Dear SOTA,

You know we love you. We’ve been to our fair share of music festivals, and we make sure you’re in our calendar. We wouldn’t miss you for the world.

No other institution in WA seems as interested or as motivated to year after year fulfil Perth’s cultural appetite. Without exception, your curating is immaculate, despite often battling stormy weather you deliver the best in arts, entertainment, and catering for audiences that vary wildly in age and composition. 2018 was no exception, bringing attention to the local genius of Carla Geneve and Stella Donnelly, while conversely giving substantial time to performances from established acts like Birds of Tokyo and San Cisco in what feels like a moment just for WA. Musically, this is a festival that cares deeply about our state, and it should be celebrated in kind.

Because SotA is about celebration. It’s a celebration of local food, music and culture. And you say that on your website! You say your vision is,

“To engage Western Australians in celebratory activities that promote and recognise Western Australian excellence in our people, lifestyle, culture and potential.”

But SOTA, if your aim is to engage all West Australians in a celebration, why did you make it so inaccessible to the very people who want to celebrate with you?

From the vantage point of the mixing desk, railing and barricades were not equipped for the capacity in the slightest; at times, security seemed either flustered or confused as to the procedure for removing patrons from the standing area, whilst patrons themselves complained of feeling either trapped or hemmed in. Eventually, when the railing began to bow backwards, and patrons began freely walking through restricted areas, improvisation occurred in the form of security guards physically holding the railing in place. One couldn’t help but feel however that the solution came far too late, as patrons began to self regulate by leaving the warm, dry canopied areas for the cool, drizzly terrain outside.

We’re telling you this because we love you.

With everyone’s interests in mind, media passes need to be better regulated, particularly when there are a large number of newbie photographers. People need to know what they can and can’t do. Keeping with the theme of everybody’s interests, advertising an event as all ages event when your design plan makes it difficult for U18 patrons to enjoy said event is unfair. It’s incredible to see that you’ve created a festival where so many young people want to come down to celebrate what we have as a state. There was almost no room in the tiny section they were given in the audience and the restrictions on where they were allowed made it difficult for people to find their way on the grounds.  Granted the weather made it difficult organisation wise, but you should have planned for this. You need to look no further than the comments in the discussion of the Facebook event to know how many people were disappointed.  

When we reached out to you with our concerns, you told us,

Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your concerns with us. We appreciate your feedback and are pleased hear that your SOTA Festival experience was positive for the most part.

Patron safety was our number one priority at SOTA Festival 2018. With this in mind, we designated an all ages area within 10 metres of the stage to ensure everyone had a great view, without being exposed to the often cramped and quite vigorous front of stage area unaccompanied. When the rainfall started, patrons who’d been outside sought shelter, channelling into the undercover area. This was expected and flexible CBB fencing was in place ahead of time to manage this influx. This was the fencing you noticed bowing: it is a flexible, moveable barrier designed to minimise the potential for crowd rush, complying with Australia’s mandatory safety standards.

No individual’s safety was at risk at any time, and no major incidents occurred on site at SOTA Festival 2018. To reiterate, safety will always be our number one priority.

Now might be a good time to mention I saw a group of kids playing UNO in the moshpit. It was kind of iconic, but unclear if it was safe.

State of the Art is a moment for Perth not to feel like the backwards, stubborn, conservative city we are often billed as, and celebrate our increasingly artistic, inclusive culture. No matter how fantastic the line up was, no matter how much it felt like this festival was exclusive to Western Australia, untouched not just by the rest of the world but by the rest of the country, it didn’t make up for what felt like a lack of organisation. It’s not unreasonable to expect institutions claiming to care about culture do the basic admin that comes with coordinating the likes of  Spacey Jane, Sydnee Carter, San Cisco, Carla Geneve, Stella Donnelly and Southern River Band.  

We hope next year will be better.

Love,

Sophie Minissale and Jordan Murray

Music Co-Editors

Photo credit: Sophie Minissale