The flood & the fallout: One-on-one with Playground Weekender

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At the tail-end of every summer since 2007, I’ve joined the convoy headed to Del Rio Resort for Playground Weekender. There are many indelible memories from those five Weekenders: Laurent Garnier closing out the first one, Steve Bug under the stars at the Drunken Duck, Orbital’s legendary live show, all the afternoon sets in the scorching sun…and, of course, that rare Playground ‘vibe’.

The events of 2012, however, won't be going in the festival’s highlights reel. Two days out from the party, the NSW State Emergency Services and Police forced a cancellation at risk of “major flooding”. As Playground Weekender wrote in a statement last week, all the artists were in town and the site was ready to go. In the weeks since, promoter Andy Rigby has made no secret of the company’s dire situation. In short, the festival was “not covered for natural disasters” and the money doesn’t exist to refund all ticket-buyers. The response sent to those who booked a cabin on-site is similarly uncertain: “Playground Weekender is in financial difficulties and we are trying to recoup as much of the cash we had spent on the event to prevent Playground Festivals Pty Ltd from going in to administration.”

Several questions are now being asked of Playground Weekender, the most persistent being: why was the festival not insured for natural disasters? Following his statement that there’s unlikely to be a “positive end” to the flood fallout, I spoke to Rigby about what’s next.

Where did the last-minute cancellation leave stall owners and cabin holders?
The problem is at the moment is that we’ve paid out for the festival to happen. 36 hours before the event is the most critical, no turning back period for the festival. We’d paid for all the production, we’d paid for the artists, they were all here. The company itself is in a really tough position. It doesn’t have the resources just to return the money to everyone, which is the position we’ve been faced with. This year’s festival was probably going to be okay. We’d shrunk it down from a structural perspective, brought the cost down, and just scaled back to be safe in a tough festival environment. And then this happened.

We’re not interested at this time in saving the festival for 2013. We’re just trying to get the best possible result back for the punters.

Can you tell me about the insurance situation.
This is the worst part of it all. We don’t have the right insurance to cover this. You could call it poorly calculated: we had other forms of insurance, but the main focus is of course flooding. You make your own assessments from that. We looked at the dam levels, and everything was looking okay.

It’s also harder to get that insurance after what happened with the Queensland floods last year. Sitting here now, I wish we’d gone over hell and high water to change that. And it was a calculated risk that went wrong. There were reasons why we weren’t [insured for floods].

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