Features February 21, 2020

Jessica Ducrou on 20 Years of Splendour [part one]

Jessica Ducrou on 20 Years of Splendour [part one]
Jessica Ducrou / Supplied

As colourful US activist and journalist, Katherine Anne Porter once observed, “The past is never where you think you left it.”

As celebrates its 20th anniversary this winter, co-founder has a mixed take.

“I can’t believe the festival is 20 years old, it just feels like yesterday. At the same time, it’s like my life never existed without Splendour,” she tells TMN.

“To me, it’s like we’re just getting started, we’re just hitting our straps. We’ve got so many ideas.”

Part of the zest within the Splendour camp goes back to the fact that last year, after a 13-year battle, they were given permission to permanently stage the event at North Byron Parklands.

“So having the security of our future has given us so much scope.”

Splendour has a capacity of 42,500, but Ducrou and co-Splendour founder Paul Piticco are currently in talks with the NSW Dept of Planning to increase it to 50,000 for this year.

“We don’t have formal approval for that yet,” she emphasises.

Wednesday, February 20 saw the music lineup for the 20th instalment being unveiled, with this year’s event taking place from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 July.

It includes exclusives by Tyler The Creator, Flume, and The Strokes, the latter of which will drop their first album in seven years three months before.

The Australian contingent includes Midnight Oil (The Makarrata Project), Violent Soho, Grinspoon, Julia Jacklin, Thelma Plum, DMAs, Ruel, Tim Minchin, Julia Stone, Sampa The Great, G Flip, Illy, Confidence Man, Baker Boy, Cub Sport. Stella Donnelly, Adrian Eagle, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Alex The Astronaut, among others.

This year’s new addition, the PARK(lands) Stage, will feature lineups curated by Secret Sounds, Astral People and Love Police.

Shortly after her TMN interview was conducted, the lineup was criticized in some quarters for being male-dominated.

But when discussing the bill, Ducrou stated that it was based on choosing acts that epitomised the spirit of the festival over two decades,

“We spent countless months trying to get the right balance, most focussed on diversity, I think, to really show off 20 years of Splendour.”

With the change in the way the music fan consumes music, exchanges information and connects with like-minded spirits, “it’s much harder than it was.

“That’s always the challenge for us and trying to stay ahead of the curve as well.

“You can’t make everyone happy but ultimately because it’s such hard work, you might as well make yourself happy!”

The 20th-anniversary theme will flow into Splendour’s other attractions as well, to be unveiled over the next few months.

“We have so many things to roll out, and we’re incredibly excited.”

It’ll be interesting to see what the Splendour audience expects from the debates and discussion that will take place.

Ducrou has worked on numerous other festivals including Homebake and Falls, and finds the spirit of the Splendour audience more intense.

“It’s got a real community, people have a sense of ownership over this festival. I’ve always found it fascinating about how passionate they are about what we’re doing.

“I think our response to that, apart from feeling really engaged, is it makes us want to be better at what we do.”

Splendour’s crowd has been most intense about how a festival should be a socio-cultural leader in thoughts, attitude and action – and as Ducrou says, Splendour has accepted that responsibility “as leaders and innovators”, pointing out one example of its continuing carbon footprint initiatives.

In the past year, people power has been at the forefront of Australian rock culture, whether it be rallying against ridiculous festival legislations to taking responsibility for bushfire relief and climate control debate given the obvious ineffectual response of the federal government.

Ducrou’s personal belief is that the authorities’ change of stance on climate change will come when big business increases its call for a place on the table during talks.

In any case, it will be very interesting to experience the zeitgeist as the 42,500 (maybe 50,000) gather at their houses of the holy.

Read part two of TMN’s interview with Jessica Ducrou here.

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