Staging a four-day music and arts festival during a pandemic takes grit, especially when you're just 20-years old. For Caleb Ostwald, there is one very powerful motivation: the belief that audiences and artists need to meet.
On March 3 2022, some 3000 people will gather to camp under the stars on Dja Dja Wurrung country for the debut of 2 Degrees music and arts festival; a new (but prospectively annual) event showcasing 80 sonic and visual artists, most of whom call Melbourne home.
Ostwald is the prodigious founder and director of 2 Degrees. Having previously managed smaller events and his own eco-store ‘Verve’, 2 Degrees will be his biggest challenge yet; rising from the dust of the ever-uncertain Covid-19 pandemic and struggling creative industry.
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To put on an event of this scale, in this unpredictable climate, at such a young age, requires a lot of determination and spirit, attributes which Ostwald has in abundance.
“I’ve always found myself to be working on one venture or another,” he said.
“Even in high school, I was doing bootleg laptop and phone repairs for everyone in the library at lunchtime. I’ve always wanted to work for myself and the only job I have ever had where that hasn’t been the case was at a butcher and I don’t eat meat, so that pretty much sums things up.”
Having witnessed the impact of Covid-19 on his own small business, Verve, and the wider creative industry, Ostwald committed to persisting with his plans for 2 Degrees with the belief that events like this can have a meaningful role in the lives of their attendees and artists alike.
“I have felt first-hand the impact on Verve and in my friends working in the arts and small business sectors,” he continued.
“I have seen the stunted impact on their opportunities, their mental health and their creative output. Festivals give people a place to be open, free and expressive. I think it is so important for artists and the wider community to connect in person and small-scale festivals provide that opportunity in abundance.”
2 Degrees is certainly making its mark on the festival calendar, showcasing a very impressive local line-up of visual and sonic artists from Melbourne and beyond. Featuring the likes of Adriana, Ausecuma Beats, DJ Life, In2Stellar, C. From, Wax’O Paradiso, Merve and Juicy Romance, the all-Australian program is sure to send heads spinning, and, importantly, give locals back some of the opportunities they have missed.
“We had the option to book international artists to bolster the line-up, but Naarm has such an amazing offering of local acts who push the envelope so hard,” he said.
“It’s such a diverse and innovative community and they have been dealing with so many cancellations over the last couple of years.”
2 Degrees is also a carbon-negative event (in keeping with Ostwald’s other projects) and is prioritising sustainability. The festival encourages patrons to connect with the Naarm country through bush walks, immersive cultural learning sessions and art.
Ostwald hopes that by inciting admiration in the natural landscape, people will feel a desire to protect it.
“2 Degrees is a new taste of what an independent local event can be,” he said.
“We hope that by encouraging patrons to have an appreciation for the land, community and culture, and by giving them the tools to do so, everyone will be inspired to practise sustainability, not just at 2 Degrees, but back home too.
With 2 Degrees originally being coined as a New Year’s festival, Ostwald has made the continuously testing decision to take a leap of faith and persevere with the event.
“We swallowed a very hard pill when we had to postpone. We tried to forecast for all of the things that could go wrong, but with Covid, that list just gets longer and longer,” he said.
“Restrictions and issues with our first venue meant that we needed new dates and a new home in the eleventh hour. Our amazing team has tirelessly worked through all of the cards that have been dealt on the way.
“It has been such a relief to see it finally come together and we are so excited to show everyone what we have been working so hard for”.
Tickets for 2 Degrees are on sale now until sold out. Grab tix here.