Halloween is approaching and if the idea of children knocking on your door all night or wearing a costume doesn’t take your fancy then ThisThat Festival in Newcastle may be your perfect alternate. Newcastle lost Phat As Butter its annual music festival a few years ago and since then there has been a hole in the souls of Newcastle punters, but with the announcement of the new ThisThat which is to take place on the Newcastle foreshore at the end of the month hearts exploded knowing that festivals were returning to Newcastle. Brett Lean the Director behind ThisThat took some time out from his busy schedule in the lead up to the event to talk shop about the Festival and how it came to be.

Newcastle lost it’s last festival Phat As Butter a few years ago due to some unfortunate line up complications and less than stellar ticket sales. Why Newcastle, why now?

Newcastle has always been a stronghold for live music and combined with a large population it will invariably be able to support large scale music events ,as long as the events are relevant and delivering to the tastes of the public. It’s a constant so may as well dive in now!

The last few years have seen Newcastle get a lot more attention from Artists and Boutique Festivals. What’s changed in the past few years to make Newcastle a market area for live music?

I think it’s always been a place where promoters look to schedule shows and festivals due to the reasons given above .I don’t think the love of live music has ever really diminished,it’s more about the changing music and culturally trends and what audiences are getting into as times change.

Where did the concept of THISTHAT come from?

It came naturally as a response to the evolution of what people are into by way of a total lifestyle experience. We wanted to create an event that provided more than just a focus on the artist line up and make it more of an overall experience with a lot of focus on the delivery of quality food and drink options,performing arts,,and an environment that created an exciting yet relaxed atmosphere.
The foreshore is an amazing site what made you decide on it as the location for THISTHAT?

It was a no brainer – beautiful greenspace between the harbour and the beach.An awesome canvas where we can really create a fantastic atmosphere.

There’s a great mixture of cemented local acts as well as emerging artists on the line up. What were you looking for when curating the line up?

We really wanted to put together a line up that complimented the overall concept of the event – all things working together. While it’s important to have great acts that can draw a crowd,that also needs to be measured against what acts will best suit the overall atmosphere and ‘feel’ you’re aiming to create.We believe we found the right balance between commercial / electronic / hip hop / indie and DJ’s.
While there’s obviously a broad range of genres on display,the trick was to find a common link throughout that delivered that feel we were after.

It’s is an all Australian line up. Would you agree in saying that Aussie Musos are really blowing up right now?

We have one international guest in Baauer,who we were wrapped to secure,but everyone else is homegrown. The amount and level of local talent at the moment is unbelievable and there were so many great acts that we couldn’t find room for. It’s great for our industry and I can only see it continuing to grow.

How do you stay away from cliche’s with music festivals and try and make a unique event?

A lot of brainstorming.You have to try and uncover original ideas and then actually make them happen and it’s not easy as more events pop up. We spent 18 months full time developing ideas,concepts etc ,and then you have to deliver the appropriate line up and work all that into artwork and marketing, and define your message so it hits the target.

Newcastle is a somewhat smaller scale community than our larger cities, how is THISTHAT working with the community for the festival?

Firstly on the larger scale of things we’ve been working closely with major stakeholders for over a year,to get their imput and support.This includes Council,Police,Emergency Services,transport departments,roads and Traffic departments ,Licensing etc. We obviously have to go through many application and approval processes with all of them. Without their co operation and support events of this size just aren’t possible.
On a more ‘street’ level we’ve tried to include local businesses that could be included in the event proper,such as food and beverage suppliers,infrastructure suppliers,production suppliers,staff and crew.
We do a work placement program for TAFE students etc giving them real world experience. We also have various charities that we like to support.
We’re very focused on delivering benefits to the local community,and also the benefits they bring to the event.

Are there plans to make this a reoccurring festival?

Absolutely – we aim to keep coming back for as long as people like what we’re doing and continue to support the event.

We’ve seen so many great festival close down over the past few years, how do you ensure the longevity of a festival today?

There are absolutely no guarantees in this business.It’s the people’s support that ultimately decides whether you have longevity or not. The only thing you can do is to keep finding ways to excite an audience with the event you’ve created.You have to continually be thinking of ways to improve the experience and deliver what you said you would.

With such a large and overwhelming response since the initial festival announcement is it safe to say that you think you’ve created a festival that is the best it can be in it’s debut year?

Well,so far! The delivery of the concept through our marketing has been spot on and we’ve been able to communicate what we’re about very well.The big thing now is to deliver what’ we’ve said we would and where possible exceed the audiences expectations. So we’ve still got a big job ahead of us.It’s all well and good talking a good game but we’ve still got to deliver it. It’s exciting and we’re well and truly up for it!

If this year goes well and we’re all betting it will of course, down the track could you seen smaller boutique festivals or smaller scale festivals popping up in Newcastle?

For sure. Newcastle is an awesome place this sort of thing and can definitely handle a varied array of all sorts of events and festivals. With THIS THAT selling out in it’s first year there’s obviously a genuine appetite for music and culturally based events. Who knows – we might even have something else up our sleeve???

What do you want punters to take away from the THISTHAT experience?

We hope that the overall concept and delivery of all the elements mentioned combine to create the best experience possible. Simply put – great live music +great food +great drinks + mates = best day ever.

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