'Gut-wrenching' decision as Councillors unanimously vote to cancel music festival
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
The 49th Tamworth Country Music Festival is the latest major event to topple under the heavy weight of COVID-19 related public health restrictions.
Tamworth Regional Council's first meeting for the month of September was a room thick with anticipation, hosting more media outlets than usual, as the fate of the much-loved festival hung in the balance of agenda item 10.1.
In a decision many saw coming, Councillors echoed statements of disappointment and regret before unanimously voting in favour of cancelling all in-person council-run events.
The council's own modelling shows the ten-day festival usually pours over $50 million into the local economy leaving business owners grappling with how to re cooperate January income they have begun to rely upon.
Mayor Col Murray said he has attended 47 of the past 48 festivals and it was a 'gut-wrenching' decision to make.
"If there is one decision I'd rather not have to be a part of in my 16 years in local government this would be the one," said Mr Murray, "But we are elected to make decisions and quite often those decisions have a financial impact that could be positive or could be negative on the very community we are elected to represent.
Mr Murray said no council jobs will be lost and all employees in event management roles have been redistributed across the council as needed.
"In a sense, it has provided a significant benefit to the organisation, council and community in as much as it's given us the opportunity to do some much needed strategic planning," Mr Murray said.
Council has also agreed to forge ahead with the 49th Country Music Awards of Australia with plans for a virtual event.
In the business papers presented to Councillors on Tuesday 8th September, the plan suggests paying famous country music stars to make virtual appearances and cement Tamworths reputation as the top country music destination in Australia.
The plan also suggests the awards can be achieved in the allocated funding, yet Mayor Col Murray could not confirm if any local musicians or artists would be platformed during the event.
Given the lack of the Star Maker competition or January performance opportunities, local musicians will miss out on the chance to launch their career or new music for 2021.
Paul Bennet, General Manager of Tamworth Regional Council said he will be meeting with the local motelier association to discuss ways they can get through the current economic downturn yet has no formal plans to meet or assist local musicians.
Mr Bennett said it would be a good idea to do a similar crisis meeting for local artists who have also struggled through a drought of gigs and now face the loss of one of their best platforms in the Tamworth Country Music Festival.