Sydney Fringe Festival, the largest independent arts festival in NSW, has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in place across Greater Sydney and beyond.
370 shows have been cut and the hard work of more than 1500 artists has had to be put aside for the time being.
In response to the 2020 cancellation, the festival organised a digital programme to make up for the physical loss. This year, unfortunately, the festival has decided against a virtual showing as they believe the Delta strain of COVID-19 is too infectious to even allow small rehearsals amongst its artists.
The month-long festival was set to open 1 September.
“As soon as the Premier announced the August extension [of lockdown] then that became untenable because unfortunately under the current orders our performers are unable to rehearse,” chief executive Kerri Glasscock said.
“Not only do independent artists usually rehearse for much longer periods because they are doing it part-time around their work, they rehearse in venues and studios around town that are all currently closed and they can’t have people over to their house.
“It’s just devastating because not only does Sydney miss out on another year of its largest independent arts festival, Sydney Fringe is the only opportunity for so many of our young artists to work each year.”
The decision is the latest in a series of cancellations caused by the extended Sydney lockdown, and creatives are becoming increasingly disillusioned about the near-future prospects of the industry.
Sydney’s VIVID Festival, which was supposed to be underway currently, had to be rescheduled earlier in the year. It has a new, pushed-back opening date of 17 September.
Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Contemporary at Carriageworks have also announced new dates in November.
With no clear route out of lockdown in Sydney, arts organisations are calling for business cancellation insurance and access to transparent, publicly-available modelling and a timetable to plan for the resumption of live shows and exhibitions.
Fringe secured $360,000 this year from the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus package, RISE, to return to live performance and this support is expected to soften Fringe’s financial blow.