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‘Business as usual’ for final Adelaide Festival shows amid calls to restrict mass gatherings

James Glossop
Soprano Sydney Mancasola in Breaking The Waves

The show will go on for Adelaide Festival’s final weekend, but Tasting Australia has been postponed following news that from Monday the government would begin advising against “organised, non-essential gatherings of 500 people” to limit coronavirus transmission in the community.

Speaking to the media following a COAG meeting of state government leaders in Sydney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that from Monday the government would begin advising against “organised, non-essential gatherings” of 500 or more people. This “precautionary” advice, distinct from a formal ban, would exclude schools, university lectures and public transport, and instead be targeted at large, organised events such as sporting events or festivals.

As the federal government’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy explained, it is the size and static nature of such events that set them apart from more low-risk crowd activities such as public transport and other everyday acts. For his part, Morrison told reporters he planned to attend a Rugby League match over the weekend before the new advice takes effect.

Following the conference, a spokesperson for Adelaide Festival told The Adelaide Review that it would be “business as usual” for the Festival’s final shows, with organisers continuing to follow the latest advice from SA Health. The festival’s final weekend includes opera Breaking The Waves at the 2,000 capacity Festival Theatre and Enter Achilles at the 600 capacity Dunstan Playhouse.

This time last week the Festival was forced to make a last-minute change to its Sounds of History Beethoven concert after composer Brett Dean – who was slated to lead the performance – was placed in isolation at the Royal Adelaide Hospital after testing positive for the virus.

Brett Dean
Bettina Stoess
Australian composer Brett Dean was due to conduct the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra last Saturday, but instead spent the weekend in quarantine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital

Meanwhile Tasting Australia has today confirmed its 2020 event, due to run from 27 March to 5 April, would be postponed until later in the year. “The decision to postpone Tasting Australia is the right one as we want to ensure a spectacular, and importantly, safe experience for all,” Tasting Australia director Simon Bryant and Events South Australia head Hitaf Rasheed said in a joint statement. “In light of today’s announcement, we would not have been able to deliver the experience that Tasting Australia patrons have come to expect or deserve to receive.”

This latest response from the government follows the cancellation of Melbourne’s Formula One Grand Prix. The wider festival landscape has seen a series of event cancellations this week, with east coast touring festival Download cancelling all its March dates after headliner My Chemical Romance withdrew, while Tasmania’s Dark Mofo festival this week announced its decision to pre-emptively cancel its 2020 event in June.

Update (14 March, 1pm): US artist Laurie Anderson has called off her weekend Adelaide Fringe performances, citing concerns over COVID-19 travel restrictions in her home country, while Blue Mountains songwriter Julia Jacklin has also postponed her sold out Governor Hindmarsh show on Saturday night.

Update (14 March, 4pm): The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has now cancelled its Adelaide Festival Mahler 5 / Adès program on 14 and 15 March, while also foreshadowing its upcoming performance with Ben Folds will also be cancelled. “The well-being of ASO musicians, staff and audiences is our highest priority, and we continue to work with our presenting and venue partners to ensure the health and safety of the wider ASO community,” ASO management said in a statement.

As of Friday 13 March there have been 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Australia. Readers are advised to consult SA Health’s website for the latest information.

Related article

Dark Mofo 2020 cancelled over coronavirus concerns

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, The Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, Royal Auto, Swampland Magazine, Broadsheet and The Thousands.

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