Dark Mofo cancelled for 2020 amid coronavirus fears

Popular midwinter Hobart festival Dark Mofo is the latest casualty in the coronavirus outbreak.

The annual event, held in mid-June each year, is put by the city’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

MONA’s owner, David Walsh, announced on Facebook on Wednesday that the festival would no longer be going ahead in 2020 because of the “fear” and “uncertainty” around the virus outbreak in Australia.

As a result, Mr Walsh said he had no choice but to kill the event, which attracted more than 100,000 ticketholders last year.

“We’re killing Dark Mofo for the year,” he wrote in a statement on social media.

“I know that will murder an already massacred tourism environment, but I feel like I have no choice

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MONA’s owner, David Walsh, felt he had no choice but to cancel. Picture: Lusy ProductionsSource:Supplied

Mr Walsh said to proceed with the 12-night event could come at a significant financial cost, and wasn’t a risk worth taking.

“If we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more, because I would have to cover the absent ticket revenue,” he explained.

“Leigh Carmichael, Dark Mofo’s boss, suggested an $8 million scenario: if a staff member contracted COVID-19 a week out from the festival, we’d have to cancel because the staff would need to self-isolate for two weeks, but we’d also have to pay all the artists.

“That kind of blowout would affect Mona’s program, and I’d be back to subsisting on the diet I had when I was eighteen – pineapples and mint slice biscuits.

“I’d rather be a rich coward than a poor hero.”

Last year, the event successfully drew thousands of interstate and overseas visitors to Tasmania in the middle of winter. Overall, the event clocked up over $4 million at the box office with more than 100,000 tickets sold, a 25 per cent increase on 2018.

Mr Walsh said he’d be jeopardising his income – and the income of MONA if he proceeded with the 12-night festival, which would’ve kicked off on June 10, 2020.

The popular festival in Hobart has been cancelled. Picture: Luke BowdenSource:News Corp Australia

“It’s likely that nothing will happen,” he said of the virus spread.

“June will roll up, COVID-19 will die down, and I’ll look (more) like a fool for having cancelled. But that’s the best thing that could happen.

“The worst thing that could happen is not me trashing my cash. We could soldier on, without consideration or advantage, have the crowd turn up anyway, and send them home sick.

“Worse than that, for me at least, would be proceeding with Dark Mofo and having it fail, and thus having it become the final Dark Mofo. That would mean facing a future of Hobart winters unpunctuated by pageantry, and thus returning to a tyranny of complacency.

“So we’ll see you next year. Assuming, that is, another black swan doesn’t cause another white elephant.”

More to come

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