Jimmy Barnes with Josh Teskey and Vika and Linda. They are all part of the Bluesfest 2021 line up. Photo by David Harris
Jimmy Barnes with Josh Teskey and Vika and Linda. They are all part of the Bluesfest 2021 line up. Photo by David Harris

Bluesfest set to be biggest Australian music event this year

Now that the NSW Government has approved Bluesfest's 150-page COVID-safe plan, it's time to unpack what the five-day festival will be like in 2021.

First is the issue of the strict control the NSW Government has held over music festivals recently.

Bluesfest Byron Bay was never declared a 'high risk' festival under the NSW Music Festivals Act, and as such, it does not require the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to approve its safety management plan.

A spokesman for Liquor and Gaming confirmed the festival had attained the required approvals to go ahead this year.

"Bluesfest holds a current ongoing on-premises licence that may be utilised to hold the event," he said.

"The festival is not required to submit a safety management plan for approval under the Music Festivals Act 2019."

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The second piece of the puzzle is the music.

Bluesfest has organised a list of the best current Australian shows available, from Jimmy Barnes to Dami Im, and Ocean Alley, The Teskey Brothers and Kate Miller-Heidke.

Bluesfest is set up to be the biggest live music event of the year with more than 50 acts in the line up.

The final piece of the puzzle is what the COVID-Safe plan will mean for musicians, workers and punters in terms of restrictions and the risk of fines for transgressions.

The festival is only set to have half of the number of people it used to have daily, but in 2021, ever dollar counts.



Director Peter Noble promised some details for ticket holders this week on what the experience will be like, particularly in and around camping, and near stages.

"We will be inspecting the 150-page COVID-19 Safety Plan in depth and will make a further announcement on how Bluesfest will be presented in a safe manner this week," he said.

The festival's website explains the NSW Health guidelines for the event include "seated and outdoors".

Lack of detail has meant speculation on social media by ticket holders that the festival will be held outdoors, without tents covering the crowds.

That could be complex to navigate weather-wise, since 2021 has proven to be an extra wet year.

Another piece of speculation has been seating-only stages.

Bluesfest already offered VIP seating in first row and extra seating at the back of the tents, so this may mean dancing and standing areas will be replaced by extra seats.

According to a report by Lawrence Consulting for Bluesfest Group, the 2019 event had more than 105,000 people through the doors, bringing more than $35.5 million to the Byron Shire and $59 million to the Northern Rivers economy.

That will not be the case this year, but the fact the event is happening at all speaks for the experience of the team, who have been organising events for more than three decades.

• Bluesfest 2021 will be held at the Byron Events Farm (formerly Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm), April 1 to 5.

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