29 February 2024

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

Not so long ago festivals and concerts were having to be cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Thankfully those times are behind us and in the past few years we’ve welcomed back many events that were forced to be sidelined, making us appreciate just become fixtures on our calendars and which we looked forward to every year.

So, it was disappointing to read the regional festival, Groovin the Moo, announced it was cancelling its 2024 event. At the time of the announcement, the decision was put down to poor ticket sales, but whatever the reason it does show just how vulnerable large-scale events are, particularly those with a focus on regional Australia.

Even before the pandemic, festivals and large public events were under pressure from the likes of rising insurance costs and increasing red tape, and now with cost-of-living pressures bearing down on many households, there’s just not the money around for non-essential spending. Rural and regional centres, too, have smaller populations to draw on so unless people can be encouraged to travel to attend an event in a rural area, it can be difficult to fill the necessary quota of ticket sales. It’s also more costly to stage something in the first place in more isolated locations.

However, that doesn’t mean rural and regional festivals, shows and concerts don’t have a future. Certainly, people in these areas will welcome events in their own backyard to save a trip to the city for a cultural ‘fix’. And, it’s true, city people – and even international visitors – will see a visit to a rural centre as a bit of an adventure if the event is something that appeals to their theatrical or musical tastes.

Take the Deni Ute Muster. This has become such a major success when it comes to a music and family festival, thanks to the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of community members over a long period of time. And now, at the opposite end of the year, the Deniliquin community is staging Play on the Plains, a music festival skewed to a younger and contemporary audience but with all the appeal of the October Ute Muster. Using the same site as the Ute Muster, Play on the Plains is on March 9, and it’s promising to be a big success. As a former resident, I’m so proud of this community and these efforts to really put Deni on the map.

Interestingly, a lot of the early tickets were sold to international visitors, which on the one hand is great – encouraging visitors from overseas to visit our rural regions is so important. On the other hand though, it’s hoped people closer to home will take the opportunity to support this homegrown event. We who live in rural and regional Australia can unfortunately be guilty at times of wishing for more things to see and do in our local areas, but when something does come to town, we may not necessarily support it.

The Deni community – with a population of just 7,500 – shows us what’s possible though. Arts and music events do have a place outside our major cities and areas that surround them, and which do add so much to Australia’s overall arts and culture scene. So, if you’re able, do support them where you can and thank the local organisations and volunteers who put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into staging them, and also the artists who see the value in showcasing their talents to new locations and appreciative audiences.

To read this article in The Land newspaper, visit Opinion | The Land | NSW

Image via Edward River Council

Talking about what matters. 

As one of the most influential voices in rural, regional and remote Australia, we shine a light on what matters. From distilling the latest research, to tackling the biggest issues of the day, we provide thought leadership on what’s shaping our industries, sectors and communities.

Our insights