Rhythm & Alps’ Alex Turnbull on throwing a festival during a pandemic

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The South Island’s biggest New Year’s Eve festival Rhythm & Alps has released its lineup including Benee, Six60 and several other New Zealand acts.

People party at last year's Rhythm and Alps festival.

People party at last year’s Rhythm and Alps festival. Photo: Supplied

It runs from 29 to 31 December at Cardrona Valley in Wanaka.

Rhythm & Alps founder and director Alex Turnbull said the idea was to celebrate a New Zealand festival with New Zealand acts.

“We’re celebrating a 10 year anniversary.”

He said there had been a massive influx of Kiwi musicianship, “the bands are amazing … we’re really lucky, we’re happy”.

RNZ is giving away two double passes to the festival.

A couple of Australian artists in the lineup have been dropped, because he didn’t want to take the risk in case borders were still closed.

“As a promoter, as an event professional, we can’t see these borders opening any time soon … so let’s keep it simple, let’s promote New Zealand acts. Down the track, we’ll see what happens.”

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Logistics was easier with local bands, he said, mostly because everyone knew one another and could swap acts if need be.

Turnbull said the Ministry of Health had put out a set of Covid guidelines for event organisers. In turn, it would help with contact tracing if an outbreak were to occur.

“If there’s an outbreak, we are ready. We can trace all our customers that have been in – that’s simple through contacts and emails.”

He said although there would be Covid messages and signage around the festival, the extra cost did not matter.

They did have cancellation insurance that covered fires, earthquakes and weather events. “There is no cancellation insurance for a pandemic of Covid.”

If the festival were to be cancelled because of Covid, Turnbull said everyone would be refunded. Artists, hotels, promoters were all on the same page about it.

“It’s always about the fans. We have to look after people as best we can. If that means refunding every dollar put into in … great, that’s what happens.”

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For him, rock and roll was “not about money” but was about the energy from the crowds and the memories.

Rhythm & Vines that happens in the North Island at the same is yet to announce its lineup.

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