Splendour in the mud: Byron music festival flooding creates chaos

·5-min read

Splendour in the Grass' Friday lineup has been cancelled as torrential rain continues to wreak havoc at the popular Byron Bay music festival.

Organisers made the announcement just before 2pm after revellers bombarded social media with wild footage of flooded campsites and stories about being forced to sleep in their cars.

"A significant weather system is currently sitting off the east coast and may reach land later today bringing more rainfall," organisers said in a statement on Twitter.

"In the interest of patron safety and in consultation with all relevant emergency services, we have decided to err on the side of caution and cancel performances on the main stages today only — Amphitheatre, Mix Up, GW McLennan and Park(lands) Stages."

Photos show a reveller standing in the mud and a campground entry closed sign at Splendour in the Grass.
Many revellers have been forced to sleep in their cars as staff shortages and heavy rain at Splendour in the Grass wreaks havoc. Source: Twitter

Saturday and Sunday programming will move ahead as planned. Organisers have encouraged attendees to "relax and enjoy what is open", such as the Global Village and Tipi Forest.

Anyone who held a one-day pass for Friday will be contacted about a refund.

"Please be assured that our event team is working very hard to provide the best experience possible under the current circumstances," the statement said.

Revellers forced to sleep in cars

The muddy chaos has been captured in numerous photos and videos online, showing thousands of concertgoers queuing for up to 12 hours on Thursday night just to get into the North Byron Parklands camping ground.

Despite the long wait, many say they were ultimately left stranded and had to spend the night huddled in their car when the campground's entry was closed.

Attendees walking in the mud. Source: Getty
The festival's Friday lineup has been cancelled. Source: Getty

“There are people here out of fuel being told they’ll just have to wait til the morning after waiting 11 HOURS in line — they’ve just closed entry to the campsite and there are THOUSANDS of cars backed up,” one woman complained on Twitter at 1.30am.

An hour later, the woman said she and her friends had decided to “give up and sleep in the back of the car” while still in the queue, which hadn’t “moved in the last two to three hours”.

“There’s nothing we can do. No way in, no way out,” she said.

Reveller Danielle told ABC News Breakfast at 8am she had no choice but to sleep in her car after queuing for 16 hours, nine of those with the long line of vehicles failing to move.

She criticised the organisers of the festival for not communicating the current situation, saying she waited hours without any update.

"It just seems logistically impossible. Half of the ground is underwater," Danielle said.

Those who did make it inside North Byron Parklands said they were also forced to retreat to their vehicles as heavy rain flooded their tents.

Images show attendees wading through large puddles and thick mud while trying to hide from the downpour, and it's only going to get worse with heavy rainfall predicted for Byron Bay until Sunday.

According to the Daily Telegraph, state emergency services were called in on Friday to asses the safety of the event.

Some ticket holders want festival cancelled

Some have likened this year’s Splendour in the Grass — which costs $415 for a three-day ticket, with camping an extra $120-$150 — to the disastrous FYRE festival.

“They should rename this festival to splendour in the mud,” one woman posted on Twitter alongside of her standing shin-deep in a puddle.

“This is f***ing miserable. It’s mud soup everywhere you look,” another said.

“Giving me FYRE vibes,” a third person wrote on a video of a group of people staying at the second campsite at Byron Events Farm waiting more than two hours for a bus to take them to the main stages, only for them to have to turn around.

While some people vowed to “get filthy” and enjoy the event, which features headliners like the Gorillaz and Tyler, the Creator, others called for the entire three-day festival to be cancelled.

“How are we meant to keep safe and healthy in these conditions? Cancel festival and let us go home,” one woman begged online.

“We have been this queue for HOURS - since 4pm. We’ve been driving since 6am. Cars running out of petrol. Cars bogged. This is unsafe, and inhumane,” another person said.

Organisers blame wild weather and staff shortages

Prior to cancelling its Friday lineup, Splendour co-founder Jessica Docrou had told the ABC “the show will go on” and described the chaos as "a little bit of a bumpy start".

“We're all working as hard as we can to make sure that we can deliver the show in a way that people expect us to,” she said. The festival hasn't been held since 2019 due to Covid.

In a Facebook post on Thursday night, organisers pointed the blame at the wild weather and staff shortages.

“We are extending our campgrounds entry hours at NBP tonight so if you’re in the queue we will get you in. Please be patient - we hear you,” they wrote.

“The weather and staff shortages were all worse than expected. We are doing the best we can - the show will go on rain, hail or shine.”

On Friday morning, organisers announced that the rain had forced them to no longer accept campers at North Byron parklands.

All incoming attendees have been directed to Byron Events Farm with the promise of free shuttles to the main stages.

“We thank you for your patience here and big shout out to our staff who are working around Mother Nature to get you in here safely,” they said.

“Please be kind and patient.”

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