In incredibly sad news, one of Australia’s best music and arts festivals has just pulled the pin for 2020.
Tassie’s finest, Dark Mofo, has released a statement from MONA founder David Walsh this morning, citing both financial and health risks being at the heart of the incredibly tough decision. You can read the statement in full below.
We’re killing Dark Mofo for the year. I know that will murder an already massacred tourism environment, but I feel like I have no choice (hint: that means I have a choice).
Rational consequences of risk are defensive planning (toilet rolls), and late decision-making. Kirsha, my wife, was planning a fundraiser for her garden project, in April. She sold just two tickets (thanks, and sorry, Tim and Irene). Her events are very popular, so what happened?
Fear is what happened. That fear is compelled by uncertainty. Fear is the right response. And that right response means we would have trouble selling tickets to Dark Mofo events, also.
Right now, the government and Mona are each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo. That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more, because I would have to cover the absent ticket revenue. Leigh Carmichael, Dark Mofo’s boss, suggested an $8 million scenario: if a staff member contracted COVID-19 a week out from the festival, we’d have to cancel because the staff would need to self-isolate for two weeks, but we’d also have to pay all the artists. That kind of blowout would affect Mona’s program, and I’d be back to subsisting on the diet I had when I was eighteen – pineapples and mint slice biscuits.
When my property was on fire in 1998 and I tried to hose it, there wasn’t any water. That’s because all the people in my street were also trying to hose the fire, and there was a run on the water. Everybody wanted water, so nobody got it. That’s a correlated outcome. And, of course, if all the houses burn down, insurance companies can’t pay out. That’s another correlated outcome. It’s easy to miss that connected events increase risk. I could miss that now, but I’m not going to. I’d rather be a rich coward than a poor hero. I’m pouring cold water on Dark Mofo while there’s still water to pour.
Here’s my correlated outcome. COVID-19 might jeopardise my income if we run Dark Mofo. It is already jeopardising my income elsewhere. I bet on horseracing, and horseracing is being cancelled in COVID-19-affected countries. Soon, that might be all of them.
I don’t expect Mona to be badly affected, at least initially. That’s because people can choose to go to Mona on whim. If the world is alright, they can just rock up today, or in a couple of days. But at times such as these, it’s predicting some way into the future that demands caution. Whereas unlike a Mona visit, Dark asks its attendees to make decisions months in advance.
Naturally, Leigh Carmichael is forlorn, but he sees no other option. He and Dark’s committed staff had planned another bang-up celebration of ‘the heart of darkness’, and although they lament that that journey will not be undertaken, they understand that a few who might have embarked on that journey could also have been undertaken – crossing the River Styx was never meant to be on this year’s program.
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. 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 homesick. 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.
So we’ll see you next year. Assuming, that is, another black swan doesn’t cause another white elephant.