St Patrick’s Day, Crab Fest celebrations cancelled, festivals delayed as coronavirus hits WA events

Perth 6000

The St Patrick’s Day Festival, the Mandurah Crab Fest and the Fairbridge Festival are among multiple high-profile West Australian events to be cancelled or postponed amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Key points:

  • Organisers say event cancellations are disappointing but necessary
  • Several festivals are being delayed until later in the year
  • Cinemas say movie screenings will continue this weekend

Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised today that all non-essential organised gatherings of more than 500 people should be scrapped from Monday.

Entertainment businesses are preparing for a hit to their bottom line as coronavirus forces them to reconsider events in the wake of a possible extended period of public social isolation.

Before the Prime Minister’s announcement, the axe had already fallen on this year’s St Patrick’s Day Festival, due to be held tomorrow in Leederville.

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“We know people were looking forward to the event, and we know the community group has been working hard over 12 months to deliver this, but we do need to be cautious and we do need to put public health first,” Vincent Mayor Emma Cole said.

“I believe people understand why, and they know it’s really important.”

St Patricks Day WA Festival chairman Olan Healy said the event had been 12 months in the making, with many people working full-time to draw in fundraising and sponsors.

“I think it’s the right decision,” he said.

“We are bitterly disappointed but we completely understand.”

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Ms Cole said the council was still considering whether to proceed with a series of mid-sized and smaller events scheduled for the coming weeks.

“We’re relying on daily advice coming through from public health, and every day we’re reassessing and making these tough decisions,” she said.

Festivals, sports events postponed

Fairbridge Festival organisers announced today the event would be postponed for six months.

The folk, roots, blues and world music festival has been running for 27 years at its bushland site 100 kilometres south of Perth, and was due to go ahead in April.

Festival general manager Stuart MacLeod said it was a difficult time for the industry in general.

“Fairbridge Festival provides a family experience unlike any other in WA and we look forward to continuing to provide this experience for our community at a time deemed safe by qualified health professionals,” he said in a statement.


Next month’s Fairbridge Festival has been postponed until later in the year. (ABC South West WA: Sharon Kennedy)

“Our team is excited to bring your Fairbridge Festival later in the year, and we hope to announce these new dates as soon as possible.”

All tickets purchased for the April dates will be valid for the new festival dates.

The Good Day Sunshine festival in WA’s Margaret River region next weekend has also been postponed until October. About 5,000 tickets had been sold for the event at 3 Oceans Wine Company, which was to headline John Butler and Xavier Rudd.

Organisers Macro Music said the event will be re-scheduled for October, with a specific date to be announced on Monday, and all tickets would remain valid for the new date.

Surf Life Saving WA has cancelled this weekend’s Nipper Championships, which were set to be held at Scarborough Beach from Friday to Sunday.

Organisers said they were carefully considering the future of upcoming championship events over the next few months as well.

Little Athletics WA has also called off its State Championships this weekend, which was set to host 1,500 junior track and field athletes.

Crab Fest cancellation ‘devastating’ for businesses

Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams confirmed today that Crab Fest, which traditionally attracts tens of thousands of people and was due to take place this weekend, would not go ahead.

“In light of the evolving status of coronavirus since last night, we sought the chief health officer’s recommendation on Crab Fest, which was that it should not go ahead,” Mr Williams said.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and given how important Crab Fest is to our local businesses, community and economy, we are devastated that we have had to cancel.

“Ultimately, the health and wellbeing of our community is paramount.”


Mandurah’s annual Crab Fest traditionally attracts thousands of people. (Source: Kate Stephens)

Mr Williams said the council would work closely with local businesses to help minimise the impact of the cancellation, but urged people to consider dining out.

“One of the messages that we are sending out to our local people is that if you feel that you can and you are well, go out this weekend and have a bite to eat at a local restaurant because it is likely that they will be overstocked,” he said.

Mandurah crab catcher Damien Bell said people were still encouraged to visit restaurants in the area over the weekend to help consume the two tonnes of local crabs that had been caught ahead of the event.

He said to minimise waste some crabs had been taken to Perth for sale, while others had been donated to local community groups like the Mandurah RSL.

“So it’s not like a real big disaster, but it … was a shock,” Mr Bell said.

Cinemas assess impact

Grand Cinemas managing director Allan Stiles said movie screenings would still go ahead over the weekend, despite at least two long-anticipated films being pulled by distributors — the new James Bond film and Peter Rabbit 2.

Mr Stiles said the delayed release of those movies “takes a lot of money out of the marketplace”.


Grand Cinemas says it’s a worrying time for cinemas. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“It’s a worrying time, it’s a worrying concern, but we’re making all precautions towards hopefully just keeping running with it all,” he said.

He said the cinema was taking precautions to leave gaps in patron seating and restrict some sessions, as well as applying stringent cleaning protocols.

Mr Stiles said the cinema market in China had lost billions of dollars in six weeks as people stayed in isolation and he was concerned about the financial implications for Grand Cinemas.

“We’re watching it very closely … we might have to talk to landlords and banks.”

However, Perth Festival has cancelled the remainder of its film season from Monday.

Ticketing manager Scott Beckwith said the decision had been taken in response to “concerns around COVID-19” and thanked patrons “for your understanding at this time”.

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