When our CEO Scarlett Habanero was invited to meet with the Townsville City Council in November 2021 about developing her idea for a chilli festival, she was welcomed with open arms by the Council Events Team.
Council Events Team director, Stacey Gibson, spoke of creating a “Destination Events” and working with our CEO to make this something great for the city, and the region. Introductions were made to Townsville Enteprise, and Scarlett was driven around to various potential festival sites run by Council.
“We’ll give you a $10000 marketing budget” they said. “We’ll make this a great event” they said.
Our CEO returned to Brisbane feeling excited and buoyed by the prospect of working with such a supportive and visionary Council.
Boy, was she wrong. All she ended up with, in essence, was a free patch of parkland with NO infrastructure to speak of, and about $5000+ worth of fees for services she didn’t really need or want. And these fees were not disclosed to very late in the game – March 2021 in fact – some 5 months after the initial meetings were held.
After 5 months of asking for the sponsorship agreement (and over 139 emails), which also included so-called sponsorship for the inaugural Townsville Uke Fest during Northern Fringe Festival month, all that eventuated was this: (with our comments in RED and important points in bold):
Council is pleased to offer you the following support:
- Chilliville (Event Organiser/ Manager) support:
- One day of venue fee waiver on Central Park on the 29th August, 2021;
- Assistance with developing/ completing risk management plan, emergency management plan, COVID plan, general WHS advice;
- The Event Organiser (Chilliville) must engage a TCC venue supervisor at your cost. This is to ensure compliance, assist Event Organiser/ Manager with any requirements at the venue, assist Event Organiser/ Manager with implementing and reviewing risk/ emergency management plans. This is a requirement for all major events in Council facilities, and feedback indicates that it is a very valuable addition for event organisers;
- All infrastructure will responsibility of Chilliville at your cost;
- Chilliville must not block the boardwalk during the operation of the event as per Council policy;
- All licences and approvals required are responsibility of Chilliville;
- Chilliville must have all insurances in place as per issued contract; and
- Proof of donation from RMHC must be provided post event.
- Ukulele Festival support:
- Site access for one day only at the discretion of the North Australian Festival of Arts (NAFA) on 18 July 2021; (no choice of date for me)
- Stage, audio, lighting as per previous setup of NAFA– no changes or adjustments permitted; (Note: This was the basic infrastructure we requested in October, 2020 as a condition of our bringing the festival to Townsville).
- Site fencing and amenities as per previous setup of NAFA – no changes or adjustments permitted;
- Technical operation of the stage to be conducted by NAFAs contractor at the Ukulele Festivals expense; (at the NFF Hub on the headland, NO SHADE COVER)
- Security Personnel to be from NAFAs contractor at the Ukulele Festivals expense;
- All operational staffing i.e. cleaning, COVID Marshalls are the responsibility of the Ukulele Festival;
- Any infrastructure outside festival setup as provided on site plan will be responsibility of the Ukulele Festival;
- All licences and approvals required are responsibility of Ukulele Festival;
- The Ukulele Festival must have all insurances in place as per issued contract; and
- Proof of donation from RMHC must be provided post event.
So, it’s plain to see that the said ‘promised” or “represented” support came to almost nothing in the end.
Yet, Council in its rebuttal to our article in the Townsville Bulletin came out with this “smoke and mirrors” approach with a blatant misrepresentation of the sort of support they were offering. NO FINANCIAL SUPPORT was ever offered.
We invite you to learn the TRUTH in our explainer video.
And what are these exorbitant fees we speak of? Take a look at this classic “jobs for the boys” scenario where all contractors are chosen by the TCC which, if it’s not already a bit dodgy, is made even more so by the exorbitant nature of the prices! $95 per hour on a Sunday for someone to swan around at an event for up to 14 hours. Security guards charged out at $111 when everyone knows the going rate is about $40 per hour. Which company gets this gig? What do the actual personnel earn per hour? Who pockets the balance?
Needless to say, our CEO is not pleased at having been led down the garden path by these representations of grand support, only to find that she would be footing bills over $10000 for two small events?
$29.6 million was set aside in the Townsville City Council budget for the delivery of arts, culture and events in the city, together with sponsorship.
Given that there have been few events since 1st July and we are nearing the end of the financial year, who received these funds? Was it “big sport”? There were no BIG festivals. This will be revealed in the annual report in due course.
If there was so much money available for delivery of events, why is it that our event could not attract even ONE CENT of financial support? Brisbane City Council and Logan City Council have repeatedly supported our events, even though we a “for-profit” business – although that term is used loosely.
The events industry has suffered significant losses, mass retrenchments and repeat cancellations and massive economic loss.
Our governments espouse supporting small businesses post-covid, yet here we have a classic example of failure to deliver at the most basic level, even a miniscule drop in the $29.6 million bucket. Our pleas to provide even $5000 cash funding fell on deaf ears.
And speaking of deaf ears, if you telephone the local Councillor within whose ward Chilliville was to take place, being Ann-Maree Greaney, Division 3, don’t expect the phone to be answered, or messages returned, or email issues addressed, let alone responded to. You might be lucky like Scarlett and receive a brief text message letting you know that she’s passed the buck on to someone at the Council! Wonderful work Ann-Maree Greaney.
We did manage to find a replacement venue for Chilliville – being the Townsville Showgrounds – and the support and enthusiasm we received from their team was most gratifying. However, there was already too much water under the bridge for our CEO, and she’s decided to take a well-earned break from the project.
When something you thought was going to be well-supported turns out to be just a huge financial impost, then sometimes it’s best to bow out gracefully and regroup.