The Canberra International Music Festival will not go ahead in 2020 and the Canberra Theatre has confirmed the closure of all productions until late April.
The Festival was to run from 1 to 10 May but given the ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people, the Festival’s Board says they had no option but to cancel, joining a now long list of arts events cancelled in the ACT.
Canberra Theatre Centre will close until 19 April, affecting all scheduled performances in the Canberra Theatre, the Playhouse and the Courtyard Studio. The box office and bar will also be closed to visitors.
The Theatre says that where possible, affected performances will be rescheduled to later in the year. Performances outside the closure period remain on sale.
“It is not in our DNA to turn away our beloved audiences and the performers they love. It pains me and the hard-working team at the Canberra Theatre Centre to do so as we face such an interruption, for the first time in the Centre’s history,” said Alex Budd, the Theatre’s director.
In 2019 Canberra International Music Festival sold over 8,000 tickets to Festival events and a third of patrons come from interstate, implying significant risks to public safety if the event was to proceed.
Board chair Bev Clarke said that a number of the Festival’s partners have also found it necessary to withdraw their venues from the festival program. Pre-festival events were to get underway on 27 April with a number of concerts in the new theatre and gallery spaces at Kambri. These events can no longer proceed following the ANU’s decision to cancel events on campus until the end of June.
Travel restrictions make it impractical for international artists to travel to Australia, there are concerns for the welfare of Indigenous artists from remote communities and the health, safety and wellbeing of audiences, musicians, staff, volunteers and the general public.
“We understand this is a difficult time for everyone and this decision will be an enormous disappointment to our patrons, the musicians we were looking forward to welcoming to Canberra, our Festival team and all our partners and suppliers who contribute so much to make the festival a reality,” Ms Clarke said.
“We will be monitoring the situation over the next few months and thinking about creative ways to bring music back to the community later in the year. We greatly value the support we receive from our festival community and our goal is to bring you an exceptional program of music in 2021.”
Both organisations have highlighted the need to work with the local arts community and ACT Government to develop strategies to support the live performance industry, to support arts industry workers and to find creative and innovative ways to bring performances to Canberra.
CIMF artistic director Roland Peelman said the flow-on effects of closures due to COVID-19 will significantly affect the viability of many arts organisations across Australia.
“CIMF backs calls for governments to have a plan to support the sector, including the large number of casual employees and artists who will be impacted,” he said.
“We recognise that musicians are particularly vulnerable during this period because of the nature of casual employment. We are totally in the hands of the community, the people who support us, stand by us, help us achieve our goals, give their time over and beyond the call of duty. But in the end, music will prevail. Always.”