PAST performers have been left in disbelief after the announcement the annual schools' Rock Eisteddfod Challenge had been cancelled across Australia due to rising costs and a lack of support.
After three decades providing performance-minded students an outlet, the event was axed as a reduction in funding would have pushed ticket prices ever higher and priced out ordinary families.
For more than 20 years Ben Hope had been involved in the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge and was the director of the Bathurst PCYC team.
Mr Hope said that for the past two days he had received many messages expressing disappointment and dismay from past performers and those hoping to be involved in this years' event.
He said who were involved in past years had expressed disbelief at the decision and many had younger brothers and sisters who wanted to be involved.
"It is hard to believe that something so many people have loved to be involved in is gone," he said. "I'm dumbfounded."
Signs of strains were already showing at a local level last year when Bathurst went from having three teams to having none in the event with Bathurst High, Kelso High and the Bathurst PCYC unable to enter the traditionally popular competition.
"Last year we had to pull out of the competition due to a lack of numbers and I think it just snowballed all around the country," Mr Hope said.
"I think the economic crisis has just crippled the competition."
With his years of rock eisteddfod experience, Mr Hope said he had seen many school children develop within the competition, blossoming from shy students into happy, outgoing performers.
"Confidence is the main thing students got from the competition � some start off so shy, not knowing if they could do anything special," he said.
"However, by the time they got through the rehearsal process and are performing in front of 3,500 people at the Sydney Entertainment Centre they knew they had their own special talents."
Rock Eisteddfod executive producer Peter Sjoquist said South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and NSW had reduced their support, with Queensland the only state offering more funds.
Mr Sjoquist said it had been costing $4 million each year to stage the schools' performance event.