The crowd went wild when Children Collide hit the stage for Splendour in the Grass 2009.
The crowd went wild when Children Collide hit the stage for Splendour in the Grass 2009. David Nielsen

Backlash at Splendour move

NEWS of the move to Queensland by Splendour in the Grass has provoked a passionate response from the community, with many laying the blame on Byron Shire Council.

The director of Bluesfest, Peter Noble, said the council considered music festivals to be ‘the enemy’ and its attitude was pushing business out of town. He warned that Byron Shire could lose its reputation as a cultural hub.

“The question is whether Byron wants to remain as a festival capital or to pass it on,” he said.

“There are plenty of other communities putting their hands up.”

Like Splendour organisers, Mr Noble is critical of the council’s soon-to-be-released draft events policy, which he described as ‘anti arts’.

“The policy is all about shutting down the Yelgun site and the rest of us get the fall-out,” he said.

Mr Noble said festival organisers made a huge contribution to the town, but got no respect from the council.

“They need to recognise and acknowledge us, but we are seen as the enemy,” he said.

Ed Ahern, president of business group Byron United, said the flow-on effects of losing Splendour would be enormous for business and employment.

“For our business alone it will be a loss of $250,000 a year. Multiply that by hundreds and it’s an absolute tragedy,” he said.

However, mayor Jan Barham defended her council’s stance on festivals and said she was tired of seeing the focus on the economy, rather than the community.

“I think council has recognised that it’s difficult to hold large festivals in the shire,” she said.

“We’re a small community with significant pressures from tourism and on the amenity and lifestyle of our residents.

“We have a great responsibility to consider the needs of residents.”

Cr Barham said the downfall of Splendour was that it attracted tourists into residential areas with holiday letting. This had caused disruption to local residents and created negative feelings toward the festival. A move to Yelgun would just move the problemelsewhere, she said.

Cr Barham said she was a great supporter of the arts, and council was looking at the potential for smaller festivals that would ‘sit within the community’s comfort zone’.

Local musician Tex Perkins yesterday agreed it was wise to keep festivals small and manageable for the sake of the community.

“Byron is unbearable during these festivals,” he said.

“Promoters have an attitude of greed and bigger is better.”

Denise Nessel, of the Coalition for Festival Sanity, said groups would continue to oppose Splendour’s efforts to move to Yelgun, due to concerns about the environment and impacts on residents.

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