By Oliver Lees
A coalition of voices has called on Victoria’s chief health officer to give greater consideration to the entertainment, arts and hospitality sectors as they recover from the economic hardship of COVID-19 lockdowns.
The open letter penned to Professor Brett Sutton includes more than 160 signatures from leading figures within the sectors, including Macedon Ranges Music Festival organiser Jimmy O’Hare.
Other notable signatures include Melbourne Symphony Orchestra managing director Sophie Galaise and Mushroom Group chief executive officer Matt Gudinski.
Mr O’Hare said he was happy to add his name to the letter after Music Victoria reached out to him.
“These creative industries can be forgotten or not be seen as vital in state and federal governments, so I wanted to put my voice toward a cause where so many workers don’t have one,” Mr O’Hare said.
“I have friends that went from playing massive shows to working in abattoirs and warehouses, and they were the ones lucky enough to find other employment.
“It’s a huge industry of people struggling that we rarely get to see behind the curtain.”
The state government had planned to ease COVID-19 restrictions on July 1 to allow 100 per cent capacity at theatres, among other things. But the easing of restrictions was put on hold due to the surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
Theatre capacity remains at 50 per cent to a total of 1000 people and crowds at public events remains at 50 per cent and 25,000 total people.
Hospitality venues can serve up to 300 people while dance floors remain closed.
According to a RMIT University study released in February, more than 26,000 jobs had been lost in the arts and recreation sector, while 58 per cent of surveyed respondents were considering leaving the industry entirely.
Sunbury-based BoilOver Performance Ensemble’s show BUOY was scheduled for June 26, but a decision was made to postpone it until September.
BoilOver’s creative director Carmen Maddison said it was a difficult but necessary decision to make.
“We would have had to reduce the audience numbers from 200 to about 40 which not only impacts our budget, but also would have affected the energy of the performances as the audience reaction is essential,” Ms Maddison said.
“The cast of BUOY are incredibly disappointed as they have been working towards this date for months.”
Mr O’Hare said his industry will continue to suffer as long as the state government continues to opt for lockdowns that limit or cancel events.
“The music industry relies on the confidence of having people in a space, with online streaming these days touring is how artists make most of their money,” he said.
“Some sort of support like JobKeeper would be helpful but in the long run people need the confidence to be able to book in advance and plan.
“Shows are often booked six to eight months in advance, but now that planning is uncertain and it makes it harder for customers to commit to supporting the arts.”