Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

10 Years Of Airlie Beach Festival Of Music

Known as one of the Whitsunday’s most celebrated local events, the Airlie Beach Festival of Music (ABFoM) has travelled a long way to reach this pinnacle of success.

Marking its 10th year in 2022 and awarded Festival of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards, it seems there is no stopping this iconic local festival.

It’s been a big year and an incredible decade which all started when festival founder Gavin Butlin (known affectionately as ‘Butto’) had a conversation with local musician Kieran McCarthy.

Sharing his vision for the festival, Butto felt sure that Airlie Beach was the perfect destination for a music festival.

“I thought there was no better place for a festival,” he said.

“It’s based a bit on Tamworth which is spread all over the town and we wanted to do something similar.

“10 years down the track and it’s all happening – this is the only festival that brings the whole town together as one event.”

In the years before the first ABFoM, two other festivals had tried and failed to succeed, meaning that when Butto started out, there was a lot of scepticism.

Determined to prove them wrong, Butto knew that by choosing to hold the event at the Whitsunday Sailing Club people could be within walking distance to the town.

Deciding on the location was a pivotal moment for Butto.

“At first no-one wanted to be part of it,” he said.

“But thankfully they trusted me and here we are 10 years later!”

Over the years a core group of organisers and volunteers, known as the ‘Festival Family’, have been the cornerstone of the event.

“So many of them have been part of the festival for the whole 10 years,” said Butto.

“They live and breathe the festival – some of them even take a week off work to be here – it’s incredible, without them we wouldn’t have a festival!”

Over the past decade, ABFoM has evolved and developed to become a largescale operation regularly attracting thousands of people who enjoy the easy vibe and creature comforts of the event.

“Every year’s got better and better – we’ve be learning as we go – whatever goes wrong one year we fix for the next,” explains Butto.

From introducing a shuttle bus service to putting food vans inside the venue, every effort is made to make the festival as easy as possible for attendees.

Another key element that makes ABFoM stand apart from the rest is its ability to attract the big-name performers while offering a platform for emerging artists.

“Local bands never get a chance to play at a festival, so we try and support them,” said Butto.

“We like to give smaller bands a crack and have 10 local bands playing this year - 50 in total – it’s going to be amazing!”

Festival Founder Gavin ‘Butto’ Butlin (centre) with workmates just after the first tent was put up 10 years ago

Volunteers and organisers known as the Festival Family

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