultation or input into a policy where we will need to spend significantly more money to put on the event this year with zero notice,” he writes.
“I charge the government with a systemic failure in fairness here, and implore all politicians from all parties to quickly become involved with what is a serious injustice.
“We, like most events in this state, supply a significant level of culture – we don’t receive a cent from government even though we cause thousands of people to be employed – and bring tens of millions of dollars into NSW through tourism.
“Why do you seem to be hell-bent on destroying our industry? We provide culture to the people of this state, and Australia, through our good works. Most festivals haven’t had drug deaths and contribute greatly to our society through presenting well-run, professional, world-class events. Why have we been given zero recognition in this government’s actions?”
The letter comes just days after Mountain Sounds on the New South Wales Central Coast cancelled its 2019 festival, citing increased costs that would require it to pay $200,000 for extra police presence.
The first Bluesfest event (originally conceived by founder Keven Oxford) took place over Easter weekend in 1990 and featured a line-up of less than 20 artists, including Smokey Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite. Since then, artists such as Bob Dylan, BB King, Grace Jones and Ben Harper have all taken to the festival’s stage.
Noble used to be in a band called Clapham Junction and also played with Marcia Hines. For a while he lived in the US, where he set up Portland’s first International Jazz Festival, before returning home and moving to Byron Bay.
“Will the last festival to leave NSW please turn out the light of culture in this soon to be barren state?
“This is NOT a vote winner in the upcoming election.”
Read the full letter here.