Response to WA Today (29th May 2020)

Context: On the 28th May 2020, WA Today published an article on their website and social media.

The following is the response provided to the author via email from Blazing Swan.

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Dear Aja,

After reviewing your article on Blazing Swan that was released from WAtoday yesterday, 28th May 2020, we would like to draw your attention to a number of factual and copyright issues contained within the story.

We request the following points be reviewed and the article be amended immediately so as to rectify the matter:

 

  • “Organisers of a Swan Valley music and arts festival that likens itself to Burning Man”

    • Blazing Swan is not likened to Burning Man, Blazing Swan is an official regional Burning Man event

    • Blazing Swan is held in Kulin. Kulin is located in the Wheatbelt area of WA, not Swan Valley; a difference of around 300 kilometers.

    • Blazing Swan is not a “Swan Valley Music and Arts Festival”, we are a week long regional arts event and an experiment in temporary community.

    • You can varify this statement from our website: https://blazingswan.com.au/blazing-swan-a-short-history/

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide an accurate situation to your readership.

 

  • We are quoted that our ‘members ‘“Overwhelmingly” voted in support of no refunds’. There has not been a public discussion or announcement as to the extremes of how our membership voted. Our members voted and a majority won. This can be a minor minority or major. Either way, our membership voted in support of Blazing Swan’s ‘no refunds’ ticketing terms and conditions. This is not a quote, nor a fact and therefore use of “overwhelmingly” is subjective and opinionist language designed to provide a lead for your readership.

  • You can verify this with our statement on our member’s vote here: https://blazingswan.com.au/cancellation/ entitled ‘Refund Statement (30th April 2020)

    • We request the wording be updated to reflect the correct nature of the event.

 

  • I am quoted as saying we spent $100,000 on the Temple and Effigy however this figure refers to all art (which includes, but not exclusive to, the temple and effigy). The figure includes art grants, theme camp grants and the costs associated with them.

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide an accurate situation to your readership.

 

  • The photos and video contained with the article have been obtained and used without permission of Blazing Swan or the credited photographer Sam Luckman.

    • We spoke with Mr Luckman yesterday morning. Mr Luckman confirmed that consent to use his photos has never been sought. Blazing Swan has not been contacted for its permission to use the photos shown in the article either.

    • It is noted that this is not the first time Mr Luckman’s photos have been used without consultation or consent by WA Today, and he is unhappy to be associated with this negativity provided by the article against the event.

    • WA Today is using images to drive readership, which will be used to sell advertisements. Images are being used without consent for commercial purposes.

    • One of our driving 11 principles is consent. Whilst this can be applied in a number of places, our community is highly attuned to consent of their image in photographs. So whilst you have failed to contact and gain consent for use of the images used in the article, you have also failed to gain consent from the individuals who are shown.

    • The image listed as the Temple build,  was not going to be the temple. What’s depicted in the image is the start of a scaffolding structure of one of the Theme Camps. We’d note that as an event we are highly conscious of our potential environmental impacts (please refer to our Leave No Trace principle) and do not wish the landowners where Blazing Swan takes place, to think we set fire to objects with large amounts of metal contained within them, as doing so would see metal which would then enter the ground which is used for growing of agriculture crops during the year.

    • We request the images be removed to reflect copyright ownership.

 

  • You mention “many happily ‘donating’ their money”. Whilst this has been a term used within our community, Blazing Swan has not asked for any donations, nor have we termed the financial inability to refund our ticket holders as a ‘donation’. At all times during our communication with our community and ticket holders we have stated that no refunds would be made, and that this was inline with our ticketing terms and conditions. We are grateful that many in our community wish to support the event and the association, but it is incorrect to refer to the financial inability to provide refunds as a ‘donation’.

    • You can verify this with all the statements provided on our website here: https://blazingswan.com.au/cancellation/

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide an accurate situation to your readership

 

  • The terms and conditions of Blazing Swan tickets detail “they did not have to refund the money due to “actions taken by government or conditions beyond Blazing Swan’s control” This is selective language. Our terms and conditions are for no refunds, it includes no refunds due to cancellation of the event, not exclusive to. Our ticketing terms and conditions are provided during the purchase decision in line with other company’s product and services. The wording in the article appears as if we have deliberately worded for this particular event. This is not the case..

