The 2021 National Folk Festival has been cancelled, for the second year in a row

Artist Lucy Sugerman with Folk Festival director Helen Roben, volunteer manager Rebekka Ambroz and finance manager Piya Pattaranggoon after the event's cancellation. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Artist Lucy Sugerman with Folk Festival director Helen Roben, volunteer manager Rebekka Ambroz and finance manager Piya Pattaranggoon after the event's cancellation. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The next National Folk Festival has been cancelled.

It's the first of Canberra's major events to be called off for the second time because of the epidemic.

This year's was due to be held back in March at Exhibition Park in Canberra just as the coronavirus emerged as a serious threat.

The lockdowns and travel bans had just started so it had to be called off at short notice.

Now the organisers have decided that next year's event, which was to be held in April, 2021, will have to go as well.

The festival has been running for more than 50 years. The one cancelled in March would have been the 54th. It's highly popular, attracting 30,000 to 50,000 people each year.

But it needs many months of planning, and uncertainty over the situation even in six months time still remains.

"After significant research and planning towards a 2021 Festival, it has become apparent this will also be impossible," one of the organisers Helen Roben said.

The first cancellation in March meant the festival lost a substantial (but unspecified) sum of money and the organisers didn't want a repeat of that. They feared that another loss could have caused longer-term damage, putting future festivals in jeopardy.

In March, the cancellation was at three weeks' notice and tickets had to be refunded and acts cancelled.

Performers had not yet been booked for the one coming up in April so the decision was to minimise the potential loss if everything was organised but then had to be stood down.

"We understand the devastating effect this will have on our participants and performers, but our community and their safety is our highest priority."

Canberra's folk community were disappointed but understood the decision. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Canberra's folk community were disappointed but understood the decision. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

One of the performers and the "Youth Ambassador" for the festival, Lucy Sugerman, said the cancellation was disappointing.

"To lose something like this is a blow culturally and artistically for the community - but we'll get through," she said.

The last National Folk Festival - in 2019. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The last National Folk Festival - in 2019. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It's the latest in a string of events to be cancelled because of the coronavirus but the first to be hit twice as the first year of the epidemic rolls into its second.

Last week, the organisers of Summernats pulled out. Floriade only happened in a severely reduced form and without the visitors and their dollars coming to Canberra.

Floriade usually contributes over $40 million in visitor revenue to the ACT economy and Summernats, around $30 million.

Further doubt has been cast on big events at the tail-end of summer such as Enlighten and the Royal Canberra Show.

Even though the Folk Festival was due to be held in five months' time, the organisers couldn't be sure of the numbers - even if a vaccine has emerged by then.

If, despite a vaccine, numbers remain reduced, the economics of the festival changes for the worse.

This story National Folk Festival cancelled - again first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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