Major music festival in Hunter Valley Grapevine Gathering forced to CANCEL over Covid rule change

Major music festival is forced to CANCEL at the 11th hour after shock rule changed BANNED singing and dancing even at outdoor events

A major summer music festival has been forced to cancel just a week out after a shock decision by policymakers to ban singing and dancing at outdoor events.

The Grapevine Gathering at Roche Estate in the New South Wales Hunter Valley was set to feature major Australian acts including Peking Duk, The Veronicas, San Cisco and the Inspired Unemployed – now over 16,000 tickets will need to be refunded.

Heartbroken organisers say the forced cancelation will cost the hard-hit tourism hotspot about $5.2million in lost revenue costing the area about 1400 jobs.

Premier Dominic Perrottet, after months of railing against Covid restrictions, announced last week that singing and dancing at indoor hospitality venues.

Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant explained the decision by saying the virus spreads easier on the dance floor compared to when people are sitting down.

Outdoor were originally excluded from the public health order but late on Tuesday, NSW Health announced the amendment set to devastate the already crippled live music industry. 

The latest restriction is yet another embarrassing backflip for Premier Perrottet as the state recorded a further 25,000 Covid cases on Tuesday – with many more in the community going undiagnosed due overwhelmed testing clinics and a shortage of rapid tests.   

Dr Chant said last Friday that health authorities are particularly concerned about    
environments where singing and dancing are taking place because ‘you’re actually encountering and bringing together people from very different social networks,’ she said.

‘When you go and sit down with your five friends in a restaurant and you’re just sitting down, the only people that you really coming into contact with our mask-wearing rules, with the hospitality staff wearing masks, you wearing masks until you sit down is that group you’re with.

‘But when you’re actually dancing on a dance floor, when you’re energised and singing in a group and moving around, then you actually risking exposing people that you would normally day-to-day not come into contact with.’

Although the Perrottet government has scrapped singing and dancing in pubs, clubs, nightclubs, bars, entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities like music festivals, there are still some exemptions.

Large religious gatherings can still go ahead with members of the congregation belting out hymns and cutting shapes is still permitted at weddings.

Students, instructors and performers are also allowed to rehearse.  

NSW Health have defended their decision to exempt religious gathers from the rules.

‘Singing and dancing in hospitality venues and nightclubs is deemed high risk due to increased movement and mingling within and across these venues, the influence of alcohol consumption, and the removal of masks in these settings to consume food and drink,’ a spokesperson said.

‘People attending religious services generally remain in fixed positions and masks are mandatory for these indoor gatherings.’

But it’s a bitter pill to swallow for the live music industry. 

Stephen Wade, chairman of the Australian Live Music Business Council, said the industry ‘has been consistently targeted whenever there seems to be a major issue in Covid cases.’  

‘It seems that our industry is an easy target, and has been consistently targeted whenever there seems to be a major issue in Covid cases,’ he told The Australian.

‘The confusion for the people who make their living within our industry is: what is the difference between singing and dancing at the cricket, or at Hillsong, or at a wedding, which are all allowed as of today?’

‘Our industry cops this again, without consultation. We’re consistently punished, as soon as everything goes really bad.’