A Frog In A Sock

Last weekend saw the launch of Fest la Frog, a sustainable music and arts festival in Melbourne, that according to the organisers went off like ‘a frog in a sock’. The festival had quite the journey even before party time, relocating from French Island to CERES Nature park, but as happens with all good things, everything fell into place! The feeling on the ground on the day was just that; good. Good people, good food, good times! People were in high spirits (with or without the help of resident Good Brew sustainable beer and sparkling wine), and fresh organic vege food flowed from the Vegelicious stand into our bellies (hello tofu stirfy, I miss you). The festival was run entirely on renewable energy, most attendees came by public transport or on pushies and amazingly there was less than one wheelie bin of waste generated! The band line up was intense – with a main stage and a cabaret stage and everyone from the mellow Sun Hyland, the exciting Bike Burlesque, DJs from 12 Legged Beast and dance inducing Rapskallion and the Red Eyes.

Post-fest, we caught up with Alexis Marsh who was one of the main organisers of the event (together with The Good Brew’s Deano O Callaghan) to see what she’d learnt on the day.

How are you feeling post Fest La Frog?
It is definitely a cross between elated and exhausted. We’ve all been working non stop to pull this CERES party together and for it to be such a success is so rewarding; it really tells us that we’re on the right track. Even two weeks before Fest la Frog I remember thinking that I completely understand why some people don’t set out to achieve their goals for fear of failure. It took quite a bit of self control to keep my imagination in check and avoid running through the negative “what if” list that scares even the most experienced of festival managers. With tickets on the gate and an untested formula anything can happen!

Despite it being the wettest day in two months I could not get the smile off my face during the festival as I saw everyone rocking out in the rain – what a truly awesome crowd! And thanks to our zero waste policy and the hard working frog crew, the pack up was surprisingly painless – there was less than one wheelie bin’s worth of rubbish from the whole event! CERES are delighted with the respect that was shown to their beloved park and we know we attracted our exact target audience as there was barely even a cigarette butt to be found on the ground.

What were you and Deano trying to achieve with Fest La Frog and why was that important?
We wanted to show not just eco minded crew but also mainstream Australia that we can all party very very hard with a very very small carbon footprint. The age of decadent, massive waste-creating festivals is over and everyone at our event yesterday felt that. We had a fantastic audience of over 650 people who hopefully all took away the knowledge that there is a better way. We can all make a massive difference in reducing our carbon footprint. Our zero waste systems can be applied to weddings, working bees and even office parties. It’s time for big festival operators to step up to the challenge now… we’re always available to help any way we can.

Were there any unexpected challenges/opportunities?
Unexpected challenges are the only certainty in event management and Fest la Frog was not without its fair share. Moving festival location, format and size three weeks out was of course a major challenge but the planets aligned and everything miraculously came together. At 10.35am on Saturday morning (25 mins before gates opened), I was running around thinking “Oh crap, we’re not going to be ready!” when all of a sudden the team were in their positions, the first band began and there was 100 people sitting on the lawn enjoying the music! From that moment on things didn’t stop and by midday we had over 200 attendees whose number quickly rose to over 600 throughout the day.

The second stage was also a recent development and it was great to work with that crew who despite numerous onsite challenges, managed to provide a great cabaret stage and keep their audience somewhat dry and thoroughly entertained. The awe-inspiring talent of the musicians on both stages absolutely blew us away. We are so lucky here in Melbourne to be surrounded by such creativity and passion. To be able to provide a space for these artists to showcase their music was the highlight for me.

What’s the main lesson you learnt this year?
Hah!….do you have 10 hours? The first time doing anything is always going to be a brutally steep learning curve so the lessons I have learnt are countless and varied. If I had to pick one out I would say it would be to bring more change! Half the day was spent rushing $2 coins from the entry gate, to the main bar, to the merch tent and back again – rookie mistake!

What’s the plan for next year?
Great question! As you know Fest la Frog was the inaugural event of not-for-profit organisation BareFootPrints Inc. Basically we plan on taking some time to re-evaluate what we want to do, and the best way to do that. We still have a very close relationship with French Island and its inhabitants and we would like to hold an event on their stunning Island at some point, however CERES is such a magical location that is so in line with our ethos so we would be honoured to work with them again too. Perhaps two parties are in order? One urban frog fest and a rural ribbet to go please!