MOUNT Gambier’s Lions Blue Lake Brass Band Festival has been cancelled for the first time in over 60 years, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.
Absolutely devastated with the outcome, Festival coordinator Allen Woodham said he was shattered to cancel the major event, which attracts brass bands from across South Australia and Victoria to the city over the Christmas Parade weekend.
Mount Gambier City Council was last night expected to decide whether the annual Christmas Parade would be held after the event’s advisory committee recommended it be cancelled for 2020.
A devastated Mr Woodham yesterday told The Border Watch it was the first time in over 70 years of involvement he had seen such disruption to the festival and brass bands in general.
“It is absolutely devastating… COVID-19 has destroyed everything,” he said.
“When COVID-19 first came, I knew this would be the result because you can just not run what we do every year in this sort of situation.”
Mr Woodham said the impact of COVID-19 was felt across brass bands, concert bands, orchestras and many community music groups which did not have the ability to practice collectively since January.
“While we have the coronavirus as it is and we have to maintain restrictions, there is no possibility we will be allowed to perform on stage anywhere,” he said.
“We also had to cancel the Australian National Band Contest Championships which is the biggest event Australia sees annually, purely because bands could not travel. It was devastating for bands across the country.
“The way this thing is going, we cannot see this clearing up by Easter time next year.”
Mr Woodham said the loss of the band festival and looming decision on the annual Christmas parade was a major blow for the Blue Lake city.
“The festival is one of the events in Mount Gambier which attracts global interest,” he said.
“Around five years ago, I started live-streaming it and it immediately attracted international viewers.
“I have already been swamped with phone calls and the bands I have informed have been very understanding. ”
Concerned about the future of brass bands, Mr Woodham said the biggest challenge for groups would be attracting
members back to gatherings.
“When you stop doing something, it then becomes difficult to start again,” he said.
“I know from my experience, there will be a lot of community bands which will not come back.
“I am in my mid 70s and you have a lot of other people my age, if they cannot play for 12 months, they are going to come and say they are over that and will not pick it up again.”
Although he said there may be less excitement this festive season, Mr Woodham remained confident there would be a band festival for 2021.
“Hopefully circumstances will allow the staging of a major event in 2021 that will focus again on our city as a major place of music excellence,” he said.