Music

NSW Police Are Being Accused Of Pricing Out A Music Festival With A Mandatory $200K Fee

Last year, the festival was charged $10,000 for a police presence.

festival cancellation gladys berejiklian

The organisers behind Bohemian Beatfreaks, a small-scale three-day music festival on NSW’s north coast, have accused NSW Police of trying to price out their event with a $200,000 quote for a mandatory police presence.

Bohemian Beatfreaks is supposed to kick off this Friday, though the festival’s future was thrown into the air when police withdrew support late October over safety concerns. Rabbits Eat Lettuce, the team behind the festival, are currently contesting those concerns in court, as it would likely mean the festival would be cancelled.

In the interim, the festival’s been quoted with a $200,000 police presence — a pretty significant hike from last year’s $10,000 fee.

Speaking to the ABC, Rabbits Eat Lettuce director Erik Lamir-Price has said that the future of the festival is unclear as last-minute legal fees could topple $100,000 and cause bankruptcy. He also alleged the quote is a way to price them out, even if they win the court case.

The NSW Greens have thrown support behind the festival. In a statement shared with Junkee, Greens MP David Shoebridge has accused the NSW Police of “swamping the festival” in wake of the controversy around two overdoses at Penrith dance festival Defqon.1 this September.

In immediate response to the deaths, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian promised to ban Defqon.1 from the state, and subsequently set up a panel on drug safety at music festivals — one which recommended more punitive drug penalties, and did not consider pill testing as a potential solution. Both Lamir-Price and the NSW Greens believe that NSW Police are punitively trying to shut down the festival as a unfair comparison to Defqon.1, due to the size and stature difference.

“This music festival has been operating peacefully for the past two years and now, out of the blue, they are hit with this extraordinary bill from police,” Shoebridge’s statement reads. “This is a modest festival that attracts between 2,500 and 3,000 attendees in a quiet, rural part of the state, south west of Casino.”

“This is the first police response after the premier’s failed expert panel on music festivals, and it shows the government is moving even further down the wrong track.”

“Instead of fixing problems, it seems the premier… is taking us backwards with even more resources wasted on the failed war on drugs.”

The NSW Police believe the festival poses “extreme” risks to punters, due to accessibility issues for emergency services, poor telecommunication reception, and a lack of fencing separating the private land from bushfire-prone scrubland. They also say that previous years have featured large-scale drug use and excessive drinking, which Lamir-Price rejects, supplying photos to News Corp of police at last year’s festival lounging and socialising out of “boredom”.

The court case continues today. Bohemian Beatfreaks has set up a Go Fund Me to assist with legal funds, asking “the dance community to chip in and help us push back against the oppressive actions by NSW Police which threaten the fabric of our society and ability to celebrate and gather at music, art & lifestyle festivals.”

Music Junkee have contacted Bohemian Beatfreaks for further comment.