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide an accurate situation to your readership

 

In regards to the Complainant’s  statements.

  • “She said it took a month of email exchanges to learn that the festival intended to keep the money,” this is factually incorrect.

    • Blazing Swan announced cancellation of the event on 16th March 2020. This communication was made to all ticket holders via email, as well as via our social media and website.

    • Two days later, on the 18th March 2020, Blazing Swan provided an update on the cancellation to the community via its social media channels and website. It was at this point that ‘no refunds’ were being made was communicated several times throughout this and future communications.

    • You can find a copy of all communications made, in chronological order, via our website – https://blazingswan.com.au/cancellation/

    • With regards to the Complainant specifically; – a total of 26 emails were exchanged between the Complainant and the volunteer team at Blazing Swan. The first email received on March 16th and was responded to on 17th March. Again, this email, many others to the Complainant and our public communications, reinforced to the complainant that no refunds would be provided.

    • We would also note that, despite being a volunteer organisation with all of our extremely small ticketing support team working full-time positions throughout this situation, we responded to a large quantity of emails and direct social media messages in a short timeframe.

    • With this timeline and these facts, it is clear that Blazing Swan has not, as the Complainant is indicating through the writing in your article, dodged responsibility to communicate with her about refunds. We have been very clear and consistent in our communication throughout the entire process

    • Again, you can find a copy of all communications made to our community via our website – https://blazingswan.com.au/cancellation/

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide context of the situation to your readership

 

  • “Which for a usually 2000-strong festival was worth up to $600,000.”

    • The financial amount mentioned within this statement is an estimation from someone who has absolutely no involvement, experience or knowledge of the running of this event.

    • We understand the Complainant’s frustration at the situation, but self-accounting with self-estimated financial figures about an event that has not been attended does not provide any substantial evidence.

    • As the publisher without context being provided to your readership this financial figure is presented without any backing, evidence or substance. This should be provided with some form of context ie (estimated) to help better guide your readership.

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide context of the situation to your readership

 

  • “I don’t know why they can’t just email us and say where the actual money has been spent.” In our 2nd cancellation statement to our community, provided two days after our initial cancellation,  Blazing Swan provided an overview and examples of some of the expenditure, explaining that much of it had been made and did not have the ability to be recuperated.

    • You can verify this with the statement provided 18th March 2020 on our website here: https://blazingswan.com.au/cancellation//

    • We request the wording be updated so as to provide context of the situation to your readership

 

I trust that this outlines our issues and concerns with the article and some constructive feedback as to how to rectify the article to provide a fair, balanced and most importantly, factually correct article for your viewers. We now await your confirmation of doing so.

 

Ultimately, we provide a valuable, expressive space for around 3,000 people each year to come and explore an arts and music festival. Our association stands with our community who are deeply saddened by the cancellation of our event. I assure you and our community that Blazing Swan is not a company cancelling our event so executives can walk away with a bank account full of cash. Like all not-for-profit organisations, we do not earn profits for our owners and any of the money earned is used in pursuing the association’s objectives and keeping it running.

 

This year, our event was cancelled because of a global pandemic. A pandemic which has sadly taken over 350,000 lives globally, 103 in Australia, with 570 cases and 9 deaths in our own WA community. We followed the Government’s instructions, cancelling our event right at the start of the pandemic.

 

It was not our decision to cancel our event, it was a decision that was taken out of our hands at the last minute; rendering us unable to deliver our event to ticket holders. Whilst the ACCC provides advice to support consumers in substandard products and/or services, this is typically when the supplier makes the decision in non-delivery, not when the government enforces a restriction upon them so as to stop delivery. Like many other situations that people currently find themselves in, this is an unprecedented event with unprecedented impacts and we have, and continue to work hard to communicate promptly and clearly with our community about our decisions.

 

Our event now hangs in the balance and articles like this do not help our situation. We are happy to be held accountable and be reported on but when facts are laid out inaccurately then we will speak up to seek corrections.

 

I would be more than happy to provide further information if required and ask that you email myself and cc’ my communications team so that we can do so in writing.

 

We await your response with regard to updating your article.

 

Thanks and Regards

Vida

Vida Barrett
Chairperson
BlazingSwan Inc.