Tasmania’s Dark Mofo winter arts festival has been cancelled because of the expanding coronavirus outbreak.
Dark Mofo’s organisers said they had made the call early because the financial impact a last-minute cancellation would run into the millions and likely bring a permanent end to the event.
Museum of Old and New Art owner and art collector David Walsh, who is also behind the Hobart festival, said fear was the driving reason for “killing Dark Mofo” for 2020.
“That fear is compelled by uncertainty,” he said on Wednesday.
“Fear is the right response. And that right response means we would have trouble selling tickets to Dark Mofo events, also.”
Dark Mofo had been scheduled to run in Hobart from June 10-22.
Mr Walsh’s decision came as the organisers of California’s Coachella festival declared it would not be held in April as planned. The festival, which attracts about 100,000 people and was to be headlined by Rage Against The Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean, will now run over two weekends in October.
Stagecoach, the country music festival from the same organisers as Coachella, has also been pushed to October.
“While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously,” Goldenvoice said.
“We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”
On Tuesday, pop star Miley Cyrus cancelled a bushfire relief concert planned for Saturday in Melbourne, as part of the Formula One Grand Prix weekend.
On Wednesday, Mr Walsh said his Mona and the state government were “each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo”.
“That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more,” he said.
He said festival creative director Leigh Carmichael had also raised a worst-case scenario – if a Dark Mofo staff member contracted COVID-19 a week out from the festival, it would have to be cancelled to allow staff to self-isolate, but artists would still need to be paid.
“That kind of blowout would affect Mona’s program, and I’d be back to subsisting on the diet I had when I was 18 – pineapples and mint slice biscuits,” he said.
Mr Walsh said he expected Mona to remain largely unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“People can choose to go to Mona on whim. If the world is all right, they can just rock up today, or in a couple of days,” he said.
“But at times such as these, it’s predicting some way into the future that demands caution.”
He said it was likely that – ultimately – nothing would happen. But at least Dark Mofo’s future would be secured for other years.
“June will roll up, COVID-19 will die down, and I’ll look (more) like a fool for having cancelled. But that’s the best thing that could happen,” he said.