Illawarra Folk Festival organisers look for clarity over venue

The organisers of the Illawarra Folk Festival in NSW are calling on the local council to clarify and streamline the conditions under which it is allowed to use Bulli Showground.

The festival’s 15th instalment ran at Bulli Showground drawing more than 10,000 attendees.

However, the Illawarra Folk Club’s festival site manager Rod Cork said it could potentially be the last at that venue.

A series of issues with Wollongong City Council making late changes to the conditions for using the site had put huge pressure on the volunteer committee that runs the festival, according to Cork.

“We had a huge struggle to make the site compliant with council making so many changes late in the process, despite the fact that we already had a valid development application to run the festival and had completed all our documentation well in advance of council’s deadline,” Cork told the Illawara Mercury.

“We had no problem with 90 per cent of the changes we were asked to make, but they put a lot of pressure and expense on us at the last minute.”

The organisers have called on the council to license Bulli Showground as a “place of public entertainment”. This would provide a standard Site Licence document that would set out conditions of use well in advance of next year’s festival.

“Places like Stuart Park have a single site licence that makes it very clear what is needed when organisations hire it for a music festival, and we would like council to do the same for Bulli Showground,” Cork said.

“The problem with the current arrangement is that late changes make it very hard to plan what equipment we need to hire for the festival, and work out ticket prices that allow us to cover our costs.”

A Bulli Showground Precinct Master Plan is in the early stages of being established by the council.

“The fact that Bulli Showground has ageing buildings and infrastructure, and is not a purpose-built events venue, contributes to the complexity of the rules and regulations event organisers are required to meet for a safe event,” a council spokesperson said.