The rain came down, the tunes were banging and the cops were out in force at the inaugural Up Down Festival in Newcastle on the weekend.
Organisers and a handful of performers on the dance-heavy lineup addressed the heavy police presence at Sunday’s Up Down, which had the dubious honour of being among 14 festivals placed on the NSW Government “high risk” list.
Sydney electronic duo Set Mo and FBi Radio presenter/DJ Sandro Dallarmi took to Instagram to poke fun at the swarm of police gathered at the festival’s entry gates. “Need more cops,” Set Mo captioned an Insta Story.
A spokesperson for NSW Police says Up Down was a “pretty well behaved” festival. TIO can confirm cops made more than a dozen positive drug searches, with criminal infringement notices and court attendance notices issued.
There were no major incidents, the crowd was “well behaved” and organizers are “thrilled” with how the show played out, a spokesperson for the event tells TIO. The level of policing, however, was out of hand.
“We do not believe the festival is a high risk event,” reads a statement issued midday to TIO. “The level of policing was excessive and intimidating, however we understand that they have a role to play in overall safety of all festivals. In addition, unfortunately our invitation to Premier Gladys Berejiklian was rejected, however we welcomed Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crackanthorp for a boogie.”
The pop-up beach styled Up Down capped a busy weekend for NSW’s second city, which also hosted The Drop and Live at the Foreshore festivals. Though neither event carried the stigma of “high risk” status, which Gladys Berejiklian‘s government applied that have had drug-related illnesses or deaths in the past three years, or authorities say may be prone to significant risk of overdoses.
Live music fans and advocates continue to rail against the controversial new licensing regulations placed on music festivals, which came into effect March 1. And some question how Up Down cracked the list despite never appearing on the calendar until this year.
Organizers took a different approach with a pisstake gesture. Ahead of showtime, the team reportedly sent an offer to Berejiklian to get amongst it at the show, which featured performances from The Bloody Beetroots, Major Lazer’s The Jillionaire, Nina Las Vegas and more. “Gladys Berejiklian can have a guestlist of 10 and might like to bring her friend, Liberal National Party candidate for Newcastle, Blake Keating or Minister for Liquor and Gaming Paul O’Toole for a relaxing afternoon mixer on the foreshore,” wrote organisers, who are also producing This That festival, another event categorised at “high risk.”
A spokesperson for Up Down tells TIO the event at Camp Shortland in the Foreshore drew just shy of the anticipated 4,000 audience and plans are to return next year for a second edition, despite ballooning policing costs which contributed to the collapse of the unrelated fests Mountains Sounds and Psyfari.
An official police report notes “more than 2,500 attendees” were on site. A high visibility operation was undertaken, with the Police Dog Unit and Licensing Police in attendance, alongside officers from the Newcastle City Police District, and representatives from the relevant government agencies and the promoter were “all in attendance and working together positively.”
According to an official statement, NSW Police say they were “pleased with the overall crowd behaviour” and no attendees required hospital treatment or transports off site.
The first-up fest concluded at 9pm and, according to sources, just five people had presented at the medical tent by 3pm. All told, 50 festival goers presented to medical and 48 of those were treated for minor injuries including minor cuts, bruises and band aids. Two were treated for alcohol related illnesses and went home of their own will.