The arts sector continues to take massive economic hits during the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated total of $150 million in income losses from current cancellations.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a second stimulus package is in the works on Wednesday, but no details have been given about whether this will support freelancers and those in the sector.
Melbourne’s largest cultural ticketed event, The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and many other events, such as the Greek Festival of Sydney have been cancelled after growing concerns about public health and safety.
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Museums Victoria has also temporarily shut down all public sites including the Immigration Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building.
General Manager of the Immigration Museum Rohini Kappadath says the unprecedented changes will impact the museum.
She says, “Our revenues are reliant on ticketed admissions and while we are closed that income stream is lost. So we are hoping that some of our sponsors and donors will keep us in mind.”
The Immigration Museum is hoping to reopen again soon following government advice and guidelines, to share its next exhibition, “Becoming You: An incomplete guide” , where Kris Pavlidis is due to share her story on growing up as a Greek-Australian.
“Our doors may be closed but our hearts and minds remain open… all existing rosters of our casual and shift workers will be honoured as we continue to work behind the scenes and we certainly honour those existing rosters for four weeks at this stage,” says Kappadath.
Greek Festival of Sydney director Pamela Proestos says some of the events are cancelled entirely, while others are intended to be staged later in the year when conditions have improved.
Proestos does not know the extent of the financial strain this will have, but says “it will result in some losses for the festival.”
She says, “We need to explore the possibility of any Government funding once we have finished refunding ticket holders for the various events.”
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Yianni Agisilaou was going to perform his show “Australia says Welcome (Conditions apply)” at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Generating an income during the cancellations is no easy feat.
Agisilaou says, “One of the ironies is that a lot of performers have a secondary job when they’re in between performances and often that job is hospitality. It’s quite literally both their first and second jobs have been knocked off in one foul swoop.”
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He is awaiting approval for a petition to take to the House of Representatives hoping to extending some financial support to freelancers, artists and associated staff who are not currently eligible for the initial stimulus support. He urges the public to sign fellow artist Rebekah Lambert’s petition in the meantime.
“I think it’s wrong if there’s a significant blind spot which is a very large aspect of the economy that completely gets missed just because of the nature of the work and the irony of it is that it misses people whose work is already insecure,” says Agisilaou.
George Dimarelos who was also due to perform at the comedy festival says cancellations mean that people have lost months worth of work.
“People I know really stressing… this is what they do, there’s no sick leave or annual leave or anything, for them it’s so hard,” says George.
He is optimistic that this may be an era in finding new performance methods.
Dimarelos says, “What you will see in the next three to six months is an absolute explosion of what people are going to be trying out, to put out their stuff online and get people to see it that way.”