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Vanessa Briody & Kate Kirkpatrick

Grampians Grape Escape

Mass gatherings, events, festivals...what will they look like in a post-COVID-19 world? We chat to Vanessa Briody and Kate Kirkpatrick, Directors of award-winning annual Grampians Grape Escape to get a snapshot of what they're managing, at the moment and into the future.

Vanessa Briody & Kate Kirkpatrick
Grampians Grape Escape (GGE) was hit hard and fast in the first lockdown – what did you do to turn the offering around? How do you take an award-winning Festival online?

In our minds, it was never going to be a case of trying to replicate the festival virtually.

 A) we had plenty of work ahead of us to cancel the Festival with bans on mass gatherings occurring just 6-7 weeks before GGE was scheduled to be held, and B) nothing beats the excitement of getting a prime position with your mates in front of the stage, or the smell of slow-cooked lamb from a food truck, or seeing your kids laugh and have fun without their heads in a device. A virtual festival we knew was never going to be even close to the GGE experience for our Festival goers.

However GGE is all about supporting the tourism and wine industry of the Grampians, Pyrenees & Henty regions, as well as producers and makers of Western Victoria. Many of our Festival goers are regulars to GGE, they go there each year to stock up on wine, produce and other goodies, so rather than run Grampians Grape Escape, we set up Grampians Grape Isolate Sale, allowing exhibitors to sell and our festival goers to buy. It worked well.

We also ran a Stick With Your Tix campaign to all of our ticket holders and were so very pleased to see that 50% of patrons decided to roll their tickets over to the next festival. The festival has lots of loyal fans.

How do  you see the Events industry evolving over the next few years?

Deep down inside we want to see people doing the Conga at the stage sooner rather than later, so are hopeful to see a return to a similar style of events moving forward. Of course, with the introduction of guidelines and processes to help minimise risk of infection of COVID-19 or any other virus.

Part of being at a Festival is interaction – a high five to a fellow footy fan, an arm around a friend during a concert, the sharing of a cheese platter at a food festival … events, wouldn’t be the same without these great moments.

What is really exciting to come of this are the conversations that are happening … there is a coming-together in the events industry. We are currently helping to drive an Australian regional event alliance to advocate for, support and inspire event professionals by providing collaboration and development tools, networks and opportunities. We are thrilled to be part of the working group.

We are also excited at the opportunities Australian musicians and creatives will eventually have to perform in front of crowds across the country. There is such great talent out there and events provide the perfect platform to be heard. We are all about homegrown at Oregional.

When the time comes, we think regional events will thrive given the general nature of these compared with larger scale festivals. Initially we may see a return to smaller scale experiences and offerings from event organisers that will capture a market waiting to be entertained.

How are you and your families?

Ness –

My kids are still young so they don’t really understand what “the virus” is all about. I still have to ask them to eat their breakfast and get changed a thousand times; Jim still hops into my bed every night, April is loving the recent visits from the tooth fairy and the footy is back on for hubby, so it’s same-same but different.

Kate –

We are doing ok – the first few weeks were a little daunting and uncertain when all the work we knew was ripped from under you with no timeframes or guidelines in place as to when our industry may reopen again.  It was hard to go from 120% set to deliver 2 Autumn events to %0 overnight and to readapt and think quickly as to what needed to be done – it was uncharted waters for all of us.  On a positive note, I have relished the family time and slow pace at home with the kids and missed them as they headed back to school 🙂  Job Keeper has been helpful and glad to see it continue into 2021 in some form – it certainly helps.  Living regionally we haven’t had to head back to lockdown like Melbourne and am truly appreciative to live in regional Victoria and the opportunities that come with that. We’ve certainly supported regional and Melbourne businesses where we can and last week have made the ‘pivot’ to making facemasks and it’s been great to be busy and creative again.

Grampians Grape Escape



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