The Alice Springs Beanie Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021. Over 300 beanie makers from around Australia created 6400 beanies which arrived in Alice Springs ready for 4 days of beanie magic. 4000 visitors (50% local, 50% interstate) descended on the Araluen Arts Centre to enjoy the trill of the chase for that perfect beanie while enjoying home made tucker, live music and 30 textile workshops. In the lead up to the Festival beanie making workshops were held in 5 Indigenous communities, the results were outstanding and formed a large part of the Beanie Competition and Exhibition. Five of the Indigenous beanie makers then made their way to Alice Springs to become a part of the workshops and taught visitors to the Festival how to make beanies, share stories and culture while creating beautiful beanies. Despite Covid 19 the Festival and increased visitor numbers on 2019 and more beanies were sold than ever before.
2. Background history
a. How many times has the event been held?
The Beanie Festival has been held 25 times, each year growing bigger and better. ( one hundred beanies sold in 1997 to 4800 beanies in 2021.)
b. Details of the national body and their involvement
No National Body
3. Information on the current event
a. General overview of the event
The Beanie Festival is a celebration of the arts and textiles that surround the humble beanie. It brings together artists, locals, tourists, volunteers, Indigenous communities for a truly community feel of sharing and stories. At the Festival there is Beanie Central (over 6000 beanies hanging from the roof for general sales, a curated exhibition in Gallery 1 of the National Beanie Competition and Exhibition – with prizes for the best beanies sponsored by local businesses, teashop, cake stall, sausages, opening night with live music and food stalls, textile workshops with teachers from around the country and Indigenous beanie making workshops.
b. Who ran the event, event management, national body?
The Festival in a not for profit organisation and is run by a local committee and EO, and volunteers.
c. When was it?
June 23-26 2021, with the Exhibition running until July 17 2021.
d. Where was it?
Spread across the Araluen Arts Centre (Gallery 1, Witchetty’s, foyer, carpark, Central Craft)
e. An assessment of the venue
Accessing all of Araluen creates a lovely community feel, Araluen staff are an integral part of getting the Festival up and running. Visitors enjoy meandering through the different aspects of the Festival.
f. Assessment of the overall success
The Festival broke all targets for sales and visitor numbers even during these Covid times. Beanie makers, visitors, volunteers all had a fabulous time. We were surprised at how well the festival proceeded.
g. Growth from previous years
Excluding 2020 (where we ran an online version) the Festival has continued to grow (4800 beanies sold with 4200 visitors in 2021 from 4200 beanies and 4000 visitors in 2019)
4. Event delivery review
a. Extent of achievement of the projected tasks
All tasks planned for the Festival were completed and delivered beyond our expectations, except for some of the Indigenous beanie making workshops where we planned to have an Indigenous beanie makers teaching the workshop but she broke her leg prior to the workshops commencing. It was sad not to have Julie assist with the workshops, but we still managed to run the workshops anyway. All of the workshops had many participants producing lovely works of art.
We were unsure if and how Covid Planning would affect the numbers of visitors coming through the Festival and that visitors would not come due to restrictions. But there were queues right around the building and everyone was happy and understanding and remained in good cheer. And with less people in the galleries at one time it actually made for a more spacious feel, and so it turned out limiting numbers is good not just for Covid but for the visitor experience.
5. Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC) funding
a. Summary of expenditure of NTMEC funding
- Marketing the event nationally in both craft, art, festival, travelling, outback magazines in Jan/Feb to get visitors to put the Festival on their bucket list.
- Funding Indigenous Beanie Making Workshops held in Yuendumu, Tennant, Creek, Titjikala, Santa Teresa and Amplatawitja. Over 100 beanies made and exhibited and sold at the Festival. (wages, car hire, accommodation, travel allowance, cataloguing and coordination)
- Funding to bring Indigenous artists from Titjikala (4 ladies) and Amplatawitja (1 lady) into Alice Springs for the Beanie Festival weekend to teach beanie makers to visitors, creating a lovely cross cultural and story telling atmosphere. Paid travel, accommodation, meals and wages.
-Curatorship of the National Beanie Competition and Exhibition – bringing together the 300 works of art and hanging them artistically to show off their best sides, and assist the judges with their choices and photograph beanies for website and social media.
