What makes a festival? It’s not just the music, it’s the sense of community, the vibrancy, the temporary utopia created by the clever people who customise the experience with their creative and innovative thinking. A good festival is a portal into another place, almost another you. This is something Falls Festival’s Village artistic director Ian Pidd knows only too well.
Creating a feel across the three Falls sites (Lorne, Marion Bay & Byron) requires some lateral thinking and some off-the-wall programming.
‘There isn’t really a theme.’ says Pidd. ‘What the Village is doing and what its about is creating a surprising, intimate experience within the festival proper. What we are trying to do is take that idea you have in your head when you arrive, the things you think you are going to do, and then give you an experience that was nothing like what you were expecting. The Village is more about having a bit of a carnie, sideshow participatory kind of feel.’
One of the shows that has been hugely successful is the So You Think You Can Interpretive Dance.
‘We play 10 big banging power ballads – Queen, Kate Bush, Seal – you know whom we are talking about, and we appoint judges; audience members perform for each other and it’s amazing. When the audience comes into the tent they don’t know they are about to become a major star and you see them getting high-fived all around the festival for the days after. It’s super cool!’
Pidd believes that festivals set up ‘a temporary community; it’s an antidote to consumption – a sense that it’s not something you just consume, it’s something you are genuinely part of, it’s something you help put on – that the event wouldn’t have been the same without you there.’
One of the highlights of Falls is the parade. ‘This year the theme is Days and Nights of the Circus – there will be a whole zone where you can make yourself something from the ground up with artists who can help you put it together.’
Pidd believes each Falls event has a separate and very different tone, and he styles the villages accordingly. ‘Tassie has a big, beautiful, more temperate and calmer feel; Lorne is extremely magnificent, tightly packed and intense; and Byron is more summery, like the Summer of Love. It’s the flavour of the beach.
‘Basically we work from the centre out. The first thing we do is think about the site – there are lots of venues and spaces to consider – and then we start to bring in local artists and make sure we have really good local artists engaged, then we bring in artists from outside.’
Pidd and his team spend a lot of time on the ground observing what happens, what works. ‘One year there was a spontaneous hairdressing salon set up in the camping ground,’ he says. ‘We loved it, and were so thrilled and inspired we adapted the concept, so now we have three beautiful hairdressing salons across the three sites!’
Within its intimate confines at the Falls Village experience theatre, circus, magic, sideshow, puppetry and burlesque. You can help create the giant puppets that will parade through the festival on the last day or create your own costume. Or you can enjoy the pleasures of the Ten Minute Disco or the Silent Disco. The Village is surprising, spontaneous, interactive and a whole lot of fun. The Village has its own music program too, with a bunch of amazing bands, including local acts, playing everything from Gypsy to Americana.