Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest 2020 – The Show Must Go On!

Story by Tracey Hammell

Jimmy Budgen, Festival Director, Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest.

Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest is the first music festival to be successfully awarded the COVID Clean Practicing Business Program certification and given the green light to go ahead this September, paving the way for other festivals to follow! 

With all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, you may well be wondering how this magically came about. Well, I decided to pen this article because I felt it was important to let people in on what has gone into this, as I know Festival Director Jimmy Budgen is too humble a man to do it!

It all started when Jimmy phoned me in the midst of the lockdown and said, “What do you know about compliance?” I explained the type of work I’d done in my corporate roles. Jimmy said, “Great, we need a strategy to comply with government so the Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest can go ahead. I’m putting a team together. Are you in?” And so, I joined Jimmy’s team to roll up our sleeves to ensure the show could go on, and bring live music back to the people!

When Australia was first touched by COVID-19 it had the precedents from overseas countries to watch and learn from. Yet when Australia and New Zealand became two of the first countries to flatten the curve, there were no precedents to follow to climb back out again. And so, our government has been pioneering new territory. The priority was given to essential services and a move to get people working again. Some industries were told they would just need to wait for further instructions as the roadmaps were being constantly updated as decisions unfolded.

Guidelines to help music festivals to go ahead, with thousands of people interacting safely, hadn’t even made it as far as the drawing board on the government’s agenda … “How do we manage volumes of people at large scale events? We are asking industry to help come up with ideas on how we can put controls in place and allow these types of events to happen”, was one such response from Queensland Health at a meeting between government and industry.

And so, Jimmy Budgen took up the challenge. Weeks later, after wading through government documents, websites, webinars, meetings, commercial and social media opinions, we had ourselves a strategy and an initial proposal, along with the cooperation of contractors, sub-contractors, and stallholders, who also collaborated with us on ideas to make their own operations COVID-Safe at the festival. Encouraged by the response we received from Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC), and Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), the Mitchell Creek team set to work producing a risk assessment and mitigation plan, hygiene and physical distancing protocols, increased facilities, reams of workplace health and safety procedures, job safety analyses, updated roles and responsibilities for those working at the festival, and an accompanying business plan that we could lodge with QTIC and ATIC for their consideration, endorsement and support. Every possible concern and alternative was reviewed and covered, including setting up a first aid station operated by fully qualified paramedics ready to assist anyone who becomes unwell for any reason.

Plenty of space in the great outdoors at Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Bluesfest!

It was our aim that Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest become a pilot program that the government could use to base a new set of guidelines for running large events and festivals in the wake of COVID-19. This could set the much-needed precedent to also help other festivals move forward. And that’s exactly what’s happened! QTIC has taken the Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest proposal forward to Griffith University as input to structuring a broader business planning solution for events, in conjunction with Queensland Health and other government agencies.

On top of all the planning, activities and stresses that come with putting on the festival in a normal year, the grit and determination to keep going without even knowing if the festival would be able to go ahead is a credit to Jimmy Budgen. I can tell you he was a picture of resilience and never lost faith for a moment. Throughout the time the team worked together on this project, Jimmy always had a joke and a smile at the ready, even when I knew it was all ticking over in his mind. We took time out to go gold fossicking in the hills, pick veges in the Mitchell Creek market garden, cook up some good tucker, share some home-made cumquat liqueurs, write songs and jam by the creek late into the night, and brainstorm endlessly to come up with a bucketful of ideas to answer that old chestnut, “What if?, and then writing them up in a manner acceptable to the government.

Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest has now proudly been able to announce that the show will indeed go on! While patrons will be requested to comply with the new conditions of entry, including some pre-screening measures and observe physical distancing at the festival itself, the overwhelming response has seen a surge in ticket sales that could in fact make it the biggest and most popular year in the festival’s history!

Ticket numbers have been capped, so if you intend coming along, don’t dilly dally and get your tickets now!

Seeya there!!!

First Artist Announcement! More to come!