News April 8, 2021

Tasmanian festival funding election promises spark call for return of Falls Marion Bay

Tasmanian festival funding election promises spark call for return of Falls Marion Bay

Falls Festival, Marion Bay

As Tasmania heads to the polls on May 1, the two major parties promise funding to protect its festivals and events and attract new ones.

This sparked a call by some fans for the return of Falls Marion Bay, which was put on hiatus last year by promoter Secret Sounds.

The Liberal State Government’s offering an $8 million Events Support and Attraction Fund, which would be a combination of grants, government co-ownership of events or underwriting of insurance, Premier Peter Gutwein said.

This would give promoters confidence to commit to returning or starting new events in 2022.

“We want to continue shining a light on our regions through iconic events, and this fund will help draw tens of thousands more visitors to Tasmania, providing much-needed stimulus for local business, tourism and hospitality across our regions,” he said.

Labor’s alternative package has a $5 million Reimagined Events Fund to “support events and festivals to adapt to the changed and challenging environment brought about by the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.

“Labor will give confidence to our events sector… by offering to underwrite insurance costs of up to $10,000 so these important events can proceed,” Labor leader Rebecca White said.

Keith Deverell, CEO of , applauded the support but told TMN, “Maybe we need to see which festivals are being supported”.

Some already have government funding “and it would be healthy to have a greater diversity of festivals get support”.

Deverell urged that funded festivals put in mechanisms to have a sizeable percentage of Tasmanian artists on the bill and, where possible, use local production crews rather than ones brought in from the mainland.

He thinks more needs to be done for live music in general.

“In Tasmania, we don’t have a huge amount of venues, and a lot of the issues that festivals are having with COVID are also being faced by independent venues and bands.”

Aid for the sector could include, for instance, a subsidy for musicians to get paid properly for performances, while venues could return to full capacity, and help “with ongoing and increased costs around legislation requirements”.

“And we need to very soon have proper conversations about occupancy rates,” he added.

The election promises for festival support sparked discussion on social media and local traditional media about Falls’ return to the island.

Last July, Falls promoter Secret Sounds announced it would be scrapping Marion Bay.

“During these unprecedented times, and like most industries, we must adjust our business operations to allow us the best opportunity for long-term viability,” the promoter posted.

It “remained hopeful” about a return to Tasmania.

For 17 years, Marion Bay drew 11,000 patrons a year and added millions to the local economy.

But it often struggled to be economically viable, without Government support.

In 2012, its original founder Simon Daly revealed that it cost $4.2 million to stage, but only made a profit of $50,000.

That year, arts philanthropist and businessman Graeme Wood “injected a substantial investment” into the festival.

Figures for Marion Bay after Secret Sounds took over are not known.

Secret Sounds’ response to patrons’ queries over the current speculation is that nothing has changed since the July 2020 announcement.

Deverell said the importance of Marion Bay is that it allows local audiences to see international acts they might not have otherwise, and as a major event it brings employment to the local music industry.

Music Tasmania and Falls Marion Bay have a long-term partnership running its Home Brewed Stage to showcase emerging acts.

“It provides them the opportunity to play within that festival arena, and have that on their resumes,” Deverell said.

“It’s a national event so those line-ups get broadcast nationally so it’s a way for them of marketing outside the island.

“It gives that kind of confidence, support and encouragement young bands need to have.”

Marion Bay has also been a key milestone for young locals over the years.

“It’s been a big part of my life, it’s a great opportunity for young people to go to that festival, and it’s vital we don’t lose it,” Tyler Richardson of Luca Brasi told The Mercury.

As a 15-year old, he went to the first event in 2003, and has played there four times with the band.

“I’ve played at every other [Falls] site and in my opinion, Tasmania’s site is untouchable,” he declared.

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