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Byron Shire
August 16, 2022

Festival/Byron Council relations strained, motion passes

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The operations manager of the Byron Music Festival says her attempts to run the event this year were cruelled by Byron Council staff, who allegedly provided organisers with false information and spoke to them like they were ‘idiots’.

But Council staff have strongly refuted the claims, saying that those who work with the organisers of local events are professional and courteous.

Kimmy at Byron Music Festival.

The criticisms of staff were made by Monique Hartman during the public access section of last week’s Byron Council meeting. Ms Hartman, who has worked in live music and events for 25 years, told the meeting that staff didn’t respond for months when she tried to communicate with them about using Council-owned land for the festival.

Strings to the ready : festival co-organiser and Byron Music co-owner Nick Sergi. Photo Jeff Dawson

‘This prevented us from getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding that would have seeded this year’s festival and relieved Nick [festival organiser, Nick Sergi] of the dire financial straits that happened as a result of this festival not happening,’ Ms Hartman said.

‘We want more hand-holding and less door slamming, more phones answered and emails being responded to in a timely manner.

‘We want staff to be excited about what we can achieve together, rather than being ignored and spoken to like we’re idiots or a thorn in the side.’

Ms Hartman also called for more transparency and accountability on the part of staff, ‘rather than providing false information that further impedes event planning’.

But a Council spokesperson told The Echo that Council strongly refuted any inference or claim that staff provided false information to a member of the public or treated them like they were ‘idiots’, or that they did not respond promptly to the organisers of the Byron Music Festival.

‘The organisers of the Byron Music Festival have been provided with all relevant information and advice on options and processes, and staff are happy to continue to meet with them to provide clarification as needed,’ the spokesperson said.

‘The staff who work with the organisers of events in the Byron Shire are professional and courteous and generally have a very good working relationship with the many event organisers they deal with.’

In a written report that was included in the meeting agenda, Council staff further state that in the 2018 calendar year, Byron Shire Council approved or supported around 90 events over 170 event days and with over 372,000 attendees. 

‘To put this in perspective; event attendees represent more than ten times the Shire’s resident population,’ staff said in the report.

‘This does not include events which occur in already approved venues or those events, weddings or filming that are not approved by Council or that Council has not been notified of.’

Ms Hartman’s criticisms preceded a motion passed by councillors to make life easier for the organisers of small-to-medium sized festivals.

Byeon Councillor Mark Swivel.

Small festivals to be encouraged

Under the motion, moved by Independent Cr Mark Swivel, Council will create an action plan to ‘enable and encourage small festivals to operate in Byron Shire’.

There will also be a review of small and medium-sized festival proposals currently pending, or recently determined, to help explore the feasibility for these festivals to be conducted in the period 2022–24.

A further review of Council’s policies and processes will take place in a bid to ensure that Council supports festivals as much as possible.

‘The objective here is to reset the way we deal with festivals to prioritise the end result,’ Cr Swivel said.

‘I think the example provided by Dark MoFo [a festival in Tasmania] in particular… shows the opportunity that exists for Byron to plan proactively for how we make the most of festivals.’

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  1. ‘We want, we want, we want ‘ stomp that foot and get your own way. But it didn’t work?
    Council staff aren’t your personal gofers, they’re paid by rate payers, many of whom find your festivals a inconvenient impositions.

  2. I attended and totally relaxed in a family friendly locals event with great music and food.
    No VIP’s just lots of families on rugs with their kids.

  3. Wanderer, organisers of this particular festival are locals and rate payers too. They’ve been active contributing members of this community for decades and have sacrificed/given a lot to this region for nothing. All they’re asking is to put on some music in the park and have an opportunity to pay local musos who need local paying gigs more than ever. Council should not be making it this hard for them. It’s cost them a lot of money and caused a great deal of stress for them and they don’t deserve it. You’re making out like they’re greedy festival promoters like the majors. They’re a small local family owned business. We should be supporting them.


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