Hobart’s hugely popular Dark Mofo festival has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. But unlike other events that have cited healthy concerns as the reason for cancellation, founder David Walsh has said he doesn’t want to lose money.
Dark Mofo is a multi-week festival held in the bitter depths of Hobart winter that revels in unbridled art and weirdness. Paganist festivals of old are heralded into the modern era with feasts and music. They’re punctuated with an effigy burning and naked winter solstice swim to mark the return to the mundane.
Not only did David Walsh conjure Dark Mofo in 2013, he founded the museum that runs it – Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Both have made an imperative impact on Hobart’s cultural scene. It can be argued that he is the reason Tasmania was transformed in the Australian psyche from cheap jokes about incest to a breeding ground for artistic expression and untamed natural beauty.
Dark Mofo and MONA are of huge financial significance to Hobart due to the vast tourism dollars they help inject into the city. This is not lost on Walsh, nor is the personal impact that unprecedented disasters such as Coronavirus will have on his pocket.
This is something he was incredibly upfront about in his statement regarding the cancellation of Dark Mofo.
“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.”
This amusing snippet from the release is one of several references to cash that outweigh any mention of health risks to attendees or artists. In fact, Walsh is overt in his lack of PR spin regarding the cancellation.
“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,” he said.
Walsh also makes reference to his known gambling associations in the release. As reported by The Monthly, Walsh is allegedly known for making his fortunate from gambling.
“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,” said Walsh.
Walsh goes on to say the worst thing to happen if the event went ahead and failed wouldn’t be “trashing my cash”. It seems he doesn’t necessarily think it would people potentially getting sick, either. Instead, it would be the death of Dark Mofo.
“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.
Let’s hope that won’t happen and all of you restless spirits who planned on making the pilgrimage will be able to bask in its glory in 2021.