What to look forward to at Festival of the Sun 2019, according to its director

Festival of the Sun is one of our favourite festivals. Looking past the lineups (which are amazing), it simply stands out from the rest. The event is BYO, their environmental and sustainability initiatives are way ahead of the curve, and the crew are some of the biggest legends out.

With exactly one month to go before Festival of the Sun 2019 kicks off, we sat down with Director Simon Luke. He was more than happy to share the reasons he’s prouder than ever to be at the helm of this killer event.

festival of the sun 2019 director simon luke interview happy mag brooke tunbridge
Photo: Brooke Tunbridge

We chat to Festival of the Sun Director Simon Luke about what he’s most looking forward to one month from today.

HAPPY: Simon, it’s been too long. How are things looking for FOTSUN 2019?

SIMON: We are definitely looking forward to another massive festival this year. There are a lot of new punters arriving for their rookie year of FOTSUN and even travelling interstate to catch all the action, so we can’t wait to show them what we have to offer. We are also super stoked to see some of our emerging artists blowing up before hitting the stage at Port Macquarie, with the likes of Julia Jacklin and Amyl and the Sniffers coming off their international tours just before FOTSUN.

HAPPY: Your festival has been kicking for 16 years now, it’s almost old enough to drink! Does it ever actually feel like you’ve raised a child here?

SIMON: I feel like the real child that’s been raised over the years is me haha! I’ve learnt a lot over the last 16 years and feel like we’ve grown into a great adolescent festival with a kick-ass team. Our team is what keeps FOTSUN running smoothly every year and we couldn’t have done it without them. It’s also been great to see so many team members go on to do great things in the music industry, using FOTSUN as a key stepping stone to get there. I’m excited to see how we continue to grow over the next few years, but let’s be real, we can’t wait for our 18th!

HAPPY: Can you tell us about how it all got started?

SIMON: After working on a few festivals in Canada, I moved back to Port Macquarie and felt the town needed something for the young community to help put us on the map. So, I grabbed an old wooden stage from the Lions Club, a PA from the guitar shop, a 20m Slip N Slide from the hardware store and the first FOTSUN was born. We kicked it off as an un-ticketed free festival on the beach, but it was so popular we brought it back again and again and again. We still have the chill vibes of FOTSUN we started off with, just with a more professional team and execution now. Port Macquarie is a bit of a sleepy beach town, but we think it’s extremely important for the younger community to have some action in the arts and culture arena to celebrate.

HAPPY: Last year you went plastic free for the first time, which is awesome. How did that rollout go in the end, and how are you improving it this year?

SIMON: Last year’s result was awesome with our post-festival clean only finding 28 plastic bottles among the grounds. We also sent more than 25,000 cans to Sydney’s not-for-profit group, Citizen Blue, and recycled more than one tonne of cardboard.

This year we are adding cold water refill stations and biodegradable garbage bag collection points for those who want to earn legend status by assisting with the clean up. We are also bringing back the eCANomy, where punters can exchange their cans for tokens that get you goodies like bags of ice, coffee, meal vouchers, merchandise and even VIP tickets for FOTSUN 2020.

HAPPY: What else have you planned this year on the sustainability front?

SIMON: This year we are partnering with some key sustainability partners to make the plastic free initiative even better. We are proud to be partnering with fellow mid-north coast planeteers, Coastal Warriors – a group of volunteers educating and raising awareness for our oceans and marine life. Coastal Warriors will be spearheading the initiatives at this year’s FOTSUN, particularly by hosting eCANomy.

We have also teamed up with Wallaby Water, Australia’s most recyclable packaged water alternative. These legends will be setting up on site, as well as providing all backstage water.

HAPPY: Do you think more and more music events are thinking about those kind of initiatives than ever?

SIMON: Yeah definitely. FOTSUN was one of the first festivals to ban plastic bottles backstage and we’ve noticed many of the larger festivals are getting on board too. The backstage crew and artists were and still are super supportive of this, so it makes sense to roll it out festival wide. We’ve gained so much faith in this generation of punters who are embracing the plastic free movement and really getting on board to help reduce waste in any way possible.

HAPPY: You’re also staunchly BYO which is pretty incredible in this day and age. Has that been a challenge at all?

SIMON: Yeah I think we are one of the only BYO festivals left in Australia. We have found that our unique strategy with staying BYO has always been massively supported by the punters, which means we will never change this policy. The positive outcomes of being BYO far outweigh the negatives, in our opinion.

HAPPY: Lastly we have to ask, who are you excited to catch at FOTSUN 2019?

SIMON: Obviously, I’m pumped to see all the headliners. I’m also super excited to catch Stevie Jean, Tasman Keith and Bakers Eddy all belt out a tune. To be honest though, with the stacked lineup we have, I’d rather sit down and watch all the acts then be talking back and forth on the two-way radio haha!

HAPPY: Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the chat!


Festival Of The Sun will be running between 12-14 December at Breakwell Tourist Park in Port Macquarie. Less than 200 tickets are left, grab yours here.