This is hard to write.
2018 marks 20 years in the music industry for me. I have pretty much never been a consumer but have always worked in some capacity. At my first festival at Mount Disappointment in 1997 I volunteered for Rave Safe, and sat with a tripping guy taking phone calls on his cucumber all night.
It has always been preferable for me to have something to do rather than just be at the party.
Skip forward through decor, art department, stage management, bookings, marketing and publicity, running an agency, an art gallery, nightclubs, information tent, community development, recruitment & training, to operations, logistics and coordination of the team, and finally safety. Which does actually feel like a natural progression with insight gained from the rest.
I have done almost everything in the music industry except play or produce music. Perhaps I should have started off doing that – only problem is I can’t hold a tune or beatmatch haha. With a name like Ghetto Kitty the number of people who thought I was a DJ over the years is ridiculous. I won’t lie, I just said yes a few times haha.
However my skills really lie in helping talented people reach more audiences. Thank fuck I created Reality Check. But spending time valuing people that don’t value you and then teaching others to value themselves does not work.
I have no need to be in the spotlight – but I do seek recognition.
I’ve worked twice as long and hard as many people with penises in my industry to get the same kudos, job offers, and pay. I am sure other people who share my gender will empathize.
I got into all of this because I felt like we were creating a place where we could be truly ourselves. We were creating a space based on shared values, based on not fitting into regular society. I felt like we were creating a temporary autonomous zone, self regulating, sustainable, and full of love.
Honestly back then the drugs were not better.
The people were better.
They actually cared about each other.
I only find glimmers these days.
Last year I met a 20 year old guy from Adelaide at the airport when I was catching a plane up to work a party up north… Who completely embodied the vibes and the reasons why I started doing this in the first place. He gave me so much hope! Tony! 💕
But quite often I am left instead shaking my head and feeling ashamed. At the piles of rubbish left for cleanup crews. At the disposable nature of festival fashion. At the importance placed on how you look and how sexy you are. At the consumer’s attitude that demands to be entertained, at the entitlement, at the lack of gratitude, and the cognitive dissonance in connection. Not to mention the fact that now that our community has grown so much, there is a great big target on our backs with lawmakers, police and councils. It’s just not the same freedom it once was.
In addition, most festivals seem so rosy and glitter filled on the outside, but for many the crews are riddled with dissent and unhappiness. Riddled with exploitation, drugs and underhanded dodgy dealings. Full of nepotism, bitching and politics.
Sometimes the PLUR is very hard to discern.
Sometimes it feels like my standard mode of operating with honesty and integrity has been career suicide. The industry literally relies on more keen people who don’t really know what’s up … coming into it every year.
I’ve been bullied, subjected to blatant & repeated sexism & sexual harassment, and often left feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and completely emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. Last summer I had a mini-breakdown after one event. Just nothing left in my tank, gave it all to make it happen. That’s not sustainable.
So why am I writing this to you? In “public”?
I’m writing this because I am realising that none of this is anything I should take personally. The issues above are actually really prevalent and happen to a lot of us that work in events. Very few festivals have anything like an HR department, due process for hiring and firing, or any sort of career advancement if you do a good job. The industry is still mostly based on handshake deals, which means very little recourse for anyone who is unfairly dismissed or given work outside what they were hired to do.
I’m writing this because I’m prepared for this to feel like a divorce and it kind of already has.
I’m writing this so that people please stop asking me for things related to festivals I have worked at in the past.
I’m writing this to you because I honestly thought a lot of these people were my friends and it will be a test to see who goes out of their way to hang out with me now that I don’t have these opportunities to offer.
Quite simply doing this work, while rewarding, has also stressed me the fuck out. I’ve been diagnosed twice with burnout in the last few years.. I simply need to be careful of my health as I get older and this environment has not helped.
I’m not making a public declaration of retirement so that I can have a comeback concert or four aka Johnny Farnham.
I am still going to work for the right people and events. They’re just becoming few and far between.
I will never forget the incredible feeling of creating such an ambitious experiences with for the most part, amazing teams united in vision. People have often said that they loved watching me in Operations, and some of the most challenging experiences which have asked the most of me, have ended up leaving me the most fulfilled out of anything I’ve done in my life. Maitreya 2014 – best and hasn’t been topped since.
Each year I try to go to one party and not work to remember why we are there in the first place. However I still find myself looking at logistics when I’m there, and truthfully, wish I was working instead.
So basically… it’s been an amazing 20 years in the paddocks and the dust.
I feel like I have definitely contributed to this community growing. I have earned the title “rave grandma” but it’s time to do other things.
I also feel like “the scene” is definitely mainstream now and I got involved in the beginning because it wasn’t.
So I am going to be seeking a new underground soon. Because on the fringes and edges is where I feel most comfortable and where I can really make a difference.
As soon as it becomes about selling tickets and booze I’m out. That is what happened for me in the night club industry. I got out by 35. Getting out of the festival circuit by 40… feels like a good move.
To every real friend that I have met through this industry and work, to every person that I was in awe of when I was a bright eyed bushy tailed 18-year-old on my first forest dancefloor – many of whom are solid friends now…
You all were my tribe way before “find my tribe” was a catchphrase.
I’m not going anywhere.
You’ll just see me at backyard parties, at the farmers market, at community events, at dog friendly gatherings, where I can wear thongs, or anywhere that will truly value having all my scope and experience in a safety role.
I am only going to be taking on roles relevant to my skill set for events who I feel have their values in the right place.. I am only going to work for people who communicate with me and trust me and my experience.
I will still always & forever moonlight on dance floors.
But to be honest with you I was never really there for the music. I have always been there for the people.
And that is you.