Sydney Festival

Prototyping what a COVID-normal festival looks like requires tenacity, agility and imagination. In 2021, this ever-innovative festival showed all three in spades.

Leading the charge in a COVID-normal world 

The Sydney Festival 2021 came with high expectations. As one of Australia’s first large-scale events in a COVID-safe environment, it was up to them to set the benchmark for the execution of arts festivals moving forward. Safety and caution remained top of the agenda as Australia balanced low instances of community transmission. 

Prototyping what a COVID-safe festival would look like required tenacity, agility and imagination. The Sydney Festival rose to the challenge, offering a large program in exciting new venues that showcased the city’s beauty and vibrancy, and kept visitors safe. Festival organizers dedicated months of planning to make sure that the festival was as enjoyable and safe as possible.


Socially distanced, but more connected than ever

The Sydney Festival is a hugely popular event, attracting more visitors year-on-year. The Festival took an innovative approach to manage this year’s crowds so that the local community could safely come together to celebrate the arts and breathe life back into the city.

The organizers created an enormous all-weather outdoor stage overlooking Sydney Harbour at Barangaroo Reserve — a 1,700 seat venue — so that large audiences could gather safely. They also commissioned existing live music venues to host smaller events. This new format posed extra logistical challenges, as each venue was impacted differently by COVID-safe requirements.

It was up to staff and volunteers on the ground to make sure that these plans were put into action. Organizers easily managed by introducing COVID-specific checklists in iAuditor, customized for each event site. This allowed them to keep an eye on everything from crowd control to mask compliance. By providing real-time visibility, iAuditor helped to keep all 60 staff and volunteers in the loop all across the city – literally! 

“I can’t remember a time before SafetyCulture and iAuditor… or maybe I don’t want to. Our old safety data processes were cumbersome and featured a lot of double handling… SafetyCulture allowed us to streamline and digitize our systems.” - John Bayley, Head of Production

When the only constant is change

Evolving restrictions mean that standards that are up to scratch today may be out of date tomorrow. Only weeks before the Sydney Festival, the city came under new government measures responding to instances of community transmission. 

“Interestingly, the adapting of work practices for COVID-19 is pretty straightforward. It was the constant changes to health orders, plan requirements and the concerns around an outbreak… that made the task taxing,” notes Bayley. 

Adaptable technology is key to operating amid uncertainty. iAuditor gave festival organizers the autonomy to change checklist templates at a moment’s notice. Once completed, organizers could send best practice safety checklists straight into the hands of people on the front line to communicate the right information instantly to those who needed it. 


Flexibility when it counts 

 Hosting an event in a COVID-safe world means not only managing more risks but also responding to ever-changing circumstances. iAuditor’s fully customizable platform gave organizers the confidence of knowing that if things changed, the organization’s safety strategy could keep up.

The Sydney Festival’s success goes to show that when you pair an innovative mindset with adaptable systems, organizations can not only survive in the face of risk and uncertainty but thrive. The success of the 2021 Sydney Festival marked an exciting return to community events in a COVID-safe world.

“We’ve had iAuditor for a few years and it is a trusted system… every year we have found new ways to interact with this product as our needs are rarely the same.”

John Bayley, Head of Production

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