Alongside the announcement of the 2016 Groovin the Moo music festival dates this week, triple j’s Hack revealed a leaked letter from organisers of the festival to Townsville federal MP Ewen Jones, asking for a government contribution of $300,000 to help keep the festival afloat in North Queensland.
Signed by five members of Cattleyard Promotions, who created the festival, the letter apparently reveals a fiscal struggle with the NQ stop on the tour, which has not made money in the last three years, and is apparently being kept afloat by the sellout success of the other locations (including Bendigo, Bunbury and Maitland).
“This is a carefully considered request,” the letter stated.
“We want to keep Townsville on the national GTM touring map. We do not want to compromise the quality of the event because it happens to be in North Queensland and not near Brisbane.”
“The extent to which GTM Townsville absorbed profits from the other destinations posed a very real threat to us having no choice but to cancel or move the Queensland destination.
“GTM Townsville does not have a problem attracting international artists, but we need support to transport the artists to Townsville and to promote Townsville to our southern Queensland and interstate audiences.”
Organisers blame a downturn in mining and tourism in the area, as well as attendance figures (at 15,000 it’s the smallest stop on the tour), the cost of flights for crew and artists, and having to pay police $30,000 (an expense not required at any other stop).
Federal MP Ewen Jones said in an interview with Hack there’s “no cash handouts to a private business,” although there are grants and other options, and first and foremost he would encourage locals to buy a ticket to attend the event, particularly younger people seeking their first music festival experience.
Cattleyard Promotions has assured punters the festival will go ahead in 2016, despite the apparent difficulties.
“Touring regional Australia is a costly exercise however as announced all Groovin the Moo events for 2016 are going ahead and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”
If the festival, which has been touring to NQ for the past eight years, does in fact move the Queensland event, it won’t be the first time a festival has been dropped due to lack of support: Wickid festival in 2000 was cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather but never returned, Moo Sick festival in 2001 was created as a council-run event and reportedly lost over $100,000, and Full Noise festival failed to return after it’s third year in 2011, citing money loss as a primary reason for cancelling the event.
For promoters, the climate in Townsville isn’t the best right now, and a downturn in mining and tourism is not the only thing to blame. The Australian Government Department of Employment released figures recently that put Townsville as the fourth highest unemployment rate by labour force region, at 8.5% in September 2015 (limp.gov.au).
This is compared to Toowoomba’s lowest rate at 3.3%, Brisbane’s inner city at 4.2%, and mining town Mackay at 7.3%.
Another contributing factor to the festival’s lack of success in recent years? The Labour Day public holiday was moved to October, although the festival continued to go ahead on the first Sunday in May, which was originally – and from next year will again be – followed by the public holiday the following day.
For now, though, the show will go on. Here’s the dates and locations for the 2016 event:
Groovin the Moo 2016:
– Saturday 23 April – Maitland Showgrounds, Maitland NSW
– Sunday 24 April – University of Canberra, Canberra ACT
– Monday 25 April – Oakbank Racecourse, Oakbank SA
– Sunday 1 May – Murray Sports Complex, Townsville QLD
– Saturday 7 May – Hay Park, Bunbury WA
A full lineup announcement will be made on Thursday 28 January.