- Friday night opening night, hire of technical and sound control, hire of tables, chairs, lighting, wages for techs.
- Wages for cataloguer to enter all the beanies (6200) into computer system
b. How did NTMEC funding grow the event?
Definitely the marketing prior to the event bought more visitors from interstate, especially in these Covid times the public are looking for unique and delightful experience, which is what makes the Beanie Festival so successful.
The Indigenous content continues to grow, with more beanie makers and more beanies taking part. The Indigenous content of the Beanie Festival is core business, it would just be another Festival if it wasn’t for including the communities in the Festival. It provides a lovely exchange during the Festival teaching visitors about life in Aboriginal communities. Without these workshops the Festival would definitely loss its appeal.
NTMEC supporting the Opening Friday Night brings more local and visitors to have that unique Alice Springs community feel with live entertainment, the announcement of the winning beanies, food stalls and the bar, it’s a special vibe that brings more people each year.
c. Report against agreed measures identified in formal agreement
I. Visitor numbers and demographics
Visitor Numbers 2021 Alice Springs Beanie Festival
4841 visitors from Friday to Monday (Friday night another 1600)
Over 550 beanie makers entered beanies from across the world and over 130 volunteers worked at the festival weekend
ii. Event surveys
Please see attached.
6. Organisational structure and framework
a. Operational overview
I. Overall operational success
The Festival ran to operation plans, risk managent, Covid management, marketing, social media plans all went well.
ii. Timeline of activities
Despite Covid all aspects of the Festival went according to plans and timelines (see attached operational plan)
iii. Any areas that were addressed or need to be addressed in the future
Looks like Covid won’t be going away so keeping future festivals Covid safe will need to be a part of future plans.
7. Economic benefit and other performance measures
a. Economic benefit
i. The event’s in-scope expenditure
Over 50% of visitors attending were from interstate, bringing money into Alice Springs, accommodation in Alice was fully sold out over the weekend. (see evaluation report attached)
ii. Event’s economic benefit
The Festival bought in 3000 visitors who spent money on accommodation, food and other tourism activities
iii. Event’s return on investment
Each year we add new dimensions to the Festival to allow it to grow (installations, signage) these all add to a better Festival and more loved by the public.
b. Sponsorship review
I. Sponsorship structure
14 local sponsors sponsor the prizes for the exhibition each year. Most of our sponsorship comes from NTMEC and Alice Springs Town Council. We are unable to secure serious sponsorship from local businesses thus far.
ii. Sponsorship position for future events
As the Festival grows, so more locals are potentially interested in sponsoring. We will continue to look at ways of engaging business to support us.
Our core business running Indigenous workshops in communities and in town will never be a profitable project and we will continue to require government funding to make this happen.
iii. Sponsorship strategy for the project long-term
Keep growing our presence in the community and look for inventive ways to entice local businesses. Design a sponsorship package.
See financial report
c. Funding Review
I. Budget vs actuals
See attached spreadsheet
ii. Ticket sales summary - prices, numbers
Not a ticketed event, gold coin donation ($4000 this year). We do this so people will spend money buying beanies. Workshops are paid for by participants.
iii. Assess the financial outcomes of the event
The Festival went to financial plan, no surprise costs or over spends, money raised from sale of beanies will go towards operation funding for next year’s Festival.
iv. Impact on financial planning for future event
Enough funds to go forward and plan 2022.
I. How many international tourists were there, where were they from etc?
Only a few international tourists due to Covid
ii. Accommodation analysis
Accommodation was fully booked over the Festival Weekend. (see evaluation report)
iii. Outline any tour packages available and the uptake of these
We tried to work with Tourism Central Australia, but there was no uptake. Will plan to engage with them earlier next year.
8. Social and cultural assessment
a. Social and cultural benefit and cost analysis of the event, including how it helped develop the skills of Territorians, how Territorians experienced the event how the event showcased the community and wider
As seen in attached evaluation report the Beanie Festival bought many skills to Territorians as beanie makers, volunteers, workshop participants. There is a strong community feel across all aspects of the Festival and interstate visitors have commented on what a warm and inviting place both Alice Springs and the Festival highlights.
