The following excerpt is taken from a Concrete Playground article published on the 6th August 2021.
By Sarah Ward
For the second September in a row, Sydney’s venues won’t be filled with independent theatre, music, comedy, dance and circus performances — or with visual arts, film, literature and poetry, either. Due to the city’s ongoing lockdown, as well as the uncertainty around when stay-at-home conditions will end and what restrictions will be in place afterwards, the Sydney Fringe Festival has announced that it won’t be going ahead in 2021.
Back in May, the fest announced its plans for this year, revealing that it would return with a physical month-long event after 2020’s digital edition. New hubs were set to be part of the festival, too; however, as every Sydneysider has experienced, quite a lot has changed over the past couple of months.
Announcing the cancellation in a statement, festival organisers said that the decision was made “after the extension of the current Sydney lockdown into August made rehearsals impossible for the vast majority of the festival program, along with the uncertainty around when performance venues will be able to reopen.”
The fest team also noted that “with 78 percent of Sydney Fringe audiences under 48 years of age and over 80 percent of artists under the age of 40, the risk that these groups would have low vaccination rates by September made the risk of performing live untenable.”
Sydney Fringe Festival follows Bluesfest, Vivid Sydney and the Sydney Film Festival in being impacted by COVID-19 two years in a row; however, at least at the time of writing, those other three major events have postponed their 2021 dates, rather than scrapped their plans altogether. That said, with Sydney’s lockdown now six weeks in, set to run until at least the end of August and also still garnering high case numbers — 291 were identified in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, August 5 — it’s beginning to look more likely that other big events might not happen this year either.
Sydney Fringe Festival Director and CEO Kerri Glasscock said that “the impacts of this pandemic continue to wreak havoc on our sector. The resilience, passion, dedication, ingenuity and stoicism the independent arts community has shown over these past 18 months has been remarkable, and the quality of work they had produced for this year’s festival was exceptional despite all they had gone through. It is an immense shame that Sydney will not get to see this program this year, and that the city will lose the vital cultural and economic impact the festival brings each year. Sydney Fringe has long been one of the leading advocacy voices for independent artists in New South Wales and this is where we will once again turn our attention.”
In light of its change of plans for 2021, Sydney Fringe will launch a new ‘We’ll Fringe Again’ fundraising campaign tonight, from 6pm on Friday, August 6, via the Sydney Fringe website and Facebook page — asking the community to still buy a ticket to the cancelled festival to support local artists. The money raised will be put into a programming fund for the 2022 festival.
Worlds Best/Worst House Party, Sydney Fringe Festival 2021, by Seiya Taguchi