On a long weekend when there are so many high-profile events and so much to do across the region, it is worth reflecting on why so much effort and money goes into staging and promoting them and how we can work together to improve and sustain them.
It is a no-brainer that events are good for locals and visitors, that they draw investment and interest to the region. But the recent decision to axe the long-running Fun4Kids shows the need for long-term planning, evaluation and flexibility.
The demise of Fun4Kids and the staging of this weekend’s 42nd Port Fairy Folk Festival highlights the differences between community-run and owned events as opposed to those provided by local and state governments.
That the Folkie goes from strength to strength is testimony to the untiring effort and passion from the Port Fairy community and the unusual mix of paid tickets to attend a music festival and the free-for-families nature of the wider, out of venue events.
As Folkie program director Caroline Moore told the The Standard this week: “Every regional town in Australia would kill to have what we have right here in Port Fairy.” While comparing the Folkie to Fun4Kids is like comparing apples to bananas, it gives rise to thought that more should be done to synchronise events across the region so they support rather than cannibalise one another.
It is time for a regional events strategy. A strategy that looks carefully at when and which events should be staged and what are the target audiences. A strategy that involves collaboration between the Warrnambool, Moyne and Corangamite councils, community and sporting organisations and the state government.
The city council is to be congratulated for taking its new events strategy to the people for input and inspiration. One of its aims is to “provide a seasonal events calendar to ensure a spread of season, location, function and activation while maintaining amenity and sustainability”.
This does not go far enough.
The strategy should aim to help lead and assemble a regional events approach to ensure that events work together instead of separately and are therefore sustainable.
The council’s draft strategy says it will “promote Warrnambool as a highly desirable place to live, work, visit and play”. Scratch that. Try: “Promote the region as a highly desirable place to live, work, visit and play”.