The Blues Train returns to hibernation

September 16, 2021 BY

The Blues Train’s Hugo T. Armstrong says COVID event normal is a fair way off. Photo: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

THE escalating situation of COVID-19’s Delta variant has forced The Blues Train to cancel all of its 2021 shows, and its founder and proprietor says the broader events industry needs urgent support from the state government.

The rolling Queenscliff-to-Drysdale music attraction had shows planned for October, November and December, but the business has returned to hibernation until at least early 2022 after exhausting all eligible opportunities to continue to run during the pandemic.

Hugo T. Armstrong posted a video on The Blues Train’s Facebook page on Friday last week explaining the decision, saying the safety of all patrons, musicians, staff and volunteers was paramount, “and there was no way we could proceed”.

In an interview with this newspaper, Mr Armstrong said the business applied for and used grants to prepare for the 2021 Blues Train Revival Concert Series, with tickets going on sale in May, but successive lockdowns had spoiled their efforts.

“All the money was spent on one more roll of the dice. There was an initial wave of enthusiasm, but when lockdowns five and six came, obviously we saw our December ticket sales plummet.”

Started more than a year ago, “The Blues Train Rescue” campaign on GoFundMe raised more than $44,000 in its first 12 months and was crucial in the hibernation of the business during 2020 and 2021. As of Tuesday this week, the total sits at more than $53,000.

Mr Armstrong said hibernation this time would mean trying to keep all the various facets of the business active and keeping staff employed.

He said his business and other event promoters urgently needed a third round of the state government’s live music promoter cancellation fund.

He would also welcome a formal announcement of cancellation insurance, and said it should apply to not only where the event is but also where the audience is.

“There’s more questions than there are answers right now.”

Mr Armstrong believed COVID normal for events would be very different to COVID normal for the general public.

“COVID event normal is a fair way off – it will probably be trialled by very large, fully open air events, and then it’ll apply to smaller venues and less ventilated spaces,” he said.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is there for the general public, but for the events industry, we’re all so different, and those rules and regulations are yet to be fleshed out.

“For the events industry to be ‘no jab, no entry’, I don’t think it’ll be just that. The music festival could be like a ski resort – you might find you need to have a test before going and you might need to be double-vaxxed, depending on the risk level.”

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