Well, where to begin? Since taking over from the administrator, SO many new
and exciting things have happened to both ConFest, Down To Earth and Confab.
As the DTE minute taker, it was my duty to chronicle most of these events at
the meetings we held each Thursday night at CERES, Lee St., Brunswick.
At first I wondered what I was letting myself in for. Meetings, if you
could call them that, were anything but what they are now. Many different
groups within DTE were engaged in one upmanship and the meetings were
raucous, fractious and LONG!! It was not unusual for the meetings to finish
around midnight, with not all of the agenda items even entered into. Thank
goodness that is not the case now. Although mostly well meaning, these
disruptive elements still come to ConFest, but do not give the meetings the
grief they once used to. Now, it is unusual to hear a raised voice at the
meetings; we get through all the agenda items and it is rare to go beyond
10pm. Well, these are some of the things that I recall from my short time
Well, this is how I got into DTE. A lover of ConFest for some years, it
came as a bit of a shock when the administrator was appointed to run DTE.
Was this the end of my Beloved ConFest? I went to the meetings and started
becoming involved in DTE events. A new era was about to start. The old
Board with its disparate members was replaced with a new Board. This new
DTE Board, set new practices in place. Financial, administrative, ConFest
organisation and other matters were reviewed. The results are evident.
EDITORS NOTE:- Towards the end of the year 2000 from 31/10/2000 to 21/11/2000 four of the Board of seven directors resigned.(see footnote) When the board droped below the number of directors required to form a quorum and conduct a meeting, the justice department was required to appoint an administrator to take over and run the Co-opertive. The administrator took control of Down To Earth in the early part of 2001.
Much had been written on this and many hours of discussion has gone on, both
at ConFest and meetings. Individual fires have been replaced with Community
Fire Circles; safer and more friendly. Half-drums have replaced fire pits.
No longer do we get root fires and there is nowhere near the clearing of
dead wood, that used to happen. Fire patrols are now mostly to tell those
with candles to put them out, as they are banned.
911 & INSURANCE
Well, 911 was supposed to put all the insurance companies out of business.
Instead, they used it as an excuse to hike up rates. Since then they had
record levels of profit. DTE was affected greatly. In 1999, DTE paid
around $4,000 in Public Liability insurance. Y2K, what a joke, saw DTE pay
nearly $6,000. After 911, the insurance went up to over $11,000. DTE
currently pays around $15,000 each year to cover both ConFests, Confab and
the Sydney Confesters Gatherings. When I first started, DTE had no assets,
just a healthy bank balance. We were also getting sued by a past DTE
director and market vendor. After much angst and meeting time devoted to
this endeavour, it was settled out of court. DTE came out with a small
financial impost, but it opened our eyes as to how big insurance works.
Where to start? As stated earlier, DTE was cash rich, but asset poor. DTE
used to always rent the land off farmers, enrich their properties with water
bores, access roads and other certain works. After 911, renting a property
became almost impossible. Due to greater financial probity, DTE's funds
increased and we had the opportunity to purchase the adjoining property to
the ConFest property at Gulpa Creek. So, after much debate, DTE was about
to become a landowner. We had our doubters and naysayers. I will not go
into it, but in not much time at all, we had paid the property off. It does
not cost us much to run, as it has a resident tenant and also waster rights.
It has actually saved us around $15,000/year, or more, as that is how much
it would cost to rent a property for the twice yearly ConFests & that is how
much it would cost to rent a property for the twice yearly Confests & that's
apart from all the effort and improvements we do to host a ConFest. We, DTE,
are now entering another exciting new era with the purchase of another
property, the Woorooma Woolshed, on the Edwards River, Moulamein.
Since Administration, we have bought many carports & completely changed the
toilets to a modular, weatherproof design. DTE has gone from one old
tractor and a broken down old Mercedes truck, to many newer, old vehicles.
We purchased a 4WD Toyota Tarago people mover. This has paid for itself in
just a few years, in not having to hire a mini bus for each festival. We
have also bought a Toyota HiAce 4WD truck, and old Ford Falcon, a Ford
Econovan, a tractor with front-end loader and a storage container. A fire
truck was deemed necessary for out festival permit, so we bought one. Now
we are the envy of some other festivals. We have also bought various other
consumables, eg. tarpaulins, BBQ's, made weatherproof cooking drums and even
a few caravans for storage. A number of large water tanks were purchased
and we even get drinking trucked onto site.
