MONA has announced the cancellation of Dark Mof for this year due to complications with the coronavirus issue.

“We’re killing Dark Mofo for the year,” said founder David Walsh. “I know that will murder an already massacred tourism environment, but I feel like I have no choice (hint: that means I have a choice).”

Walsh said that fear and uncertainty mean that they would have trouble selling tickets to Dark Mofo events this year.

“Right now, the government and Mona are each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo. That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more, because I would have to cover the absent ticket revenue. 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.”

The state government recognised the decision to cancel this year’s Dark Mofo event had been a difficult one for Mona.

“Dark Mofo has quickly become known as a cultural icon following its inception in 2013, and we know this decision has been made in the best interests of the festival’s viability,” said Premier Peter Gutwein.

“We understand this decision is largely a result of international travel uncertainty, for artists and visitors due to the impacts of COVID-19.”

He promised to work with Mona and our tourism and event stakeholders as well as the Hobart City Council to identify opportunities to attract local and domestic visitors during this upcoming winter season. The Premier said he looked forward to Dark Mofo returning next year, in spectacular style.

Walsh conceded that the decision to cancel might not turn out to be the correct one. “It’s likely that nothing will happen. 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.”

He said the worst scenario would be proceeding with Dark Mofo and having it fail, and thus having it become the final Dark Mofo.

Tourism

The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania described the cancellation of Dark Mofo as ‘a shocking blow’ to the Tasmanian tourism industry and visitor economy.

TICT CEO Luke Martin, said there was no denying the impact it would have on already challenging conditions for the industry.

“Leigh’s explained the risks they face pushing ahead, and obviously you only need to look at what’s occurring overseas with postponed major events to understand this outcome was a very real possibility,” he said.

“Until now, Tasmanian tourism’s exposure to the Coronavirus travel ban has been relatively isolated to a small group of tourism operators who specialise in the China inbound market,” Martin said.

With Dark Mofo Tasmania’s largest drawcard, he expected it to severely impact the visitor economy over the depth of winter.

He said TICT would be having discussions with Tourism Tasmania and the state government today about potential steps to mitigate the impact, but with things so uncertain with the coronavirus it would be difficult to make any alternative plans at this moment.

Rosalie Woodruff, Greens Health and Arts spokesperson, said the cancellation of Tasmania’s premier winter festival is sad, but in all likelihood a necessary measure.

“While it’s a blow to Tasmania’s arts scene and all its beneficiaries, Mona and Dark Lab have made a tough and pragmatic call,” she said. “As COVID-19 continues to spread, we should brace ourselves for other unexpected cancellations.”

The Greens urge all Tasmanians to listen to public health officials, report any individual health concerns and take the precautions advised.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the cancellation of one of Tasmania’s most popular tourist drawcards is a stark reminder of the severe threat of COVID-19.

“Dark Mofo is Tasmania’s biggest winter tourist attraction and an important contributor to the economy,” White said. “The decision to cancel the festival highlights the widespread impact of coronavirus on the economy, with tourism particularly hard hit.

“All levels of government need to act quickly and decisively to implement short-term stimulus measures to support the economy right now, but also plan for longer term investment to ensure a strong economy.”

Festival of Voices

Festival of Voices have declared that their events will go ahead this year and their current position is that to proceed as planned.

“We will be implementing proper precautionary policies and we encourage people who are unwell to exercise sensible self-quarantining measures,” said Festival Director Peter Choriaziak. “To help facilitate this we will offer a ticket exchange (i.e. the ability to pass your ticket on to someone else) should someone be unwell with cold like symptoms. Should the advice from the LPA and Chief Medical Officers change, we will make decisions in accordance with their advice.”

Pointing out the differences with Dark Mofo, he noted that the 2020 Festival of Voices program will be largely made up of domestic (Australian) performers. Attendees are in the main Australian residents, with over 80% coming from Tasmania.

“We promise to help fill the Tasmanian winter with joy and keep its heart beating by delivering a special 2020 Festival of Voices. We look forward to sharing the winter with Dark Mofo again in 2021.”


Full MONA statement on Dark Mofo

“Advantage is a better soldier than rashness. —Henry V, Act III, Scene 6

We’re killing Dark Mofo for the year. I know that will murder an already massacred tourism environment, but I feel like I have no choice (hint: that means I have a choice).

Rational consequences of risk are defensive planning (toilet rolls), and late decision-making. Kirsha, my wife, was planning a fundraiser for her garden project, in April. She sold just two tickets (thanks, and sorry, Tim and Irene). Her events are very popular, so what happened?

Fear is what happened. That fear is compelled by uncertainty. Fear is the right response. And that right response means we would have trouble selling tickets to Dark Mofo events, also.

Right now, the government and Mona are each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo. That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more, because I would have to cover the absent ticket revenue. 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.

When my property was on fire in 1998 and I tried to hose it, there wasn’t any water. That’s because all the people in my street were also trying to hose the fire, and there was a run on the water. Everybody wanted water, so nobody got it. That’s a correlated outcome. And, of course, if all the houses burn down, insurance companies can’t pay out. That’s another correlated outcome. It’s easy to miss that connected events increase risk. I could miss that now, but I’m not going to. I’d rather be a rich coward than a poor hero. I’m pouring cold water on Dark Mofo while there’s still water to pour. Here’s my correlated outcome. COVID-19 might jeopardise my income if we run Dark Mofo. It is already jeopardising my income elsewhere. I bet on horseracing, and horseracing is being cancelled in COVID-19-affected countries. Soon, that might be all of them.

I don’t expect Mona to be badly affected, at least initially. That’s because people can choose to go to Mona on whim. If the world is alright, they can just rock up today, or in a couple of days. But at times such as these, it’s predicting some way in to the future that demands caution. Whereas unlike a Mona visit, Dark asks its attendees to make decisions months in advance.

Naturally, Leigh Carmichael is forlorn, but he sees no other option. He and Dark’s committed staff had planned another bang-up celebration of ‘the heart of darkness’, and although they lament that that journey will not be undertaken, they understand that a few who might have embarked on that journey could also have been undertaken – crossing the River Styx was never meant to be on this year’s program.

It’s likely that nothing will happen. 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. But that wouldn’t be the worst thing, either. 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 – that worse-than-COVID Hobart malaise of believing we don’t have to seek to do more, and we don’t have to seek to do better.

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

—David Walsh