18 years on and the Falls Festival is still run by the same ethos and heart that drove it from its humble early beginnings to what it is today
18 years on and the Falls Festival is still run by the same ethos and heart that drove it from its humble early beginnings to what it is today: a blend of international and local music acts and artists, located at the stunning surroundings of Lorne and Marion Bay. The festival, founded by Festival Director Simon Daly has a certain intimate feel rarely felt in any other major events; maybe that’s because it’s still run in part by the Daly family, but it’s most likely the attention to detail the organisers put into it to ensure its continued growth and improvements.
Daly dreamt up the Falls Festival when he was only 21 years old at a get-together on his parents’ farm where the festival is still held. “It was something that had been in its infancy for a couple of years before that [the festival’s debut],” says Daly. “We always used to have a BBQ, sort of a mini bonfire camp thing just among friends in the years prior to that. On this one night, we all conspired to open up and invite a few more people up to the farm. That’s really where the beginnings of where the idea came to do something a bit different.”
This year, from December 28 to January 1, a musical lineup that includes Interpol, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Paul Kelly, Angus And Julia Stone, Public Enemy and many more will be showcased at both the Victorian and Tasmanian venues. On the comedy front, there’s a strong emphasis on local talent with The Bedroom Philosopher, Fear of a Brown Planet’s Nazeem Hussain, musical comedian Josh Earl and many others.
“With the comedy, it’s always such a charming part of the festival because it’s held at the Grande Theatre and it’s between [music] acts and it’s a genuine spot – it’s not like a 10-minute token spot – it’s actually 50 minutes set aside,” says Daly. “It’s without a fail always one of the highlights of the festival… It’s just a really nice softening of the program where it allows music to shine and comedy to shine both equally.”
The arts section, under the curatorial direction of Ian Pidd, has also grown to include a larger program. The Arts Village will provide patrons with a range of activities and entertainment including circus workshops, puppetry, burlesque and comedy – its diversity is sure to satisfy a myriad of palettes. The Falls Fiesta is an optional dress-up occasion; it’s the festival’s answer to a parade filled with dance and costumes. It’s safe to say, the future of the arts genre is bright, with Daly hinting that it will soon contribute an equal amount to the festival’s program as the music section.
Another interesting part of the program is the APRA People’s Stage, which has been going on for 10 years now. “We always used to have these acts that would perform out in the campground…they were literally patrons who had set up themselves on the campground and just done their own little side show,” says Daly. As such, a stage was set up for patrons with a penchant for performing. “We actually have the stage facing the bus stop, which takes about 3,000 people down to Lorne each day to enjoy the beaches. While they’re waiting in line to get on a bus, they’ve got the People’s Stage.”
When talking to Daly, what’s undeniable is the personal touch each member of the Falls Festival takes into creating the event, and none of this is more apparent than the festival’s commitment to sustainability and maintaining an eco-friendly event. The Daly family are from and still live in Lorne and as such, the importance of maintaining the beautiful landscapes of the region is a top priority.
Often, in most festivals and major events, recycling and non-recycling stations encourage patrons to throw their litter with more eco-efficiency. However, after visiting Visy Recycling, Daly was astonished to learn that if around five percent of a recycling load were contaminated with non-recycle waste, the load would be deemed trash, thus rendering the recycling efforts superfluous.
“It’s very easy to imagine people walking along in a festival and not quite getting their choice right and putting one item in the wrong bin and the whole load is contaminated,” explains Daly. “So we actually set up a whole sorting station similar to what we saw actually at Visy Plant itself, and do all the sorting on site.”
The Falls Festival has a green team that physically sorts through all the recyclable rubbish post-festivities to ensure that all recycled rubbish is a 100 percent clean. The other thing is their toilet facilities, which are sure to please the female demographic. Everyone, especially if you don’t own a willy, knows that festival loos are the armpits of a venue. The word ‘portaloo’ is enough to make eyes water and toes curl, and this was something that came to Daly’s attention through a rather personal encounter.
“Back in around 2000, my girlfriend at the time of only two or three weeks (but now wife) went into the ladies toilets and just couldn’t believe the state of them,” says Daly. “She went down to the house and grabbed a mop and broom and spent the entire New Year’s cleaning the loos. I just took note at that point.”
As such, the Falls Festival now hosts composting loos, which are not only eco-friendly since they’re waterless, but also clean, spacious and odourless.
“The actual loads can be returned back onto the ground once the worms and so on have gone through all the waste, which is really just the way of the future… So that’s been a great part of the festival and really helped not just as the green way to go, but it also makes it such a comfortable festival to be at,” explains Daly.
Being Green also means utilising generators that have B20 biodiesel going through them. “For us, when you’re living in such a beautiful environment, you’re a custodian of that environment and there’s a real responsibility to ensure that everything is not ending up in your oceans or waste streams unnecessarily. So, there’s always been that just growing up in that environment, a deep passion to make sure you leave something as you found it, but I think we’ve found ways to leave it in a better place than what it was, and at the same time, showing other people the way as well.”
The festival’s tie to the local community is also a strong and endearing relationship. Every year, the Falls Festival donates $16000 to the Lorne community fund. “We put the community in charge with discovering and thinking of ideas of how to spend that money, whether it be the elderly citizens or the younger ones or the primary school,” says Daly. “Consequently, already we’ve had in the last two years $33,000 spent in Lorne on a whole range of things. The nice thing about it is it has been shared between the elderly and the young and the middle aged of the community.”
Looking back on the growth of the festival from bonfire talk to one of Australia’s most popular arts and music events, the staggering revelation is that none of the successes was ever an expectation, nor was it ever planned.
“I don’t think I’ve ever lived too far ahead of myself,” says Daly. “It’s always had that feeling that the festival can control its own destiny and that kind of surety has allowed it to develop much more than two stages and music. And who knows where else it’ll head beyond there, and the amount of work we put into the green element of the festival as well.”
The Falls Music And Arts Festival happens at Marion Bay in Tasmania from December 29 until January 1 and in Lorne, Victoria from December 28 until January 1. For more info about lineup, ticketing and transport head to fallsfestival.com.au.