Splendour’s Biggest Fan

Shan Whelham, also known to the FL faithful as former Brisbane Editor QueenNahs, loves festivals. The self-confessed music addict will “travel anywhere anytime, rain, hail, or blasting desert sunshine to see a mountain of bands kick it in an open field, under big tops, on islands or in random stadiums.” Since she was a wee girl Shan has attended near on every live music event that has passed through Brisbane, and even now, as a permanent resident of Tasmania makes the trek north to see gigs on a regular basis.

Of all the festivals she has attended throughout her lifetime, one in particular has been a contant – for over a decade now Shan has spent one weekend every winter on a Spendour Bender. Given that Shan has never once missed Splendour In The Grass we decided there would be no-one better to share some insider secrets.

Firstly, why have you never missed Splendour In The Grass?

It’s a tradition. This is the one long weekend a year that I set aside all thoughts of work, study and life in general to indulge myself in whatever way I choose amongst a great group of people and generally awesome live music.

Tell us about the moment when you realised that Splendour wasn’t just another festival – that it was something special to you?

The first year. We had more than enough room at Belongil Fields to spread our campsite out – pre the chicken pens of subsequent years. We brought alcohol into the campsite and no one was worried. People mingled and made friends easily as it was a small, boutique even. The lineup was great, the layout of the festival grounds was excellent, so was the food, the people, the vibe. It was all just so good and well worth repeating.

What has been the biggest change to the festival over ten years?

Well, clearly the size. This has a significant impact on the atmosphere. When it was smaller and attracted the very much ‘new’ bands as the staples there was a different type of punter; one driven by the music more so than the fact that they were “going to Splendour”.

What do I mean by this? To demonstrate, in 2006 we met a lovely SA couple, Peter and Peta (yes, seriously) on their first Splendour trip. Running into our campsite from the rain, his long dreads dripping, Peter exclaimed, “What is this? A music festival or a night club? There are GUYS straightening their hair in the bathroom!” Ahhhh… I lamented, while there were young girls eager to recharge their mobile phones in the bathrooms so they could keep in touch with friends (and therefore have a greater chance of staying safe), they had to get in the queue behind a line-up of angry looking orange girls wielding GHDs (I went into the men’s bathroom and sat there chatting to guys having their morning shower while charging my phone instead). The ‘me’ gen had surfaced to take over Splendour in their Dior sunglasses, Ed Hardy T-shirts and high heels; most not knowing or caring what the artist line-up was. Thankfully the hipster tide has turned this somewhat in later years… skinnies, cons and a love of music ruling once again.

Were you a Woodford convert or would you like to see it back in Byron (on the proposed new site)?

Either. It’s all a new experience isn’t it? Woodford was excellent, as it would be with its history of hosting its renowned festival each year. There was plenty of room for everyone and the crowds moved well for the most part. It was quicker to travel to from Brisbane and the self-contained nature of it all meant no trips into Byron for an expensive breakfast on the Saturday morning (another tradition).

In Byron the expanded Belongil site configuration really left a lot to be desired – what a mission it was to get between stages, if you could get between stages! I always felt really sorry for our photographers in that way. I wouldn’t recommend returning to that. The new site would have to be designed to allow significant traffic flows between stages / performance areas and provide similar number and quality of amenities as Woodfordia.

Thinking about it further, to keep the atmosphere upbeat, the festival needs to be in a place where people welcome it. The council in Byron just seems to be making it so difficult, really seems like they don’t want Splendour back there. And who wants to go and party where they aren’t wanted?

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