Current Issue #488

Dark Mofo 2020 cancelled over coronavirus concerns

Dark Mofo / Lusy Productions

Tasmania’s winter arts festival Dark Mofo will skip 2020 due to the risk of a last minute cancellation-by-coronavirus.

Museum of Old and New Art founder David Walsh confirmed the news in a statement posted to social media and the festival’s website this morning. In the post, which comes with an expected dose of wry humour and drama, Walsh explained that MONA and the Tasmanian government were “each on the hook for $2 million” to run the June festival, with worst case projections including an $8 million loss in the event of a last minute cancellation if just one staff member contracted the disease. Such a setback, Walsh says, would jeopardise any future events.

“It is with deep regret and sadness that we have made the decision to cancel Dark Mofo scheduled for June this year,” Dark Mofo Creative Director Leigh Carmichael has also said in a statement. “After a thorough risk assessment on the potential impact and disruption of coronavirus, we have been left with no option other than to move the current program to 2021. The financial exposure faced by David Walsh of a festival-wide last minute cancellation would run into the millions, and likely end the event permanently. We’ve had to act decisively to ensure Dark Mofo’s long term survival.”

David Walsh’s full statement:

“It’s likely that nothing will happen. June will roll up, COVID-19 will die down, and I’ll look (more) like a fool for having cancelled,” Walsh says. “But that’s the best thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen is not me trashing my cash. We could soldier on, without consideration or advantage, have the crowd turn up anyway, and send them home sick. But that wouldn’t be the worst thing, either. Worse than that, for me at least, would be proceeding with Dark Mofo and having it fail, and thus having it become the final Dark Mofo. That would mean facing a future of Hobart winters unpunctuated by pageantry, and thus returning to a tyranny of complacency – that worse-than-COVID Hobart malaise of believing we don’t have to seek to do more, and we don’t have to seek to do better.”

While the festival’s wider program has been cancelled, headline draw Bon Iver will still perform as part of a national tour that will also take in Adelaide on 18 June. The announcement follows news that Austin’s music industry conference and city wide festival SXSW has been cancelled for 2020, while April’s Coachella Festival is widely expected to be postponed until later in the year.

While the Adelaide Festival program has been touched by the virus and the resulting disruption to international travel – most notably with Friday’s announcement that composer Brett Dean would withdraw from the weekend’s Sound of History concert after testing positive to the virus – it seems Adelaide’s festival season will be lucky to get through this final week relatively undisrupted.

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer and editor living on Kaurna Country.

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