Organiser defends 'gobsmacking' concert photo hours after new rules announced

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·4-min read

The organiser of the concert that went ahead with more than 1000 unmasked people in the audience over the weekend has denied his venue was responsible for any wrongdoing.

Of the 2000 seat capacity at the Sydney Coliseum Theatre in Rooty Hill, in western Sydney, 1200 people attended the Human Nature concert Saturday evening, hours after face masks were mandated after new coronavirus clusters emerged in NSW.

The rules did not come into force until midnight on Sunday and fines were not enforced until Monday.

Vision from inside the venue showed unmasked concertgoers - aged between 35 and 50 according to Ticketek data - sitting side-by-side for the one hour and 45 minute show.

Crowd in the audience of the Human Nature.
Attendees between ages 35 and 50 sat side-by-side at the concert Saturday night. Source: Twitter/kate_cole_

Those involved were slammed after damning images from the venue were shared online.

“Gobsmacking complacency, and an example of little being learned from 2020 in some places. I hate the notion of closing state borders, but what choice do some state governments have,” one wrote in a tweet.

One attendee, a nurse, said she felt uncomfortable being seated so close to others, and requested a change of seat.

“I was at this concert. I was there by myself and was initially seated between two couples with no seats in between us. I requested to be moved as there was no social distancing and as a nurse I could not afford to get sick,” she wrote in a tweet.

Ticket holders were emailed 24 hours prior the event - before the updated face mask public health order was announced - and were asked to wear a mask but told it wasn’t compulsory.

Venue ‘complied with all health orders’, CEO says

According to Sydney Coliseum Theatre CEO Richard Errington, the venue complied with all health orders current at the time of the concert.

“Twelve hundred people knew the requirements, knew the guidelines and accepted the conditions of entry, and wanted to be there,” Mr Errington told Yahoo News Australia.

He argued the venue acquired approval to operate at 75 per cent capacity without attendees having to wear masks, unlike other theatres approved for 85 per cent capacity with mandatory mask wearing.

“Everything we did was right. All staff wore masks, we had a Covid plan which we had to adhere to which was approved by NSW Health,” Mr Errington said.

“I’m unsure what else we could’ve done,” he said, saying there were QR codes also available at the entry.

He claimed performers asked the crowd to stay seated and not to sing throughout the performance, and stood behind a line on the stage to ensure they kept five metres from the front row.

“We did everything responsible, so I’m at a bit of a loss. But I understand why people are emotional,” he said.

Mr Errington said organisers were not concerned about a growing cluster in the western Sydney suburb of Berala, to which 15 cases have now been linked after two BWS employees worked while infectious.

“We wouldn’t have thought that would give us any reason to cancel an event,” he said, arguing concerts were part of the government’s drive to encourage social interaction for the sake of mental wellbeing.

Photo from the stage looks out towards the crowd.
The group's drummer shared an image of a large crowd packed into the theatre not wearing face masks. Source: Instagram/yanyaboston

The venue is located less than 10km from exposure sites in Blacktown and Kings Park, and less than 30km from the growing cluster in Berala.

He claimed his venue’s application to operate at 85 per cent and enforce mandatory mask wearing like at the Capitol Theatre and Lyric Theatre was rejected.

New guidelines enforced from Monday require his venue to operate at 50 per cent capacity with a compulsory enforcement of mask wearing of everyone who enters.

“We will be offering masks to people who forget to bring them,” he said.

Hundreds slam concertgoers for ignoring mask mandate

Hundreds have slammed concertgoers and organisers over their blatant disregard of the latest health warnings, which have highlighted the current severity of the situation in NSW.

Many pointed out how easily the concert could have turned into a super spreader event.

“Airborne virus. Even if only one person had it and smoked, their breath would circulate through the whole room in a matter of hours,” one wrote.

“It’s really disappointing seeing these kinds of photos. NSW has been fortunate not to have major outbreaks and its luck may run out if this continues,” another said.

“Are you telling me this is a picture of people in Sydney yesterday? No masks... no social distancing. This actually makes me start to hyperventilate. What the hell is wrong with all of those people,” someone else said.

People not wearing a face mask in various indoor settings including supermarkets and public transport across Greater Sydney from Monday will be hit with a $200 fine.

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