Five Minutes With A Festival

In the first of a series of event profiles to celebrate the inaugural Festival Awards, FasterLouder goes one-on-one with Simon Daly from The Falls Music And Arts Festival.

You organise one of the biggest camping festivals in Australia. How did it all begin?

Quite a humble beginning I guess. In some ways, the festival is 20 this year. The first four years were more a campfire affair with friends and bring your own instruments. In 1993, we thought let’s open it up a bit and invite a few more musos and friends. Before we knew it, The Falls Festival had arrived – though in those days it was just a one-night affair!

The Falls Music and Arts Festival is celebrating its Sweet 16th this – did you ever imagine it coming this far and do you still get joy out of what you do?

At the time my father said, “This is a great thing son, I reckon it will be popular for about five years.” I thought, “Wow, you’re thinking ahead, that would be great if it lasted that long.” I think in those days I was very much living in the moment. Now not only are we entering our 16th –  “official’ year, the festival is times two (Marion Bay Tassie and Lorne Victoria). The Falls employs six staff full-time and very much takes a year to plan. With lots of new changes every year to keep the festival and our team inspired, we now plan very much for the long term: whether it be creature comforts on-site or the style of programming, from the arts to the broad range of artists who fit the Falls Music and Arts unique feel. The aim is to very much make it accessible to anyone from 10 to 60!

How has festival culture changed in your time running Falls?

I think the festival culture has changed quite significantly over the last five years. In that time all of the main festivals have really improved, to a point that the festival experience that patrons expect are largely matched on the day. As a consequence, there is a genuine enthusiasm for the festival experience.

Does any year in particular stand out in your mind as the most special for any reason?

The birth of the Marion Bay Falls. G Love arrived in Lorne on the second day of the festival having performed the day before in Marion Bay. Accompanying him was a hand-held video he had taken of the festival firsthand. It was really surreal looking through the footage and seeing your sister for the first time on a video camera.

As a promoter what is the biggest challenge you have ever faced – whether it be an artist/weather or bad press?

I guess again the biggest challenge for us was the first Falls festival Tasmania – splitting our entire team in two and running two festivals simultaneously, with a body of water separating us. Over the course of the festival there are over 600 flights between the two events and an enormous amount of freight. The task is easier now, but still does present its challenges.

Do you ever see a time in Australia when festivals stop being so emphatically embraced by people?

Not in the foreseeable future. As long as the festivals continue to treat patrons well, there is no reason why they will not remain popular.

For a little of fun to finish off – if time and overdoses were no boundary, what would be your dream festival line-up?

Radiohead and David Bowie! But alas, with a strict charter of keeping the festival small, unless we charge $1000 a ticket the above will stay but a dream!

The Falls Music & Arts Festival stretches form December 29th , 2008 to January 1st 2009 at the dual sites of Lorne, Victoria and Marion Bay, Tasmania.

Remember to vote in the Festival Awards and deliver your verdict on Australia’s #1 festival experience.