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Big Day Out Founder Ken West Claims ‘Test Event’ Is Necessary to Bring Back Festivals

Ken West’s comments on festivals come after Falls Festival announced their plans for a “home grown” event, while Michael Chugg labelled Splendour’s October return as “ambitious”.

Example of a crowd at festivals such as Splendour in the Grass

It may be some time before festivals make their return to the live scene.

Aimee Catt/Supplied

Big Day Out founder Ken West has entered the debate about when music festivals might come back, claiming that a “test event” will likely be required before a full-scale return can occur.

West’s comments came via an open letter published on Thursday, which saw him speculate on the future of music festivals, and whether large-scale events (such as Splendour in the Grass) could return in the wake of COVID-19 without a smaller-scale event as an indicator of safety.

“The best chance a major festival would have to get a green light would be as a test event,” West explained.

“It might require everyone entering to be registered, COVID-tested and have the app to see if it works on a large scale. Governments love tests and PM ScoMo openly wants everyone, especially cynical young people, to download the COVID app.”

As he continued, West noted that it was more likely that immediate music-related re-openings would “most likely focus on local community and not destination events”.

“Pubs, clubs and theatres have been struggling for years from a glut of events and festivals. They employ a lot of people, cater for locals and desperately need support to stay in business,” he added.

West’s comments come following a week which saw Falls Festival organisers look ahead to their upcoming 2020/21 event, noting that while they are working alongside health authorities, they are currently aiming to deliver a “home grown” lineup for the next edition of the festival.

“Today we’re letting you know that while we’re living in strange times, we’re choosing the bright side,” organisers Jess Ducrou and Paul Piticco wrote. “Our team is moving ahead and we hope we’ll be seeing you all in December/January for an all Aussie edition of Falls Festival.”

These plans coincided with comments from industry veteran Michael Chugg, who claimed that the current plans for Splendour in the Grass to take place in October (after rescheduling from July) are “ambitious”.

“It’s a punt, they’re taking a punt,” Chugg explained on The Briefing podcast. “You know I don’t want to be negative towards Splendour or any of the festivals. We’d like to have a couple going on as well, but I think October is very ambitious.”

However, while West notes that the current situation can bode well for the future of local talent on festival lineups, he also claims that the current situation could actually help the Australian market in the long-term.

“Anything this side of 2020 will battle to get clearance,” West noted. “But maybe that’s not a bad thing for now. Pubs, clubs and theatres have been struggling for years from a glut of events and festivals.

“They employ a lot of people, cater for locals and desperately need support to stay in business. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt festivals to have a break from the market as well.

“This can be a great time for supporting Australian and soon New Zealand artists at least until the borders re-open, hopefully longer.”