With River Sessions festival just days away, Girl figured it was time to chat to Festival Director Michael Delaney, who kindly took some time away from last-minute prep to chat to us about the event.
The festival, which this year features acts like Amy Shark, The Rubens, Illy, LDRU, Middle Kids and Skegss, has been running for a number of years. Delaney has only recently joined the team, he is just as excited for this year’s event as the rest of us.
“Everything is coming together great,” he said.
“We are extremely lucky to have some amazing stakeholders working with us in Mackay. We’re less than a week out now from festival kick-off and the site is going to be looking great, the weather is meant to be lovely, so we’re feeling confident.”
This year’s event has been moved to Mackay Harbour, which takes it further out of the city to previous years.
“We chose the new location in J.M. Mulherin Park because it’s beach side and a great park, but also because the original park is under construction this year,” Delaney said.
The change of venue also allows for a bigger crowd – organisers are expecting 5,000 people to attend this year’s festival, which is up from last year by well over a thousand.
“Over 1500 tickets were sold from the Brisbane area this year, too, which is huge,” Delaney said.
“This year we’re featuring 15 hand picked local food vendors with gourmet foods, as well as some amusement rides and arts and craft stalls.
“There’s plenty to do and see besides the awesome music.”
Delaney said there were definite challenges to hosting an event in a regional area like Mackay, although the original motivation for hosting the event in Mackay still stands.
“We are locals ourselves and we want to give the locals something they can call their own, whilst bringing people to Mackay from out of town,” he said.
“Organising regional festivals takes a lot more work than in metropolitan areas, being that the market is a lot smaller, and it can sometimes take people some travel to attend.
“But it’s a testament to what a great festival River Sessions is that not only locals enjoy the event, but plenty of people make the trip from Brisbane too.”
Delaney said a considerable amount of effort was put into choosing the acts to perform each year, although even with the best planning there were still plenty of surprises.
“Each year we do extensive market research on who is bringing out new content and who our audience are loving at the moment, to make sure we can bring festival-goers a line up to remember, every time,” he said.
“There has never been a time when the event has always gone as planned,” he added.
“There are always curveballs thrown our way, and we have to deal with them the best we can. That’s what makes organising an event like River Sessions so exciting.”
One such curveball was an economic one, which forced the event to shut down for a couple of years. Organisers have made an effort to keep tickets affordable upon their return, though.
“We always like to keep the local community in mind when planning the festival, as in the end it really is for them,” Delaney said.
“Due to the mining downturn the festival was no longer sustainable for the region. However, the break allowed us to come back bigger and better than ever, which has been a huge bonus.
“To make sure the tickets are affordable for everyone to come and enjoy the music, and fall within festival-goers’ expectations, we keep an eye on the market, as well as receiving assistance from tourism departments in Mackay and (wider) Queensland.”
At the end of the day, the regional weather is also a drawcard for out of town festival-goers in June.
“The winter weather in North Queensland is just perfect for a festival,” Delaney said.
“With no bad weather – not a cloud in the sky – and still above 22 degrees.”
There are still limited tickets to this Saturday’s River Sessions. Head to riversessions.com.au for all the info.
Watch: Illy – ‘Then What’ (Audio)