Comics to get Melbourne fees back

Marnie Banger and Ulises Izquierdo

Scores of comics booked to perform at the now-cancelled Melbourne International Comedy Festival will be refunded the money they paid to the event.

The backflip comes after some artists said the "devastating" decision not to refund registration fees had left them without cash they could have used to pay their next month of rent, or to fly back to their home countries.

The festival was cancelled a week ago as the spread of coronavirus prompted a national ban on non-essential mass gatherings.

The registration fee for comedians from Australia and New Zealand performing a show more than twice at the festival was $525, while international artists were charged $685.

In a message to would-be participants on Thursday, the festival's organisers said costs associated with cancelling the event and refunding tickets had exceeded registration revenue.

"Regretfully this means that we cannot refund your registration fee (unless a massive donor is secured)," they said.

But festival director and chief executive Susan Provan and executive director Damien Hodgkinson confirmed plans had changed on Friday afternoon.

"Since yesterday's communication to festival participants we have identified a solution that enables registration fees to be refunded," they said in a statement.

''This is a stressful time for the whole community and we are relieved to be able to confirm these refunds."

The festival has also created a donation process so people can support artists.

Those who have bought tickets through the festival's website can donate a percentage or all of the value of their tickets to the artist by contacting ticketing@comedyfestival.com.au.

People can also support artists and crew through a donation section on the festival's website.

Melbourne-based Diana Nguyen, who was set to lose $1050, had described the original decision not to refund fees as "devastating".

"People were really relying on this money to get through, and that money would have been paying for a months rent," she told AAP.

"For the independent artists who have invested so much just to be seen, so that they can make more money after the festival, it's devastating."

The performer said she hoped people would take up the festival's offer to donate to artists, stressing $5 or $10 "goes a long way".