I. Indications of participants
Please see attached evaluation for participants comments and indications.
ii. How many participants were there in total?
iii. What was the overall level and quality of the participants?
As recorded in formal evaluation there was a high level of participants who had a fabulous time with little negative responses and overall praise for the Festival in all aspects.
iv. Where were they from?
See visitor numbers above for breakdown of where participants were from.
v. How long did they stay?
Participants spent 6401 nights in Alice Springs over the Festival and a further 4224 in the NT
See attached evaluation
vi. Do you know if any of them travelled following the event ?
Beanie makers and beanie lovers come from a wide cultural background, we especially celebrate Indigenous culture with many beanies telling the stories of life in Central Australia. There are many other cultural stories exhibited and celebrated in the beanies.
Alice Springs is widely known throughout Australia as the Beanie Capital of the World. Many, many Alice Springs locals are proud to be associated with the Beanie Festival and parade their own favourite beanies around the town in the winter season, and every year they come to purchase more beanies to post to friends and family around the world sharing a little bit of Beanie Festival love.
We try to match the volunteer with the shifts and there is plenty to chose from, there are three volunteer coordinators who sign people on and off shifts. Shifts include teashop, cake stall, BBQ (a fav of husbands), gallery attendant, beanie minder, welcome officers, children’s corner teachers, back door minders, front desk workers and setting up/down staff. 120 volunteers in total.
Volunteers were rewarded several ways. Beanie makers who volunteered were allowed to enter up to 50 beanies each (non volunteers can only enter 10 beanies), volunteers who didn’t make any beanies were given a beanie t-shirt. On the Thursday night prior to opening we supplied drinks and nibbles to welcome the volunteers and give them a run down on how the Festival work. After each 2 hour shift volunteers received a voucher for soup or toasties and a drink. Then on the Sunday night the volunteers came to the Gillen Club for a free roast dinner and a run down on how well the Festival is going. Supporting and engaging volunteers is paramount to a successful festival.
The Beanie Festival brings more to the town of Alice Springs and the local Indigenous communities where the workshops are held. Visitor’s experiences are enhanced by local businesses and many businesses get behind the Festival and its visitors.
There was plenty of media around the Festival this year both local and nationally. Stories on the TV and radio were picked up around the country and carried forth into our social media friends indicating they had seen or heard the stories and were very excited we managed to go ahead and see their beanies on TV. It gave a great feel and expanded the Beanie Community as more people got in touch about planning to visit next year.
Radio interviews ran everyday on local ABC radio. Interviews with Darwin ABC radio. 8CCC local radio went live from the Festival all day Saturday. 8HA radio did a story on the Thursday. CAAMA radio did a story on the Wednesday.
I. Undertake a qualitative assessment of business, resident and other stakeholder perspectives during and after the event to understand possible negative effects, such as cancelled or postponed accommodation purchases, traffic congestion, noise or other pollution etc.
Can’t hold the Beanie Festival back, it grows and grows, and more and more people want to make beanies (many are discovering the crafts of their grandparents and wish to be a part of the handmade swell) and many old and new beanie lovers are planning 2022 adventures.
The Beanie Festival is unable to present the Festival without NTG funding to get it up and running. According to the evaluations NTG funding is recognized as essential to create this unique very much loved event, and is an important Festival as part of the NTMEC calendar.
Overall, through evaluations and surveys the Alice Springs Beanie Festival was an enormous success despite Covid restrictions. There was a warm loving environment and many new friendships created across the Festival platform. And many new skills learnt and taken home to be able to participate in 2022.
Information from the evaluations indicated visitors are extremely happy with their Beanie Festival Experience. The message appears to be we are doing a great job with only small recommendations which will be considered for 2022.
I. What was the level of interest and support from Territorians? As the Festival has grown so has the respect of Territorians. This was easily seen at the Festival this year. As we got closer to the Festival so did the reality that Victorians would not be allowed into the NT due to Covid. Most of our volunteers come from Victoria each year. So to keep the show on the road we had to put the feelers out. We couldn’t put the Festival on without the support of locals. Using social media and local radio we found them. We believe that locals knew how important it was to make the Festival happen, they came, signed on, and
Contact us for more info.