Tamworth Country Music Festival postponed due to COVID-19 concerns

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Organizers of the Tamworth Country Music Festival have announced that its 50th anniversary event will be postponed due to changes to COVID-19 safety measures.

The 10-day event was due to begin next week, January 14.

This is the second year the festival has been affected by COVID-19 after it was canceled last year.

Wests Group CEO Rod Laing, who manages several of Tamworth’s biggest venues, viewed the announcement with disappointment.

“I was at the reception of the club when some country music fans came through the door. We had to break the news to them,” he said.

“They had just been camping by the water, and I’m sure there will be many more disappointed. There are also locals who could be relieved.

People dance to the Wolfe Brothers during the Bushfire Appeal concert at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2013.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Mr Laing said when he exited last year he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars which he could never recover.

“It’s food, it’s marketing, it’s all gone, it’s shot,” he said.

“It was a roller coaster.

“You could say [the writing on the wall] was there yesterday, you could have said it was last year. You feel like there’s no help, but we’ve always remained optimistic.”

Festival director Barry Harley said it was a difficult decision to make.

Postponed to April

The New South Wales government has announced that some restrictions will be reintroduced to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state.

These restrictions include new risk assessments by NSW Health on major events and a ban on singing and dancing in entertainment and hospitality venues.

However, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said big events could go ahead provided New South Wales does not deem high-risk events.

NSW recorded 38,625 cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths in the last reporting period.

Two men with guitars on stage.
Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey perform at the 42nd Tamworth Country Music Festival.(PA: Dan Himbrechts)

Organizers said that due to “so much uncertainty” the decision had to be made to postpone the festival to April.

The event will also take place over a shorter period from April 18.

“Given the current state of COVID transmission in our communities and the impact that modified COVID safety measures are having on our sites,” Harley said.

“Significant impact” on the community

Tamworth Regional Mayor Russell Webb said the April date was chosen to accommodate several groups.

“Pubs have had to buy perishables, and most will last until April,” he said.

“It’s also school holidays, which will reduce bus services.”

The mayor said there would be a “significant” financial cost associated with postponing the festival.

“I don’t think there’s a single person in this organization that’s happy about it,” Webb said.

Man standing in front of press cameras
Tamworth Regional Mayor Russell Webb speaking to the media.(ABC New England: Kemii Maguire)

At a press conference in Tamworth on Friday, Mr Webb spoke about the delay in his announcement.

“We are a week away, we are only a week away from the opening of the festival, we learn today that we should have these plans approved by [NSW] Health,” he said.

“They would take place next week. They would establish a set of conditions and guidelines that we had to follow. There would not be enough time if these guidelines were strict for us to comply.”

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