As lengthy lockdowns continue to keep many Australians at home and away from regular life, a coalition of Australia’s performing arts community is speaking out and encouraging everyone to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

Courtney Act is just one of the 400 Australian artists, performers, tour promoters, music festivals, venues, ticketing agencies, record labels and many others who have come together to support the #VaxTheNation campaign.

The primary message, Act says in a conversation with the Star Observer, is “It’s time to get vaccinated, if you haven’t already, because it’s the only way we are going to be able to return to live music, theatre, gay bars, clubs, pubs and drag shows and all the things that we love.’

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“If one of the artists involved with the vaccination program is somebody that audiences look up to, and they start talking about getting vaccinated and focusing on those positive sides, then hopefully it will encourage more people to go out and do it,” Act says. “We know Australians are rushing out and getting vaccinated, which is really exciting, but we don’t want to see those numbers stall.”

 

Photo: Joseph Sinclair

Act, a vocal advocate for vaccination, says, “I think it’s personal for all of us. We’ve lived through the last 18 months of lockdowns, and seeing the death all around the world that has been caused by COVID.”

“The number of people who have died from COVID in Australia is so low per capita compared to our contemporaries of the US and the UK. We have done such a great job and we are so close now to a sustainable, new kind of normal,” Act says. “I think the idea of returning our freedoms and civil liberties we were entitled to before this emergency occurred is just something we want to see happen.

“I feel so privileged I can get vaccinated and have the piece of mind knowing that if I do come into contact with COVID I am going to be less likely to catch it and obviously a lot less likely to have serious health complications because of it.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation, has found LGBTQI adults “as a group… are more likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and less likely to view getting the vaccine as a health risk compared to non-LGBT adults.” The KFF also found “the LGBTQI population bears a disproportionate burden from the pandemic, including economic hardships and mental health problems.”

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“It does seem that Queer folk are more likely to go out and get vaccinated,” says Act, who also points out, “It’s exciting to see that the mNRA technology has led to other opportunities; and Moderna are trialling a HIV vaccine. There’s some silver linings out of the global focus on COVID and the vaccine.”

For Act, The Pandemic Wreaked Havoc On Her Long-Planned Tour

“I was meant to be touring the UK in April last year, then we rescheduled to April this year and then that got cancelled. I got to do my show Fluid in Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin. The show is nearly two years old and it feels like I spent all this time preparing it, getting it all together and rehearsing it and then it all ground to a halt.’

“I’m sure many people have bought tickets for things and had them be cancelled, postponed or moved. It takes away a lot of the confidence people have in making plans. When things did open back up, everybody was so excited. I was in Sydney when live theatre and clubs opened. You couldn’t get a table, you couldn’t get a ticket, everything was sold out. It felt to me like the good old days of Sydney in the early 2000s when I first started going out and the city felt so vibrant. It was really exhilarating,” says Act.

“I have been very fortunate through the lockdown,” Act says. “I’ve been writing a book for the last 18 months which has been the perfect lockdown activity. So many drag performers, so many queer artists who do rely on live entertainment as their source of income haven’t had those opportunities and had to rely on often spotty government assistance. They fell through the gaps in so many places.”

 

Adapting To The New Normal

Photo: Mitch Fong

Performers have had to learn to adapt and create content in new ways in order to make a living during the pandemic. 

“I’ve seen lots of people really trying to define what live performance means in a digital world and there has been some really amazing pioneering and invention… You need the feedback of the audience, you need to feel that liveness. Hopefully, in some strange way, we will have a new-found appreciation for live performance and live performers and venues and be able to return to them and really celebrate them and be excited by them again.”

Act says fans have been “overwhelming” in their support of her pro-vaccination stance. 

“I try to foster and cultivate positive conversations. There’s surely people out there who do have extreme ideas but there is far too much focus put on them and they end up getting airtime which could be better spent talking about the positives. I think all of that negative media coverage ultimately sows uncertainty and doubt.”

So what is Act most looking forward to when lockdowns end and some normalcy returns?

“This is such an easy question,” Act says. “I cannot wait to get to Poof Doof with my two BFFs. One lives in Newcastle, one lives in Canberra, and they would always come to Sydney and we would go to Poof Doofs and just dance all night and jump on the couches and have a good time and wear fun outfits. I just can’t wait to get tarted up and head out and take to the dance floors with my friends.”

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