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October 28, 2021

Bluesfest boss to target cars and chairs

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Despite – or perhaps because of – the overwhelming popularity of this year’s Bluesfest, complaints have focused on two main issues: the number of empty chairs at the back of tents during performances and the length of time it took to exit the car park at the end of the night.

As a result BYO chairs will be banned in future and a new approach taken to car parking at next year’s 25th anniversary Bluesfest, director Peter Noble said yesterday.

More than 80,000 people had passed through the gates of the festival by the time it wrapped up last night to the sounds of Paul Simon, Wilco, Melbourne Ska Orchestra and the Bamboos.

But ahead of the Rufus Wainwright performance on Sunday night a woman came onstage and announced the venue had become ‘chair free’ and told people sitting at the back to fold up their chairs so more people could come in and shelter from the rain.

As Echonetdaily reader Tony Gilding said in a letter to the editor today, ‘she asked all the people with chairs to leave the tent immediately. The ludicrousness of the situation seemed to escape her. It was raining outside; the chances of her direction being complied with were zero.’

He added many around him ‘demonstrated the famous north coast activism of civil disobedience and stayed seated’.

But it is clear the patience of organisers and many festival goers is wearing thin with patrons who leave chairs unattended in tents, often through entire gigs, dramatically reducing the amount of space available, especially during rain periods.

At a news conference yesterday Mr Noble said fold up chairs would be banned from the event in future and Bluesfest would instead provide a limited amount of fixed seating at the back of venues.

He accepted that the time taken to exit the car park (there have been reports of up to two hours some cases) was unacceptable and said a plan to de-link the north and south car parks should help alleviate the problem.

He said the entries and exits would remain separate next year, meaning people coming from the south would enter and leave the south car park by the south and people coming from the north would enter and leave the north car park.

Mr Noble also revealed for the first time that the 2012 festival made a loss but added that this year’s festival would make a considerable profit.


Jeff’s best of the fest

Echonetdaily photographer Jeff Dawson braved all weathers to bring you this gallery of magical moments from Bluesfest 2013.

Also check out our festival video.


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  1. If the sites the Marquees stand on were gently raised outside the perimeter of them you would be approaching the ancient formation known as amphitheatre, the terrfic effect of which is people down the back can see, some can even sit and see……

  2. Rather than a complete ban on byo chairs at Bluesfest, I would suggest that, for busy sessions, all chairs are removed. It worked instantly and in my experience with no fuss this year during rain. It should have happened far more often, for example during Paul Simon. It is hard for most of us to stand up for 12 hours, which in practice will be what will happen if crown numbers are as high next year. I was disappointed at the amount of drunkeness this year. Aggressive drunken behaviour on Monday, with no security or Police within a cooee, made me and several other women feel very unsafe. Crowd crush left us unable to move away. I am interested to know what organisers plan to do to stop this trend. Close bars early? Serve only low alcohol drinks? I know I would be shot down in flames if I suggested an alcohol-free event!

  3. Having a chair made the bluesfest possible for many of the Seniors present.I did not see many empty chairs 1 or 2 maybe. Why not simply ban the leaving of chairs empty on pain confiscation by those standing. Better to organise lines for people to put chairs in as the lines were all over the place and were an inefficient use of space. The sound console took up too much space right in the middle and so no-one at the back could see even the screens which were too far forward. Maybe another set of screens would help. The rain always shows up the weaknesses in organisation. Like the waterfalls as you left the marquees, drenching you as you sunk into the flooded ground. Not enough shelter for people buying food and eating it. Not enough toilets which meant queuing in the rain. Like no separate exit point for pedestrians not catching buses Friday night was a dangerous shambles.The Marques all needed more lighting at the back of them. If there had been a fire all the aisles were blocked, it was just not safe. No-one could enter or leave as the crush for the star acts was too dangerous with or without chairs. These comments are just to help the organisers as overall I enjoyed the festival. There was a good atmosphere and excellent music.

  4. I really had no issue with these complaints, kind of expected at event of this magnitude , Bluesfest did state on their website that unattended chairs would be removed , they need to follow through with policy. Sadly we pulled the pin, with our companion card and my sons disability platform pass, we found the amount of people there with out a pass with attitude that my sons disability was less of a priority then their ingrown toe nail , makes t very difficult for us to teach elder respect.

    he was treated appallingly by the older folks, it was so hurtful and judgmental, I really think if this Accessibility stuff is going to truly work better clarification is needed…there are few folks really rorting it, shamelessly, they really should have purchased diamond tickets they thought they needed access and better views those seats where empty,, because at the end of the day, age is NOT a disability, tired legs and ingrown toe nails heal. Accessibly is about making wonderful events such as these available to folks with a disability the same opportunity to attend events as those of the general public, they have a lifetime of disadvantage. I watched one lady with a walking stick and her teenage daughter( not only kick my son, be really rude to a man in a wheel chair about the space he was taking up,) get about fine in the food court….it hurt hurt hurt, no kindness understanding or basic respect. Staff were fantastic, but we are feeling it is not an inclusive event , we will not be able to attend again, that is 7 of us. I also had a lady say , your lucky we paid for our tickets too, I told her I would swap my sons disability for a shit view of Steve Miller anyday, she realized what she said was idiotic…you have big banners on the diamond fencing, do something for the accessibity areas too , That might help

