The Australian festival market has evolved dramatically over the past two decades. It went through boom years in the 2000s, only to drop out and crash in the beginning of this decade with several big players going under. This forced many companies to diversify their lineups, or focus on what made them great and make sure each artist they booked was unique. The market seems to be returning at the top end and the bottom and there are some players like Lost Paradise who appear to be doing some interesting things.
The four-day camping festival is entering its fifth year with a lineup that features the likes of Peggy Gou, M.I.A., Bob Moses, Joey Bada$$, PNAU, Bicep, KLP and Willaris. K. Being an Australian festival has its challenges. The distance makes it hard to convince artists to just do one gig and the competition becomes tough among rivals to pen artists.
Lost Paradise puts a big emphasis on being eco-friendly, something more and more festivals are trying to do. Speaking to Director, Simon Beckingham, he admits the challenges for a camping festival, especially trying to get attendees to take all of their trash with them, but he thinks they are on the right track. We chat with him about their efforts to be more sustainable, what festivalgoers can do on their end and the challenges of putting on a festival in Australia.
What are some of the challenges of getting international artists to Australia? Are there pretty strong radius clauses?
A big challenge for Australian events is that you have to offer the artist 5-6 national shows to lure them to Australia. If you can get the run and the offer right, then hopefully everything else stacks in your favor. It’s a great place to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter!
What went into booking the lineup this year? How far out did you have to book the acts? Also, when booking artists with new albums (say Bob Moses), did you get to hear the album when you booked them or did you just assume it would be worth it?
We start sending offers out in February and aim to close the line up off in July. This ended up being August for us this year with M.I.A and Joey Bada$$ coming through at the ninth hour, which as you can imagine, was stressful as it pushed our announcement back two weeks. We heard two of the tracks on the new Bob Moses album, which lead to us booking him. He played for us at our first Lost Paradise so the universe aligned on that booking. The Kooks are an exciting booking especially with their new album dropping and a catalogue of amazing tracks. My personal favorite artist booking this year is Bicep who will be playing on our infamous Lost Disco stage.
How has the attitude towards festivals politically and socially shifted in Australia with various festival deaths over the past few years?
There’s a huge debate happening here about harm reduction and creating a safer environment. Politically, I’m not sure how it will pan out. I hope government and authorities will reach out to the industry and work on policies collaboratively.
With a worrying report saying if we don’t make massive changes to how we live our lives by 2040, the globe will be irreparably damaged forever by climate change, what is your festival doing to be more sustainable in terms of renewable energy, recycling, compost etc.
Every year we aim to improve out sustainability efforts. All the products we sell are recyclable and we have a recycling program within the festival to encourage everyone to keep the site clean. We partner with an organization called Green Connect who help us sort through all the waste generated within the festival with the aim of reducing waste that goes to landfill. Green Connect are a social enterprise that employs refugees, and all the amazing staff work around the clock to ensure all rubbish is disposed of properly, keeping up to 12-15 tons of waste out of landfill.
Single use plastic is banned from back of house and all staff make use of the free water stations around the site. Our ultimate goal is to ban single use plastic from the entire site. Our creative team is a big fan of recycled and sustainable materials, bamboo being one of our favorite materials. Each year we use the same materials but create new structures for everyone to enjoy. This is the really fun bit!
How does a festival make sure that it sorts trash and recycling properly when punters are inebriated and it is dark and they may not be really thinking about which bin is which?
We have a huge sorting station back of house. All the rubbish comes into the sorting facility and is divided up into compost and recyclables.
How do you make sure campers actually take all of their trash with them and don’t leave all of the cleanup to you?
The campsites are our biggest challenge. It blows my mind how much stuff people leave behind. We will be doing everything we possibly can to engage and partner with our customers, the Paradisians, to clean up after themselves and take their stuff home. The festival culture worldwide needs to change and festivalgoers need to understand they have a big role to play to help promoters make their events more sustainable. We are putting a lot of measures in place to reduce non-biodegradable landfill and combat the alarming global statistic that 1 in 4 tents being left behind at festivals worldwide.
We have an Eco-Tent Village which offers convenient and affordable camping with KarTents which are these revolutionary temporary festival tents made entirely out of cardboard which can be recycled. We also have Rent-A-Tents and Wow-Tents which are quality canvas pre-pitched tents that can be reused. Festivalgoers can pay to arrive to a tent already pitched for them, which will then be ethically dismantled when the festival ends.
How can other camping festivals do the same? Do you think a sort of reward or punishment should be given for those who either do clean up or don’t?
I’m sure the right system would work. We tried an eco-bond last year, which didn’t work very well, so our view this year is to really try to create a stronger community within the campgrounds. We have engaged a theme camp called Earth Warriors, who as the title suggests, have a war against waste. A team of renegade soldiers combs the campgrounds encouraging people to clear their stuff up. We want to make the issue personal and really engage the community to do their bit.
How did you get into the electronic music business?
I was lucky enough to grow up in Manchester when the acid house revolution started. We spent every weekend driving to parties all over the north of England. The love and passion I had for events led me to start doing my own nights in London at the Milk Bar and booking people like Norman Jay and the Idjut Boys. When I moved to Sydney I teamed up with my business partner to start throwing parties. We became the biggest techno promoters in Sydney booking Jamie Jones, Dixon, Apollonia, Blondish, and Ame to name a few. It was always my dream to put on a camping festival. So, when Lost Paradise was born in 2014 it was a dream come true!
What would you be doing if you weren’t in the business?
Traveling more and experiencing new things.