Failed Festival of Foam and Light leaves small businesses out of pocket

Vendors who put down deposits to be involved in failed Festival of Foam and Light are questioning whether they will ever see a refund.

The Wollongong festival was billed as “a festival like no other” by organiser Jagat Deniau, who marketed the event to suppliers as attracting up to 20,000 people.

But the festival planned for Bulli Showgrounds never happened, leaving many small businesses out of pocket.

The Black Gate Distillery in Mendooran paid $1999 to be part of the event.

“It was a bloody expensive fee, much more expensive than other ones we’ve paid before, but it seemed legitimate because she said there were going to be 20,000 people there,” distillery owner Brian Hollingworth told the Illawarra Mercury. “We’d been to an event in Bathurst that attracted over 10,000, so it didn’t seem a stretch to think there could be that many people in Wollongong.

“We’ve done a fair few festivals, and they’ve been quite successful, because in a few hours we can pull in a lot of money.”

But he wasn’t told that the council had only given approval for 700 attendees as a non-alcohol event.

“When I found that out, I was just amazed,” Hollingworth said. “My heart sank, and that was when I knew we weren’t going to see a cent of our money and this wasn’t going to happen.”

He later found out that Fossey’s Gin in Mildura had also been sold the bar for $700. He has since approached police and filed action through the small claims court.

Other businesses left out of pocket include Caringbah couple Shaun Albiston and Georgan Edwards who paid $1500 to have exclusive control of coffee sales on the day, Canberra Vietnamese street food vendor Cheryl Nguyen who paid $250, Minnamurra General Store owner Elyse Fanner who is owned $300 for a cake stall, and Batemans Bay pizza van operators Riccardo and Kate Patrizi who paid a $665 stall fee.

Illawarra MP Ryan Park is calling on the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner to conduct an “urgent investigation” into the event and its organiser.

“I don’t want to see another community hoodwinked like this,” he said.

“This is not what we want to see here in the Illawarra given we have become a really significant market for major events and festivals across Australia.”

Deniau has emailed a few suppliers calling on them to wait a little longer.

“I would have vanished by now if I did not want to give the money back to you,” she wrote to one vendor.

“I will arrange for your payment ASAP so you have it in your bank account very soon.”