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Peter Noble to discuss COVID and leadership at 2021 Australian Festival Industry Conference

Peter Noble to discuss COVID and leadership at 2021 Australian Festival Industry Conference

Bluesfest director OAM has joined the list of speakers for the 2021 (AFIC) this spring.

He’ll be taking its 150 delegates behind the scenes of when the festival was scrapped one day out from kick off due to a small COVID-19 outbreak in Byron Bay.

Noble is also expected to talk about his learning experiences from the incident, and his thoughts on the festival sector’s recovery.

One of the major aims of this year’s AFIC is to highlight the inconsistencies of regulators’ COVID decisions when dealing with festivals, which has resulted in exasperation from the broader live sector.

AFIC director and founder Carlina Ericson said it’s been a tiresome, labour-intensive year with the goal posts constantly moving.

“It’s been a horrible experience of having to go through the wringer with multiple states, multiple processes, inconsistencies and double standards,” she said.

“We’re looking at the inconsistencies to see if at the end of the conference we can find a set of basic guidelines that can be used across the country instead of these case-by-case, state-by-state approaches.”

AFIC director and founder Carlina Ericson

If the first AFIC in 2019 addressed the sector’s concerns about sustainability and NSW regulations, the 2021 meeting looks at pre-emptive measures.

Ericson also set up the conference program as “a healing process” about educational, economic, social and psychological benefits. Topics include leadership in crisis, health and safety, future moves from adapting to live-streaming to managing new revenue streams and launching new events in these uncertain times.

Some insight will come from Dr Jamie Ranse’s research on 700 events across Queensland to confirm if there’s a type of festival which places greater pressure on healthcare services.

A keynote by International Women’s Day Entrepreneurial Leadership Award winner Thea Jeanes-Cochrane could provide great insight on leading the way.

Cochrane Entertainment sold $20 million of tickets to entertainment projects and touring exhibitions, produced the official bid that won the 2018 Commonwealth Games for the Gold Coast and she resides as a board member of MotorSport Australia, as well as being well-versed in the sports industry and a passionate environmentalist and gender equity advocate.

Another example is Jeremy Fleming, managing director of Stagekings. After the COVID lockdown he pivoted from building stages and sets to making work-from-home office furniture, further employing 70 more out-of-work event crew members to help manufacture 35,000 pieces of IsoKing furniture.

In 12 months Stagekings donated over $90,000 to charity, including Support Act, through the sales of the desks.

The issue of including and catering for audience members with physical and intellectual disabilities will also be fully explored during the two-and-a-half days in a presentation and workshop.

“A lot of festivals are still uneducated about how to cater for that market,” said Ericson.

She added that in the application forms for the Federal Government’s RISE funding, it asks promoters to spell out their accessibility plan.

“Most of them wouldn’t know what they were,” she said.

Judging from the feedback she’s had on social media and at networking events, Ericson maintained that “everyone is quite excited about being in the same room and having a serious robust conversation about the common issues everyone is facing”.

“People just want the opportunity to be physically in the same room to have that conversation,” she said.

Jeanes-Cochrane agreed: “AFIC is a great forum to unite industry, a platform to deliver insights and learning through shared conversation.”


The Australian Festival Industry Conference is held between September 1 to 3 at Sea World Resorts in Queensland. For more information on the program and speakers and to book tickets, visit their website.

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