Multiple regional LGBTQI festivals have announced their cancellation or closure until next year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wash across Australia.
Festivals across NSW and Victoria, including the Orange Rainbow City Festival, The Rainbow on the Plaines Festival, and the Castlemaine Pride festival have all announced their cancellation for 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over public health.
Along with the cancellation of the Rainbow on the Plains Festival in Hay NSW, comes the halting of the 2020 Mr Gay Pride Australia competition which was set to have its finale weekend in Hay.
As of today (March 18) any non-essential organised gatherings in Australia of 100 people or more have been banned in an attempt to limit social contact and prevent the spread of the virus across the country.
Mr Gay Pride Australia Producer, David Francis, said removing the community stage of the competition due to social isolation simply meant that the event had to be cancelled.
“Without the local community aspect, the competition cannot complete many of the challenges needed to find the next LGBTI leader in Australia,” Francis told Gay Nation.
“Our 2020 delegates have so far completed their online opinion article pieces and were expected to begin public voting today. We will now hold this off until we know where and when we will be completing the competition.”
The 2020 Mr Gay World Competition, which was set to be held in South Africa in late April has also been postponed indefinitely.
Closer to home, Orange’s Rainbow City Festival in NSW has had to cancel the launch of its inaugural LGBTQI pride festival amid the nation-wide crackdown of large-scale events.
Rainbow City Festival organiser and Orange Councillor, Joanne McRae, told Star Observer that the biggest blows have been to rural tourism, and noted the importance of unity and community as Australia braces for another nation-wide crisis.
“It’s a bit of thinking on the run and adapting to change that needs to happen,” she said.
“There’s a few unknowns with how we’ll get the festival back up-and-running at the moment, but we need to put the health and safety of our local community, our accommodation and tourism operators and our tourists and guests first.
“There’s a bit of shock through tourism across Australia and the impact of the bushfires not so long ago, …Orange is usually a vibrant rainbow city – but we know there’s lots of impacts that are gonna be felt for a long time.”
McRae also encouraged LGBTQI people to reach out to fellow community members, as well as our “country cousins” who are already feeling the worst effects of an apocalyptic start to the year.
Victoria’s Castlemaine Pride has also had to make the difficult decision to cancel this year’s 2020 festival despite months of hard work.
Originally started as a grass-roots celebration of the marriage equality result, Castlemaine Pride committee member, Matthew Feeney, told Star Observer that despite plans to be back in 2021, the decision to cancel was not one taken lightly.
“Castlemaine Pride will have to defer until this time next year,” he said.
“We’re not in a position to do it later this year. But we started three years ago after a community celebration on the plebiscite, so this year was looking to be the biggest and best yet.
“It’s heartbreaking and disappointing to have to cancel.”