Splendor in the inner room? Our changing climate could mean music festivals are starting to change

The UK’s iconic music festival, Glastonbury, is famous for its mud. And bettors mostly seem to enjoy how wild the festival grounds get in most years.
But ‘Squalor in the Mud’, ‘Splendour in the Trenches’ or ‘climate apocalypse fest’ – as some have called the Splendor in the Grass weekend music festival – is not.

The annual festival was marred this year by wet and swampy conditions, flooded campsites and transport delays affecting the approximately 50,000 attendees.

Splendor in the Grass 2022 - Byron Bay

A general view during Splendor in the Grass 2022 at North Byron Parklands. Festival organizers canceled the first day of performances due to heavy rain at the festival site. Credit: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

The mud had not dried as questions were raised about the future of the event and others in light of climate change.

So, could “Splendour in the Mud” become “Splendour in the Indoor venue”?

Climate change ‘is definitely a live consideration’ for organizers

The 2020 State of the Climate report from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology found that extreme weather in Australia – such as extreme heat, heavy rain, coastal flooding, fires and drought were becoming more common – and should stay on this path as the climate warms.
Julia Robinson, chief executive of the Australian Festival Association (AFA) said The flow it is a risk factor that weighs heavily on the minds of the organizers.
At the end of each year, the AFA conducts a risk assessment looking at concerns impacting festivals locally and overseas.

“Climate was definitely one of the biggest risks to the industry,” Ms Robinson said, reflecting on last year’s review.

People drag their luggage through the mud.

People drag their camping kit through the mud as a car is pushed by a tractor at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival, where walking through thick mud is part of the experience. Credit: Matt Cardy/Matt Cardy

Ms Robinson, who works with representatives from Secret Sounds (which runs Splendor in the Grass) and festivals such as Listen Out, Field Day, Groovin the Moo, said the impacts of climate change have never been more visible than over the past five years.

Revelers at the Victoria’s Falls Festival in 2019 were told to return home a day after the start of the four-day event due to an extreme fire risk. In a statement, organizers of the long-running New Year’s Eve festival in Lorne, two hours from Melbourne, said the conditions were simply too dangerous.
Some 9,000 participants were already camping on site when the announcement was made. But with temperatures of 40 degrees and the festival surrounded by bush, the normal congestion of the festival could not be risked in an emergency.

“Given the heat and the bushfires in the summer, you might think mid-winter is the way to go, but then you see the rain issues,” Ms Robsinson said.

“It’s going to be very important to be flexible in planning dates and locations.”
Even before the pandemic hit and cancellations became commonplace, she said organizers faced increased insurance premiums and policies for events in some locations.
“In some cases, (the organizers) couldn’t get the insurance or it was totally unaffordable,” she said. “It’s definitely a live consideration.”

Now, with the pandemic in the mix, she said insurance costs are at least 30-40% higher than they were a few years ago.

Close to nature?

Increased exposure to the elements is a risk you take by hosting big music festivals among the natural beauty of regional areas, Ms Robinson said.
But moving to communities with fewer “drainage issues, better escape routes from bushfires, or even just access to tertiary hospitals,” is no easy task, and she expects that conversations around infrastructure with state governments will resume in the coming years.
“It’s going to take us all working together, making sure there are open lines of communication between ministries, organizers and communities.”

Evelyn Richardson is the Managing Director of Live Performance Australia, which represents the Australian live performance industry. She said The flow it is likely that some festival venues will be permanently removed from the list.

people are sitting in front of a stage in a field.

The USA Eastern Washington, Gorge Amphitheater at the Endfest music festival. Source: light flare / Wolfgang Kaehler/Light Rocket

“Some places where events may have taken place in the past, they will not be held there in the future, because they will be considered more at risk than they were 10 years ago”, a- she declared.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt called the events on Monday a reminder of the changing Australian landscape.
“I don’t think we want to get to a point in this country where we can’t have fun and can’t have festivals and some areas can’t host things,” he told the newspaper. ABC radio.
“I’ve probably been to Splendor in the Grass at least 10 times and it’s never been a problem there before.

“But I think it reminds us that we live in a changing climate. That’s why we need to take climate action and reduce emissions as we want.

Training effects on health are also a concern

The AFA was initially created in response to safety concerns around drug use at festivals before expanding to become an industry advocate to communicate between stakeholders.
But these early considerations about drug use at music festivals are still linked to growing considerations about the climate.
Ms Robinson said a 2019 coroner’s inquest into the deaths of six music festival attendees who had taken drugs found hot weather – and even extreme heat – to be a common theme in the findings.

“Safety issues related to drug use seem quite remote from environmental issues, but the coroner’s inquest into the death found it was related to days of extreme heat,” she said.

“The splendor was a warning”

Sue Higginson, a former environmental public interest lawyer who is now a NSW Greens MP, said The flow the North Byron Parklands, where Splendor in the Grass stood, was already known to be a constrained site, meaning there are restrictions on how the area is used.

Ms Higginson, who lives in the Northern Rivers area, which was under water just months ago, said the site was known to be flood-prone land. She acted as a solicitor for conservationists who sought to push back against Splendor in the Grass’ request to host the site, and won in the Land and Environment Court before it was approved by the NSW government, she said.
“In a way, I think the events of the weekend and Splendor in the Grass were a wake-up call.”
She hopes future planning will be more thoughtful.
“The organizers need to be really serious and recognize that they knew the pitch was limited at the start… We’re all really lucky things didn’t get worse.”

Stream has reached out to Splendor in the Grass for comment.