Council blamed as iconic festival ditches Gold Coast
IN a major blow for the live entertainment on the Gold Coast, Buskers by the Creek is setting sail and heading north.
The Gold Coast’s loss is the Sunshine Coast’s gain with the annual event relocating to Lake Kawana after festival director Cindy Jensen was offered a deal “too good to refuse”.
Established in 2014, Buskers was held on the banks of Currumbin Creek, attracting some of the country’s best busking acts and a growing number of overseas artists.
Last year, the festival featured more than 300 performers and attracted around 20,000 people.
However the enticement of being able to grow the festival on an international level thanks to the enthusiastic support of the Sunshine Coast Council coupled with frustration over the Gold Coast City Council’s “attitude” towards the event prompted Ms Jensen to pick up her busking hat and relocate.
“Since we started in 2014, Buskers was always designed to be a free community event and over the years, we have seen the crowds and profile of the festival grow considerably,” Ms Jensen said.
“However as the festival as grown, so too have the costs and last year staging Buskers By The Creek costs exceeded $250,000.
“The Gold Coast City Council put $40,000 towards it, the same amount they had given the previous year, and while we gained a lot of ‘in kind’ support for various services and some sponsorship along with help from volunteers, it just proved too much of a financial burden.
“Sadly I made the decision that I couldn’t continue and decided last October that was it for Buskers.”
The word that the popular festival was no more quickly spread and Nightquarter owners Michelle Christoe and Ian Van der Woude, who had relocated their Helensvale operation to Birtinya on the Sunshine Coast, were quickly in touch with Ms Jensen and organised a meeting with the local council.
“Within a month, I was sitting down with the Sunshine Coast Council’s major events team and they told ‘yes we need to bring this here’,” Ms Jensen said.
“Not only was I blown away by their enthusiasm for the event, their professionalism and foresight for the future of the event was overwhelming.
“We haven’t even held one festival there yet and already they have it listed as one of their significant events in their cultural portfolio.
“Their team wanted to know what we needed in terms of infrastructure support and promotions – I was blown away with their approach.
“It’s a stark contrast to the response I received from Gold Coast council.
“I had made numerous attempts to meet with them prior to the announcement that I was closing it down and even after I had said I wasn’t doing Buskers anymore, there seemed to be a complete lack of appreciation about the significance of the festival.
“This isn’t a small weekend event, it is run professionally, so much so that in 2015 we won the Best New Event in Queensland and also Event of the year for Live Music, we were finalists in 2016-17 for Best Live Music Event in Queensland and in 2018 was a finalist for the Best Event in Australia, going up against the Commonwealth Games.
“We had an economic impact study done by Professor Mark Spence from Bond University on what the festival generated for the Gold Coast in 2019 and he came back with figures of more than $6 million.
“From an artist’s perspective, Buskers has been a great stepping stone for many and from last year’s event there was a flow-on of about $150,000 worth of paid gigs for the performances after appearing at the festival.
“I am frustrated by the lack of communication I have had with the Gold Coast council - I did get a message from local Palm Beach councillor Daphne McDonald saying she was sorry to see us go but that’s it.”
Now Ms Jensen is looking forward to the inaugural Sunshine Coast event which will be held over three nights and two days from October 30 to November 1 on the shores of Lake Kawana, just north of Caloundra.
“I have already received many messages of support from Busker regulars saying they have booked accommodation for the event and can’t wait – even though they will have to travel – but I think a lot of people will be planning to make a weekend of it,” she said.
“And since applications to appear at the festival have opened, I have already received more than 112 from various artists in Australia as well as some from overseas.
“It’s the ability of the festival to be a vehicle to attract a growing numbers of overseas artists and promote the Sunshine Coast which has me excited.
“It is sad to leave to the Gold Coast but in the busking business, you have to go where the crowds and the money are.”
A City of Gold Coast spokesperson said the City of Gold Coast has been a supporter of Buskers by the Creek for many years.
“The City’s commitment to the event has been unwavering, with a contract still in place for the 2020 event,” the spokesperson said.
“The City has an appetite for major events and this is demonstrated by the formation of the new entity Major Events Gold Coast. This entity will be responsible for growing the Gold Coast’s major events calendar and the distribution of economic benefits throughout the city.”