Falls Festival promoter reflects on event

ROCK ON: Cold War Kids wow audiences at Falls Festival in Byron Bay.
ROCK ON: Cold War Kids wow audiences at Falls Festival in Byron Bay. Marc Stapelberg

FOR Falls Festival organiser/promoter Brandon Saul it's one more successful event behind him and another chance late this year to show locals that it's a real positive for the area.

Mr Saul, who has lived in Byron Shire on and off for more than 20 years, said he was confident that critics of the festival were now very much in the minority.

Regarding environmental concerns from local community groups he said: "There are two sides to that argument.

"One is that festivals represent the coming of some kind of ecological Armageddon.

"The other is that the festivals provide a relatively passive use [only 10 days a year] that will ensure the site is not subject to more intensive development - while also facilitating the rehabilitation of wildlife corridors.

"As with everything, I suspect the truth will turn out to be somewhere in the middle - but measurements by ecologists, to date, would suggest there have been no substantive effects to wildlife as a result of the festival.

"In fact, with the help of festival patrons, we have now planted some 15,000 trees on both sides of Marshalls Ridge - the first positive move toward re-afforestation of the wildlife corridor in a very long time."

Mr Saul said that, before the first festival at the North Byron Parklands site, many people had "genuine concerns" with regard to wildlife, noise, and traffic, but that these had now been largely addressed.

He said noise levels this festival were completely within legal limits and a new traffic plan, bringing people in to the festival from both the north and south, had worked "brilliantly".

"Yes we had some noise complaints but a lot fewer than last year, with most of those coming from a small group of repeat complainants. This year we packed the speakers in hay bales and sound baffling to reduce the effect of bass noise." At the start of the festival, organisers handed out 24,000 colour coded bags for waste and recycling asking patrons to help out - "and they really did," said Mr Saul.

"We've had a problem with tents being left behind after the event, which is a trend globally.

"At this point our forward focus is how best to run the festival? We are only two years into a five year trial and things are going pretty well. We want to continue to attract as many locals as possible to the event and to present exciting acts that appeal to the 18 to 30 year age group."

Mr Saul said the coroner's report into the death of a 26-year-old Brisbane man on site was expected soon but that organisers were led to believe illegal drugs were not involved.

He believed local police with sniffer dogs were doing an effective job at the front gate of minimising any drug problem.

Topics:  festival music

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