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The Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre is a spectacular, permanent site, set up specifically for both Meredith Music Festival in December and Golden Plains Festival in March. It has been purpose-built and continually refined over 35 festivals since 1991 to provide a premium experience for performer and patron alike. We have run 35 festivals at the venue in 25 years.
The Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre is a primary part of the festival’s appeal and enduring popularity, everything about the experience of the site and the story of the place is part of our promise. Most of our guests are custodians of the festivals and behave with a deep and abiding love for the land and respect our No Dickhead Policy. In almost all circumstances if the festival couldn’t happen at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre it wouldn’t happen in that year.
Safety informs every part of every aspect of our planning for the festival experience; here are some extracts from our plan.
All on-site and off-site environmental and atmospheric (weather) conditions influence our decisions including how we prepare the site and surrounds as well as how we communicate. If atmospheric conditions swing one way or another, a series of measures are implemented accordingly. This can include encouraging guests to pack plenty of spare clothes and blankets for cooler overnight conditions, weights for their tents when stronger wind is forecast or suggesting arrival and departure times to avoid extreme weather conditions like heavy rain and heat, and working with emergency services to activate various aspects of our safety management plan as required.
We work with a dedicated team from local and state-wide Police, Fire, Ambulance as well as the Golden Plains Shire and independent risk and safety management professionals to continually strengthen our safety management plan to reflect current best practice. Every critical safety decision, including our fire prevention and response plan, is made collaboratively with this team who are very supportive of the festival. During non-emergency times the team formally liaise every four hours, and during major emergencies the team would work side-by-side as the on-site Emergency Control Organisation taking direction from the Municipal Emergency Response Organisation. Over 37 managers are activated to implement their pre-determined function across one of three priorities: 1) public information, 2) planning, intelligence, investigation and 3) operations/logistics. Each of the three priorities has a dedicated coordinator with tabard vests for easy identification. There is approximately 1 worker for every 6 patrons on site.
The site is divided into 12 public areas with a team of 24 hour roving Helpers in each area and a dedicated Area Coordinator staffing a permanent campground hut with direct access to festival operations via a private digital two way radio network. This best practice industry model for outdoor festivals is based on the building industry, where it is advised each level of a building has a dedicated floor warden who is responsible to ensure each floor has been evacuated during a fire assembly, or other emergency requiring assembly.
Each hut is also equipped with first responder gear including first aid kits, megaphones, fire extinguishers, fire blankets and a lanyard with 12 pre-scripted incident/emergency announcements. Each area has a team of roving Helpers who take direction from the Area Coordinator. Guests in the campgrounds are kept informed via these 24 hour permanent campground teams and via the stage sound system in the Amphitheatre.
The night before each festival the production and safety team rehearse the show stop procedure and each day, 30 minutes before the stage starts, there is a daily stage announcement familiarising guests with the siren sound played before important major incident and emergency messages. Aunty Meredith also tweets and emails important announcements during the festival for guests who have mobile coverage through Telstra’s portable tower network.
The forecasting and situational assessments made by the multi-agency team determine the specific appropriate response required which may include activating various safety management procedures including communication plans, crowd management, pedestrian and traffic management, first fire attack and assembly areas. As is the case for many large outdoor venues like the MCG, a ‘shelter in place’ plan has been included because a full site evacuation may not be advised in every scenario. This could be due to incidents like heavy smoke in the region or a nearby car accident blocking easy egress onto clear road networks.
The venue has two permanent assembly areas. The primary assembly area is located in the Amphitheatre with the use of the stage sound system for announcements, on-site first aid, on-site Police, shade tents and food courts, toilets, showers and drinking water tanks on either side. We have a dedicated first response fire team on site 24 hours who operate the permanent equipment including the venue fire truck, slip on and quick response quad bike units. There are 100,000L water tanks on-site for appliance refill if necessary. A colour coded sprinkler system to protect the amphitheatre can be operational within 12 minutes.
If for any reason the primary assembly area is not safe, guests are directed to the secondary assembly area (outside the festival boundary). The secondary assembly area is South-East of the Amphitheatre and accessed by following the red colour coded pedestrian path. The assembly area is set up with necessary resources including pallets of drinking water, portable sound systems, generators, lighting towers, toilets, signage, first aid, communication and catering equipment. 10 days prior to the festivals the safety team meet with the CFA to determine if the forecast and site condition warrants the activation of a third assembly area located either East or South-West of the Amphitheatre, depending on the situational assessment.
The venue has a helipad and air strip and secondary access/egress points for emergency service vehicles. There are fire tracks around the venue used by the first response fire team to monitor throughout the festival weekends.
Importantly, the site has always been a total fire ban day and night, no matter what the weather. Gas bottles, flares, cooking equipment are among banned items.
Meredith has had the benefit of starting small; from 200 people in 1991, it grew slowly and steadily over the following fifteen years to a size that it has stayed at for the last ten years, allowing us to refine and improve our practices without the added pressure of increased numbers. Golden Plains Festival is smaller than Meredith by 3000 people. This slow growth meant that the management team experienced and learnt from many and varied forms of extreme weather as well as countless other challenges in that time, all of which have helped inform and build our safety management plan and the continued management of the festival.
We are under no illusion as to the scale of Mother Nature, and all that she entails, and we accept that part of our duty as custodians of these festivals is eternal vigilance. As such, the safety of the patrons and community is always priority one.
All campgrounds are close to toilets, drinking water, security and helpers.
If a campsite is playing loud music near you feel free to quietly let your local Helper Hut know in person or call/text them 0430 091 120.