Shepparton News

Just wait, Plenty to come


- By Max Stainkamph

When regional Victoria was plunged into lockdown number seven on August 22, and as case numbers began rising in Shepparton, Aidan McLaren reached for the phone.

The founder and director of The Hills Are Alive Group, the group behind Shepparton’s Land of Plenty and Goulburn Valley Country Music Festival, knew it was the final nail in the coffin for the two festivals’ dreams of October dates.

Less than a month down the track both festivals have new dates — and nearly all the acts, the venue, the crew, the hundreds of contractor­s, food trucks and vendors, security and workforce and everything else required to run two festivals back-to-back are ready to go on April 9 and 10 next year.

‘‘It’s been a really challengin­g time,’’ Mr McLaren said — potentiall­y one of the biggest understate­ments of the year from someone in the arts industry.

‘‘At the start of COVID, we made sure we had a backup plan for Land of Plenty which was scheduled for October 2020.’’

The company couldn’t make the backup plans work last year as Victoria’s lockdown restrictio­ns continued on to November, but Mr McLaren said now ‘‘we’ve been around the roundabout once’’ they had more contingenc­y plans in place.

‘‘We’re trying to not just have plan A and B, but also C and D,’’ he said.

‘‘We went to people and said ‘should the worst-case happen, this is what we’re thinking of doing’, but it’s hard to give two sets of dates to contract workers.

‘‘There’s a bit of work having two festivals over the one weekend. In theory, rescheduli­ng both of them should be impossible, with so many things in the air at the same time.

‘‘I’m impressed with how many acts were willing to come to the table and worked out other commitment­s to get to Shepparton.’’

At this stage just two acts from Land of Plenty and none from the GV Country Music Festival have been forced to reschedule, giving the festivals near-identical line-ups.

‘‘To be honest, reorganisi­ng both of them was quite easy — somehow,’’ Mr McLaren said. ‘‘I think it was just two acts across two whole line-ups who weren’t able to do it, and there are so many people you need to talk to, you can’t just send out a group email — it’s a relationsh­ips industry.’’

Working with a lot of the artists and people involved in the festival — especially for the GV Country Music Festival, which was due to hold its first iteration this year — made it easier to move the whole event.

Looking ahead, few festivals have been planned across the summer, with uncertaint­y over when the nation will reach 80 per cent vaccinatio­n rates and restrictio­ns are broadly loosened across the country.

That means Land of Plenty and the GV Country Music Festival could be two of the first festivals to return across the eastern states.

It’s a prospect Mr McLaren is excited by.

‘‘We’re really excited, we’d love to be the first festival back,’’ he said.

The Hills Are Alive is one of the best-placed groups to hold the first festival back, running one of the handful of festivals which have been run in Australia since the pandemic began — the Gippsland Country Music Festival in Leongatha.

‘‘The timing was really, really lucky,’’ Mr McLaren said.

‘‘We had a lot of requiremen­ts and compliance we had to fill out. It was understand­ably onerous but we worked with health department­s through the process.’’

As to how they’ll run the April festivals, McLaren said they’d fall in line with ‘‘whatever the health guidelines are at the time’’, whether that means attendees need to be vaccinated or there are social distancing guidelines.

‘‘We will be dictated to by the regulation­s, and there’s more informatio­n coming soon, obviously on Sunday [with the roadmap] as well but we think there’ll be more soon,’’ Mr McLaren said, speaking before Premier Daniel Andrews released his roadmap on Sunday.

‘‘Hopefully it’s a postCOVID world, but with the emergence of Delta it’s such a changing situation. We’re very confident we can go ahead in April, but we know the situation can change at a moment’s notice.’’

Mr McLaren said Shepparton had made them feel as welcome as possible, and all parties in the city had done everything they could to ensure the festival could continue.

‘‘Shepp’s been wonderful, we feel lucky to work with the people we work with here,’’ Mr McLaren said.

‘‘Right from the get-go the support’s been great. The venue’s been amazing, council’s been amazing. Everyone’s missed not just the live music but the act of gathering together.

‘‘It’s what artists love doing. For some of them it’ll be the first time they’ve performed in a very, very long time — maybe the longest since they started their careers. It could be really special.’’

Land of Plenty is scheduled for April 9, while the Goulburn Valley Country Music Festival will run on April 10, both at Shepparton Showground­s.

 ??  ?? Lots to offer: Aidan McLaren (front) with then Deputy Mayor Seema Abdullah and Shepparton Show Me chair Simon Quattrocch­i in 2019.
Lots to offer: Aidan McLaren (front) with then Deputy Mayor Seema Abdullah and Shepparton Show Me chair Simon Quattrocch­i in 2019.
 ?? Picture: Lauren Murphy ?? Having fun: Land of Plenty at Shepparton Showground­s in 2019.
Picture: Lauren Murphy Having fun: Land of Plenty at Shepparton Showground­s in 2019.

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