Bleats

These Are The Music Festivals The NSW Government Deems ‘High Risk’, As The Debate On Pill Testing Rolls On

'High risk' festivals are ones that have had drug related illnesses or deaths.

The NSW state government has released a list of fourteen music festivals that it deems ‘high risk’ based on incidents in the past three years that have occurred at those festivals – specifically, drug related illnesses or deaths.

All of the festivals on the list take place in Sydney or Newcastle.

‘High risk’ festivals include Defqon, Days Like This, Electric Gardens, Lost Paradise, and Laneway Festival.

The announcement of this classification follows consultations with festival operators and other stakeholders, and means that only those festivals deemed ‘high risk’ would be impacted by the state government’s new licensing scheme for festivals.

Minister for Racing Paul Toole said:

“The NSW government wants music festivals to thrive but serious drug related illnesses and deaths have demonstrated that we need to help make a small number of them safer.”

Despite these assurances that the Berejiklian government “wants music festivals to thrive”, many involved in the operation of festivals in NSW feel this is not the case.

The announcement regarding ‘high risk’ festivals comes just one day after a ‘Don’t Kill Live Music’ rally was held in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Thursday night. Thousands of musicians, festival attendees and supporters gathered to listen to performances from artists such as Dan Sultan and Polish Club.

The new licensing scheme introduced by the Berejiklian government, which will start on March 1st, includes a $650 licensing fee for ‘high risk’ festivals.

Bizarrely, a page on the NSW Liquor and Gaming’s website titled ‘Keeping People Safe At Music Festivals‘ has been taken down, despite being linked to from the main page with information about the new licensing scheme.

Minister Toole said that festivals would be reviewed regularly, and if they improved safety arrangements, they may see their ‘high risk’ designation downgraded. And if other festivals experience drug-related illnesses or deaths, they could be reclassified as ‘high risk’.

The Keep Sydney Open Party responded to today’s announcement via Facebook, writing:

“WE KNEW IT! The NSW Government created all this baloney about festivals because it is trying to shut down specific events. Their cooked system was going to threaten every festival in the state but your letters, your noise and the incredible showing at Thursday’s rally has forced the government to admit their agenda.”

Ultra Australia, one of the festivals deemed ‘high risk’, takes place tomorrow in Parramatta, and more than 10,000 people are expected to attend.

Mountain Sounds Festival Cancels A Week Out, Citing The NSW Government's 'War On Festivals'

Devo.

Mountain Sounds Festival, set to take place in Kariong, NSW next week, has been cancelled, with organisers citing the NSW government’s “war on festivals” as a contributing factor.

Organisers announced the cancellation on Facebook this morning, writing:

“We are devastated to announce the cancellation of Mountain Sounds 2019. The event will not be going ahead at Mount Penang Parklands next week.

We, like many of you, have seen the festival climate continue to diminish in Australia. NSW in particular is in dire straits. This is yet another example of the government’s war on festivals.”

They explained that they had already downsized the festival site, cancelling over 20 acts, in order to be able to meet “newly imposed safety, licensing and security costs” and maintain the wellbeing of attendees.

Then, seven days before the festival was due to start on Friday February 15th, “further conditions and financial obligations were imposed on the festival, which were impossible to meet.”

These financial obligations came in the form of a $200,000 bill for an increased police presence – from the 11 quoted for them in January up to 45 police officers.

The organisers went on to say:

“Our friends in the music industry will understand on a personal level how soul-destroying this is. For music lovers around the country, we know this will deeply resonate with you too. This impacts each and every one of you. NSW residents, please keep this at the forefront of your mind as the next election nears in 6 weeks’ time.

The Liberal party’s war on festivals in NSW is real and it’s robbing you of your freedom and culture. Who would’ve known that lock-out laws were just the beginning of the death of live entertainment in NSW. This has now spread to larger-scale and multi-day regional events and it’s only getting worse.”

Mountain Sounds was due to take place on NSW’s Central Coast next weekend, with artists like Angus & Julia Stone, What So Not and Courtney Barnett scheduled to perform.

The first Mountain Sounds was held in 2014, and last year’s festival included artists like Gang of Youths, Amy Shark and Ali Barter. According to organisers, last year’s festival had 16,000 attendees, 11 police officers, and no major drug-related incidents.

The announcement follows an announcement from Psyfari on Wednesday that their 2019 festival would not go ahead. Like Mountain Sounds, Psyfari also cited the NSW government’s ‘war on festivals’.

As of March, a new licensing scheme for music festivals held in NSW will be introduced. Meanwhile, the NSW government under Premier Gladys Berejiklian continues to argue the merits of pill testing while the ‘music festival death toll’ continues to climb.

Coachella Announces New Policies To Combat Sexual Harassment At The Festival

The changes follow the release of a survey that found 92% of female respondents had been harassed at festivals.

Ahead of the festival’s 20th anniversary in April, Coachella announced several new policies designed to combat sexual harassment and assault at the festival.

The policies are outlined on their website, and include the use of Trained Safety Ambassadors who will roam the festival in order to “facilitate access to care services for anyone in distress.”

There will also be tents staffed with trained counsellors and all-gender restrooms in addition to male and female options.

The conversation about harassment at festivals has only grown louder following the rise of #MeToo and the growing spotlight on the issue of harassment in general.

After last year’s Coachella, Teen Vogue spoke to 54 women who attended, and found that every single one of them had experienced some form of harassment during the three-day weekend. In addition, a survey of 500 people conducted in 2017 found that 92% of women surveyed had experienced harassment at music festivals.

The festival also announced a new zero-tolerance policy for any form of of sexual, physical, or verbal harassment, and those who violate the policy will be removed from the festival grounds, and also potentially be stripped of their wristband.

The message on Coachella’s website reads:

“We are taking deliberate steps to develop a festival culture that is safe and inclusive for everyone. Persons of any gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, age or ability are welcome at Coachella.”

As other media outlets have pointed out, the inclusion of all-gender restrooms, while a nice gesture, is seemingly at odds with the views of Coachella founder Philip Anschutz, who has donated thousands of dollars to blatantly homophobic organisations, and who, just last year, donated $134,000 to the Republican Party.

Some activists had concerns about the implementation of these new policies, however. Maggie Arthur, organiser for the group Our Music My Body (that conducted the 2017 survey mentioned above), explained her concerns to The Daily Beast:

“It’s very easy to say we are against harassment, but how are you making that happen? So often we see zero-tolerance policies as the end-all be-all, but in practice they don’t really take into consideration what the person who’s being harmed wants or needs.”

Lollapalooza and Riot Fest both released anti-harassment statements last year, and in 2017, our own Laneway Festival set up a hotline for reporting misconduct.

It remains to be seen how effective these changes will be, but hopefully policies like this become the norm rather than remain newsworthy.

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