  5. One of the reasons bluefest was so great was because of the mobility of the camper chairs. When you have kids coming too it is good for us to sit in a chair instead of mud. Some of us wouldn’t be so rude as to leave our chairs in the way so others couldn’t fit in. So those bastards ruin it for the rest of us. My suggestion would be for Mr Noble to give us more toilets and more gravel for mud. Too many lines waiting for the loo for such a big festival is just penny pinching. If he wants families to come along then he also needs to provide better resources for us to not sit on the mud. How on earth did he make a loss last year? the amount and cost of booze would ensure a mountain of profit. if only one person had one drink at $8 a pop then that’s a massive amount of money, that’s without the ticket purchases. Anyhow i wont bother coming if I cant bring my chair…have fun Bluefestilians.

  6. You forgot to mention the shuttle bus chaos on Friday and Saturday nights. Huge queues, no staff (one volunteer), no information, standing in the rain and a 2 hour trip home to Byron. Bluesfest need to ensure adequate buses are available, separate the bus and car entry/exit lanes, provide priority for buses, and have staff on hand to keep punters informed about the reason for delays. The bus drivers are to be congratulated for remaining upbeat and polite throughout the festival.

    • Chairs should be allowed outside at back of tent, also there should be a small section say 5 rows of chairs inside at the back for the elderly and people with young children. Disabled seating should be larger for those who can prove disability! I found myself trying to get out and was in the middle of chairs, some of these people would not budge! Otherwise I found every body to be most polite.
      A great 5 days thank you, Cecelia

  7. The bluesfest provides an event where music lovers of all ages can come together over their common love of music and enjoy a brilliant atmosphere. Every year we bring our camping chairs which provide comfort for myself and my family. When its not raining the best seats are our own, which we happily sit outside and relax, eat and laugh together with other families. We also bring our chairs to keep us dry from the mudfest that we would be sitting in if we did not have them.
    All the organisers have to do is when it’s busy to have security or volunteers roam around the tents and ask patrons to fold their chairs if possible allowing more room. I hope the bluesfest organisers change their minds on banning camping chairs, as they will not be able to fix the seating problem without causing more problems.

  8. A truly fabulous Bluesfest. Great artists. Best one of the six I have attended. 9/10. However there is always room for improvement.
    1. provide more bloody toilets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    If you are going to charge $7.50 for a beer and $11 for a mixed spirit you can afford to provide enough toilets so that the queue for the womens toilet is not a hundred metres long, forcing the girls to use the mens toilet. I am sure the girls do not wish to use the mens which definitely get quite “tangy”.
    Whilst on that subject how about cleaning the bloody toilets regularly? Arriving early most days I found the toilets had not been cleaned overnight. (if they had it was a piss poor job) 2/10
    2. Empty chairs? Easy. Confiscate em. Banning chairs for next year is quite short sighted and to be frank a knee jerk reaction. 5 days on your feet for 12 or so hours is not possible for some people. (Me included) 0/10
    3. Buses. Christ where do I start? Poorly organised again. I rang the Bluesfest office a week out from the festival to inquire as to whether the Ocean Shores people might be a bit better serviced this year? No worries they replied. Even rang Brunswick Valley Coaches while I was on the line and was reassured – no worries. Yeah pull the other one, is my reply to that. Queues a mile long AGAIN due to not enough buses being organised. When you finally get on the overcrowded bus you find it goes nowhere for ages due to the bus being stuck with all the cars trying to leave the festival. Miss that first bus and you will have a two hour wait for the next one. Must do better next year. 1/10
    4. Far too many people on Friday and Saturday. Sell approx 10% less tickets. Queues a mile long for everything. Food, drinks, toilets and tents. Ridiculous. 2/10

  9. I am concerned for people having to stand so long at the Bluesfest. It gets very tiring on us middle and older age festival attendees. It is so nice to sit down and relax your back in a chair with a back support. I do agree that unoccupied chairs could be an issue, so don’t allow chairs that are unoccupied! Also there could be an area designated for chairs in the tents away from the front and dancing. Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us that don’t abuse precious tent space by not allowing folding chairs to be brought in to the festival or to be purchased on site. Having a foldable chair to carry around the festival site to be able to set it down away from the tents to just chill out whenever and wherever and rest allows many festival goers to experience the entire 5 days of the festival.

  10. Hi Peter, re the chairs: I also recommend not making a knee jerk reaction. I read you will supply a ‘limited amount of fixed seating at the back of venues’ and ban fold up chairs. This will not work unless the seating provided is equal to the number of fold up chairs you are banning….. unless you want to make this into a festival only for folks who can stand up for 5 days. I’m 62 and I need to sit on between acts. If there are not going to be enough chairs for me to find one to sit on, and I cannot bring my own, I would like to make an informed decision as to whether or not to attend. At a guess I would say that the majority of performers are over 50, and likewise the punters. Eliminating our main source of comfort will severely hit tickets sales.Simply removing chairs that are not being used will be easy with your army of volunteers. having a small stall nearby where they can be retrieved with ease also does not seem too much to ask, and a lot cheaper than hiring fixed seating at the back which prevents those outside from seeing in on the really big name acts. This didn’t work before – why do it again?


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