Byron Bay’s All-Australian Bluesfest is ready to go, as festival director Peter Noble tells Samuel J. Fell.
The phrase that Bluesfest director Peter Noble uses at least twice during a quick conversation six months out from the festival’s proposed 2021 return is, “If there’s been a better lineup of Australian talent, I challenge people to state what it was.”
He’s done his research, looking back over the decades across not only his own festival, but others that have run in the past thirty years, and to his mind, there’s not one that can touch what he’s looking to do next year – that is, in the likely event that international travel is still off the cards, Bluesfest’s very first line-up comprised of Australian-only acts.
The arts industry as a whole, the globe over, has been crippled by the spread of COVID-19, and Bluesfest, despite its size, hasn’t been immune. This year, for the first time in its 31-year history, Bluesfest didn’t run. Four days after the cancellation announcement was made, however, the festival picked itself up off the mat and declared that it would be back next year, although, as the world still works out how it will live with this virus in the longterm.
Most likely Bluesfest will have a reduced capacity of 7500 capacity (seated, outside) as per the most recent government announcement. However, that could change slightly. (Recent limits on some sporting events have been lifted somewhat). “The Events Taskforce, we’re waiting for them to produce. We’ll be ready [though],” says Noble.
Noble and his team have put together a tremendous home-grown lineup, which serves to show, even at a glance, the depth and strength of the Australian roots music scene. Jimmy Barnes, Kasey Chambers, Kev Carmody, The Church and The Angels are but a taste of the established acts, while Tash Sultana, Ziggy Alberts, The Teskey Brothers and Hiatus Kaiyote represent the new guard as part of a bill that acts as more than just entertainment; indeed, this is about an industry picking itself up, and showing how strong it truly is.
“If there’s a better Australian bill out there, I say, ‘Please show me!’,” Noble smiles. “And I’m not finished yet.”
“They are on the bill, we’re just not featuring them,” explains Noble of the international acts. “When we cancelled this year, I went to the international artists and a number of them wanted to reschedule, a great show of faith. So, those artists are still being advertised, but with the border controls we have, it’s pretty evident that they won’t be able to come. So, that’s why I booked an Australian bill to the level I did.”
Noble goes on to talk about the faith the public has in Bluesfest, saying that if the cap remains at 7500, then they’re already sold out. “Yeah, we’ve already gone past that number, the faith the public has shown in the event has been incredible.”
Noble is also quite vocal on the government’s reaction to the plight of the arts, voicing his concerns as to whether or not his industry is held in the same esteem as, say, sport. He is quietly confident however, that if Bluesfest is indeed able to run in 2021, it’ll then be able to act as a voice loud enough to get governmental attention paid towards people in the arts.
In the meantime, this is what it all boils down to: Noble and his team are working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure a spectacular Bluesfest 2021.
Keep up to date with all developments at bluesfest.com.au