DTE used to hire marquees, tables and chairs for each ConFest. We have
reduced the number of marquees we hire now down to just a few, those being
1st Aid, Massage at Easter and Information (sometimes). DTE always had to
pay any missing tables and chairs that went missing from the market, as they
used the same hirer. Now, DTE uses all its own tables and chairs, and does
not need to hire those anymore.
The old hand trolleys were two wheeled metal wheelbarrows. All of these
have now been replaced with very solid, mostly pneumatic tyred hand
trolleys. Not only do they pack away better, but are cheaper to purchase
and tend to last longer. Confab, our swimming night held fortnightly has
also gone ahead. It now has a new urn, six new massage tables, completely
new methods for supper (disposable foam cups), a new supper table and
blackboard (thankyou Scouse) and two trolleys go cart the massage tables in
and out from storage. Thanks to Stuart Poll, we now have waterproof canvas
mats to put between the tables to stand on and reduce any oil spills.
This was a momentous act for DTE. People often became a member of DTE
purely just to get a discounted ConFest ticket. DTE had over 1,700 members
on its old share registry. Not only was it unwieldy, but the mailout and
administration of such a large member base was fraught with legal problems
as well. In 1996, the Co-operatives Act was changed to an active service
model. Those without the requisite number of hours were dropped of the
list. This was a gradual process and now we have a much more manageable
list which now sits around 60 members.
Tickets were once presold at venues around Australia, in order to get funds
in earlier for ConFest. Actually, the opposite was true. Ticket vendors
would often take up to six months to give us the ticket money; this was
after they not only not paid for the tickets and received a commission for
each ticket sold. Now, all tickets are again sold directly by DTE. This
means that the capital comes in straight away, is banked promptly, improving
funding and cutting down on administration greatly. In recent times, we
have made it much harder for non-payers to sneak onto the site early,
encouraging most to arrive on the first day of ConFest.
Apparently, years before my time, there used to be ConFest gatherings all
around Australia. They were small gatherings of like minded people. With
current legislations, they couldn't occur in this litigious climate.
However, an enthusiastic band of Sydney people wanted to take back some of
the magic of ConFest to Sydney. With the Board's blessing and initial
sponsorship, this hardworking small group began meeting. They formed a
nucleus upon which the first gathering was held sometime in 2003. Since
then, they have been hosting around three gatherings each year, in the
Sydney region, with up to 500 people attending. This hardworking group has
been extremely successful on a tight gathering, that is completely self
contained, manages to set up, host and pack up the festival and runs to a
very tight budget. Not only do the attendees get good value, with all meals
included, but the Sydney Group also manage to return a small surplus from
Vendors have long been an integral part of ConFest. For years there has been
a love/hate relationship between the Board and the Market Vendors. DTE,
being the facilitator of ConFest, is often seen as the Nazi regulator of the
ConFest Market. Little do the market vendors know how much the permit to
host the festival depends on DTE adhering to various constraints placed upon
it by the local municipal bodies- shire and fire. This is one reason there
is no fire in the market place, no one wants to look after it and that is in
years gone past, where most of the burns from children, then present at 1st
Aid. With the Food Market, each vendor must now supply it's own power.
After years of spending thousands on generating power for the market and
getting abused, we have left it in the market's hands to supply its own
power. Each vendor must also supply public liability insurance as well,
which was often problematic in the early post-911 period.
For some years now, there has not been a Craft Market. Due to unscrupulous
vendors, it had turned into a trashy overseas import $2 shop flea market.
The hand made and artisan derived goods disappeared. DTE is looking at
getting a "hand made" craft market back again at ConFest, with rules of
participation and the ethics of what is craft.
These are just the main things that come to mind over the period I have been
a Board member. Certain "pests" have come and gone, 1st Aid, massage, arts
village, worker's kitchen all continue at ConFest, along with all the
workshops. Thank you for letting me be a part in DTE's comeback.