SouthFest organisers make early call to cancel 2020 festival

Michael Weaver 28 May 2020

People enjoying SouthFest during the last year’s event. Photo: Supplied.

The organisers of this year’s SouthFest community festival at Tuggeranong have made the early call to cancel the festival more than five months out from the event.

SouthFest was originally scheduled for November.

SouthFest chair Andrew Eppelstun said there wasn’t enough time to plan the event due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need more than 10 months of lead time to secure sponsorship, government approvals, suppliers, stallholders and performers to manage the complexities of bringing together a community-driven event,” Mr Eppelstun said.

“Given it is uncertain as to when the restrictions on large public gatherings in the ACT will be lifted, we are unable to plan with certainty. We do not think it is the right time to be asking the business community and community sector to contribute to SouthFest.

“Without the support, which has amounted to $140,000 of cash and in-kind support in previous years for the infrastructure, activities, event planning and safety, SouthFest is not viable.”

After a successful community event in 2019 that attracted close to 20,000 visitors and involved more than 220 stakeholders, the SouthFest committee was excited to commence planning for this year’s festival.

However, Mr Eppelstun said the committee will work with the Tuggeranong Community Council to deliver a series of smaller-scale events during the next 12 to 18 months. He said the events could be in the form of market stalls in Spring when social distancing restrictions are lifted further.

“We will be looking for opportunities to work with community members, local businesses and organisations to deliver the events and activities. We would be keen to hear from you if you have any ideas,” he said.

“These events will be focused on re-energising our community and delivering opportunities for local business, community organisations and community groups.”

Excavation in the Tuggeranong laneways

Excavation in the Tuggeranong laneways, which will eventually have more than 30 trees and seating spaces. Photo: Transport Canberra and City Services.

Work has also been ongoing in Tuggeranong’s town centre, with upgrades to its laneways precinct that were expected to be ready well before this year’s festival. After some delays due to coronavirus, excavation is now underway in the laneways, which will eventually have more than 30 trees and seating spaces that will connect the town centre with Lake Tuggeranong.

While some people had commented the work was being done to coincide with the next ACT Government elections, Mr Eppelstun said planning of the laneways precinct had always been a commitment of the government.

“The plan was always to have the laneways precinct ready for SouthFest this year. This has been in the pipeline for some time and the project will help link the lake with the town centre, which is where the focus of SouthFest is.

“There was a very conscious decision made early on that this festival needs to happen in the town centre to bring people to the town centre,” he said.

The committee is tentatively looking ahead to deliver the next SouthFest on 20 November 2021. In the meantime, the Tuggeranong Arts Centre is steadily emerging with new meaningful ways to engage the community.

The Centre’s visual arts program has opened registrations for a community arts project with Rebecca Mayo and has provided a glimpse of an exhibition by Brian McNamara in a short film. The arts centre’s youth programs, Fresh Funk and Messengers, are growing their online classes, while an online community zine-making project is inviting participants.

However, the social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic have had a dramatic impact on many areas of the local business community.

“We are looking to the future that will require the community to come back together stronger than ever. The local events and business community need our support and the community sector and community groups will want to reconnect in a physical sense,” Mr Eppelstun said.

“Without having a crystal ball, we don’t know where we’re going to be at the end of the year, but we do hope to be in a position to be doing something, and then focus on SouthFest being bigger and better for 2021.”

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