BEHIND THE SCENE WITH BLUES ON BROADBEACH FESTIVAL DIRECTOR
A year after Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19, Australia’s largest non-ticketed music festival returned in May without missing a beat!
With the 20th edition of Blues on Broadbeach done and dusted for another year we sat down with Festival Director, Mark Duckworth (Duck) to find out what it was like producing his first music festival in a COVID environment. Holding nothing back, Duck shares his real experience to hopefully assist other event organisers as they pave their way through these COVID times.
Q: How was the planning for Blues on Broadbeach 2021 different from previous years?
It was completely different. Planning for an event like this takes nearly 12 months, so the biggest challenge was navigating the ever-changing landscape of social distancing restrictions in relation to music events and the border opening and closing both domestically and more recently, internationally with New Zealand. This not only affected our festival attendees, but also the artists who either could or could not attend.
Blues on Broadbeach has been going for twenty years with a free-flowing festival site. This year we really had to go back to the drawing board and think about what we could actually deliver in a COVID-safe environment in order to be able to provide the best experience for everyone. The added COVID layer was very complex for everyone involved.
Q: What was the biggest change made to Blues on Broadbeach in 2021?
Over the past decade or so we have had a main stage in one of the main streets of Broadbeach, which was a huge hit and always attracted record numbers, but this year because of COVID we had to move it to a nearby park to gain more space. With this came the need to create zones to be able to count everybody to ensure crowd capacities could be effectively managed. This was a completely new experience for not only us, but also our festival-goers.
Q: What other measures did you put in place to ensure a COVID-safe event could be delivered?
I’m really proud of our team for what we were able to do to ensure COVID had minimal impact on everyone from festival-goers to our incredible suppliers. In a nutshell here are some of the measures we put in place:
- All festival goers were required to check-in to the Queensland Health app each day of the event. Upon confirmation of a successful check-in visitors were wrist banded. We relied heavily on our Blues Crew, a team of 140+ volunteers and team leaders to manage this process.
- A detailed communication plan was rolled out in the lead in to the festival with an emphasis on the new process, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone.
- The two main stages were gated with heat sensors at all entry and exits to monitor crowd numbers to ensure we didn’t exceed our capacity as per our Queensland Health approved COVID safe plan
- We also worked closely with local businesses to introduce ‘Dine and Watch’ precincts which saw roads closed, and restaurants seating extended into the streets so people dining could experience the Blues on Broadbeach entertainment while enjoying a bite to eat
Q: What have your biggest learnings been?
There are SO many, but the main learnings have probably been…
- To factor in extra planning time to accommodate the need for your COVID safe plan to be reviewed, discussed at length and approved.
- If you’re a free event, factor in additional offerings once your main offerings reach capacity. For example, we had an additional screen set up on the beach as ‘overflow’ for festival-goers to watch the main stage once it reached capacity.
- Don’t throw out your event strategy, be strategic and think of how you can reimagine it to fulfil your overarching purpose and KPI’s.
- Things will change and that no matter how solid the plan is, right now in 2021 rules will continue to flip and turn the entire way. Control what you can and accept there’s things you can’t.