Splendour in the Grass was a muddy trudge for most festival goers this weekend with logistical issues and chaotic weather well-documented on social media. Many punters tried to embrace the discomfort and enjoy the music, but for local Northern Rivers residents who suffered through multiple major floods in the last six months, seeing the festival conditions this weekend was upsetting.
“It brings up a lot of emotion,” 20-year-old festival goer from Lismore Zoe told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“People that are locals, seeing what happened on Facebook and TikTok and seeing the tents underwater and the water lapping at your doorstep is kind of a reincarnation of what happened in February.”
The first day of the festival was cancelled one hour after the first acts were due on the main stages. The decision came after cars queued in the rain for up to 17 hours to get into a flooded campground before many were diverted when it was clear it was no longer suitable. Those who did get in woke on Friday to knee-high water in some areas. Puddles and mud remained throughout the weekend.
Zoe was studying in Melbourne during this year’s floods but said her grandmother, who’d lived in her Lismore house for 55 years, lost everything and was distressed by images of the flooded campground on the news.
“It’s just a lot for what we’ve already seen,” Zoe said.
“[On Friday] there was rain all over the Northern Rivers but people weren’t thinking about Splendour, they were thinking about the sound of the rain on their roof.
“The mud you’re walking on is the mud that was in our houses.”
Clothing label owner Joe Palmer described the Northern Rivers region as “the sickest place ever”, but said recent weather had been a “nightmare”. Palmer runs his business, called Palmah, in Byron Bay and hosted a stall at Splendour.
“We’ve been in mud for like six months so it’s pretty depressing after a while,” Palmer told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“The general morale of the area and region [is low], everyone’s trying to push through but to have this on top of COVID is pretty rough. Seeing it again is pretty tough.”
He had been holding out for the ill-fated festival after two years without tourists and said the weather had made a dent in sales.
“I know [business] would’ve been a lot better if it weren’t for the rain,” he said.
“Having constant market cancellations, no festivals going ahead and then having massive logistical issues with the floods in terms of getting stock in and out … it’s been pretty brutal.”
Phil Hargreaves has run his food truck and business Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts since 1999 and is a regular Splendour vendor. This year he said poor preparation for the forecast rain as well as the last-minute cancellation of day one meant the weekend was a “struggle”.
“We thought it would be great, of course, everyone’s been looking forward to it but it’s a bit disappointing. We all lost money,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV on the final day of the festival.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking but you’ve just got to keep going. We’re trying our best.”
@pedestriantv Splendour 2022 is off your a soggy start, here’s what it was like on the ground before the main stages were cancelled on day one. #splendourinthegrass #byronbay #ptv #musicfestival ♬ original sound – PEDESTRIAN.TV
Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital spokeswoman Larissa Schipanski also ran a stall on site to raise funds and awareness for animals displaced, injured or starving due to the floods and said most punters didn’t realise the toll the rain had on the local environment, including the typically lush festival site.
“Seeing [the rain] on Friday here was quite devastating. It is quite triggering, you just feel for everybody but we know what to expect now when there is a big downpour so just take it as it comes.”
While most people PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke to on site seemed to be in good spirits, Zoe said this year’s festival was a world away from Splendours past and the decision to push ahead despite the forecast may have tarnished its local reputation.
“I grew up in a small town and I come to Splendour and feel like the world’s my oyster, ” she said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a local who’s ever dissed Splendour. I think this year, maybe.”