Welcome to a new semi-regular series where we help you get to know the people of Perth making moves. The type of people who make us #PerthProud, getting it done in our isolated little corner of the world across a variety of different worlds and industries.
Following our chat with StreetX founder Dan Bradshaw, we want to introduce you to Ben Taaffe, a fella who’s been helping Perth MOVE for over a decade. He’s been heavily involved with the Perth music community for the past 15 years, DJing for a lot longer, and in a few weeks will be running the 5th Freedom Time New Year’s Eve festival.
We chat about the fest’s move to a more sustainable future in 2019/2020, what it’s like programming events in Perth, how the Perth cultural scene has evolved over the years and where it’s headed.
First up can we get a brief little intro of who you are, and you’re involvement in the Perth music scene over the years?
Hi! My name is Ben Taaffe. I’m a Perth based DJ and promoter with a passion for underground electronic music and the amazing local community of dancers and DJs in Perth that connect through music and movement. I’ve been DJing and collecting records for about 21 years now (yikes!); presenting the Underground Solution radio show on RTRFM for about 13 years; I’ve been organising parties and music events in Perth for the last 15 years or so – for the last 12 years I have been working under the name of MOVE, aka The Move Foundation for Musical Health and Wellbeing aka Move Party People PTY LTD. I’m also part of the collective that runs Planet X; and I’m the founder of Freedom Time NYE Festival! (….and in my day job i’m a youth worker and events coordinator at local youth music and arts hub HQ, in Leederville).
We’re coming rapidly up to Freedom Time, now in its 5th year, can you give us a little history of the festival itself – the ethos behind it, the type of artists and vibe you’ve been crafting with it over that time?
Freedom Time is our humble attempt to capture the relaxed and cosy vibes of a backyard BBQ, or your best mate’s house party, within a small-scale festival format. We take inspiration from the sound system and street party culture of Rio and London’s Carnivals, from the neighbourhood block parties and park jams of NYC, and from the local warehouse parties, bush doofs and club nights of the thriving local dance music community! If you know where to find us, Perth is one of the most happening dance scenes in Australia and we seek to celebrate that at every year at Freedom Time.
Over the last four-and-a-half years we’ve evolved from a humble 500 person block party at the Ezra Pound Bar car park in Northbridge, to a fully-fledged and fun-filled, 2500 person outdoor “micro” festival. We’ve hosted an incredible range of international artists and performers since we started, but over the past two years we’ve made a commitment to focus our programming on the incredible depth of talent in the Australian dance music scene, featuring an exclusively Australian or Australia-based program of DJs and performers. This year we have four stages, three boutique bar operations, two amazing food vendors, custom lighting and staging installs, art installs, dancers and heaps more operating for eight hours of dance celebrations.
More than anything, Freedom Time is all about a safe, inclusive and carefree time with dear friends, future friends and other high-calibre crew, celebrating life and love through music and movement. We are a proudly diverse and inclusive event and we hope everyone that joins us feels free to let their inner-freak out for the night.
What have been some of the most memorable moments over the years?
Seeing house music pioneer Larry Heard perform live on our mainstage two years ago was a personal high for me in terms of music programming. He was seriously one of the nicest and most humble artists I have ever hosted. I don’t think I could top that. Dancers on mainstage going absolutely ham during Jnett’s set last year was another big moment. The ICE SAUNA installation! ….hard to explain. Andy Garvey’s set in the Polyrhythmic rave stage was another one I won’t forget. For me, the thing I’m most proud of about our event is the amazing energy and spirit of the people who come along. I’m constantly blown away by how chill and nice everyone is! That’s the biggest sign of achievement for me and give me confidence to keep doing this event.
This year you’re putting a big emphasis on going green, can you give us some insight onto how exactly a large scale festival of this nature achieves a more sustainable outcome?
We just couldn’t ignore this issue any longer. Festivals can be such wasteful and unsustainable projects. So we’ve consulted with some events and sustainability experts and put together a series of initiatives which will form the starting point of our journey towards a completely carbon neutral event. We still have a long way to go, though. It’s a huge learning curve for us and we are committed to improving our efforts and reducing our carbon footprint each year.
This year we have banned all single use plastics from our bar and food operations. Any single use service items will be recycled and/or biodegradable. We’re implementing a reusable cup system and we have free water stations throughout the venue. We’re providing secure bike racks and encouraging everyone to ride down or share a car service to the event. All of our artists flights are carbon-offset and part of our decision to focus on Australian-only performers was to reduce the carbon miles associated with international touring. The whole focus on local partners like Feral Brewing and our food and beverage partners (shouts to Wines of While, Monsterella, Ezra Pound, Telegram Coffee and Tom Nobody!) is also a part of this effort. Recycling bins and waste reduction systems are in place in collaboration with the City of Perth waste management team. And we’re also allowing punters to chip in when they buy a ticket to support two amazing sustainability initiatives – Trilliontrees.org.au and Project Draw Down.
We imagine going green in itself creates its own set of challenges, but in general what are some of the challenge you’ve faced over the years organising events in Perth?
Haha… where to begin!? Finding a secure site to call our own has been the biggest challenge. We’ve had to move our event the past two consecutive years, which presents a whole raft of new challenges each time. Having said that, I think we have found our home this year! Ozone Reserve is such a stunning little hidden corner of the Perth city foreshore with so much potential for creating the Freedom Time vibes in a beautiful, green and lush new space.
Over that time, do you feel like things are getting better/worse in regards to putting on events in the arts and music scene, and how so?
Both! Always new challenges, always new possibilities. Perth has gone through a tough economic time over the last few years but we have managed to find our community and slowly grow this event in a sustainable and healthy way. We suffer a deeply conservative mainstream culture and our government doesn’t value the arts nearly enough, but sometimes a lack of support in this way provides the conditions under which the most innovative and resilient artistic communities can emerge. This is definitely the case for the arts and music communities of Western Australia and the underground dance music scene more generally… Not that I am arguing for one second that our government shouldn’t do more to support creative culture and arts in WA! But I’m not gonna wait around for that.
After ringing in the new year with we’re sure plenty of environmentally aware smiles and abundant dancing at Freedom Time, what’s on the horizon for you in 2020?
Holiday with my family! 2019 has been amazing but I’m ready to slow down for a while and recharge before doing it all again next year. Plus we also have some amazing smaller events lined up in Jan, Feb, March and April! If you are interested, follow the MOVE page on Facebook to hear more about those!