The return of Splendour In The Grass from an almost 3-year pandemic hiatus has been marred by the cancellation of its first day, as well as flooded campgrounds and extraordinary entry lines. Droves of festivalgoers waited over nine hours in their cars to enter the campground at North Byron Parklands to begin the anticipated weekend-long music festival, only for the first day to be cancelled as a result of further anticipated wet weather. Groups who were able to make it inside have reported bogged vehicles, and have been instructed to set up in flooded and muddied areas.
Organisers cited patron safety as the reason for the cancellations, as the risk of further rainfall was heightened by a ‘significant weather system’ off the east coast. Festivalgoers who were already inside the festival were not verbally informed of this change, and learned of the cancellation via Instagram while they waited for acts to begin.
These conditions follow months of ongoing flooding in the Northern Rivers area, and despite this, the only communication last night from the festival itself came at 10:17pm in the form of a Facebook post. The post asked patrons to “Please be patient” and assured them that “We are doing the best we can – the show will go on rain, hail or shine.”
In citing staff shortages as a reason for last night’s events, it is worth noting that the festival runs largely on volunteer labour — a group that was unsurprisingly in low numbers considering the ongoing weather conditions and rising COVID infections, as well as the area’s prolonged flooding.
Festivalgoers paid an exorbitant $571 for 3-day festival passes and camping tickets –– as the night rolled in, and the queue of cars rolled on, there were no supplies or fuel provided. Those in line reported concerns around the danger of drowsy driving, as well as a failure of the festival to provide water or restrooms for hours of waiting unforeseen by patrons.
USyd student Valerie Comino waited in line for over nine hours in her car with no communication from the festival, until finally being granted entry to an alternative campground at 3am.
Alongside groups of other festivalgoers still in line, Comino was moved into the daytime parking area and informed that her group was expected to be ready to leave by 9am today.
Comino told Honi “It’s ridiculous, they’ve had over three years to plan this. They knew the weather was coming, the campground floods every year, they should have preventative measures at this point.”
This morning, festival attendees in the day parking area were informed that they would be allowed to continue camping there, contrary to what they had been told at 3am, and that the remaining arrivals with camping tickets would be moved to an external site.
The only official communication from the festival before its partial cancellation earlier today was an assurance that the event would be going ahead, saying they are “working around Mother Nature”.
Cancelled performances include headline acts such as Sofi Tukker, Cub Sport, Baker Boy, The Avalanches, DMA’S, and Gorillaz.
SRC President Lauren Lancaster was another festivalgoer stuck in last night’s line, telling Honi that “By 2am, some campers were literally being told by staff to camp in their cars on the side of road because they wouldn’t get in to the accomodation campsite they booked.”
“This is appalling mismanagement of a totally foreseeable set of weather conditions, and there has been near radio silence from organisers. It’s simply so unsafe, and when you consider how much people are paying to be here, leaves a sour taste in your mouth.”
Lancaster also emphasised the safety risk posed by the festival’s failure to adequately plan for these conditions. “Not only is it exhausting to wait that long to camp in a bogged site, but the winds and torrential rain are making the entire festival ground a flood, electrocution or collapse risk. I feel despondent, this was supposed to be one of the best music festivals in Australia and it’s literally giving Fyre Fest at this point.”
Local residents are reportedly unable to navigate the unprecedented traffic conditions, being forced to miss school and work.
These issues come in the wake of a last-minute announcement from the festival that for the first time, patrons under the age of 18 would not be permitted to attend without being accompanied by a responsible adult. This shakeup left scores of young people in the lurch, as no extra tickets were allocated for adults to accompany them to the sold-out festival.
It remains to be seen if Splendour officials will provide further comment on the issue or if patrons will see any reimbursement for the first night of ‘camping’.