Interview with Betty Moinet, Co-Founder and Director
Could you tell us about the history of Le Festival, the Brisbane French Festival and its core activity?
The idea of a French Festival in Brisbane was born in 2009, in the wake of the French Affair Expo – a French market organised by its Director Sue McGary. French Affair specialised in stocking French products such as Savon de Marseille soaps, body care lotions, scented candles, fragrance diffusers, baskets and gifts. Following the success of this event, Damien Hubert, the Director of the Alliance Française de Brisbane at the time, and I contacted Sue to discuss the future of her initiative. From our discussions, we came up with the very simple idea of creating a street event to celebrate everything French in Brisbane. We soon invited all of the Brisbane French Associations to join us and created the Brisbane French Festival; a not-for-profit organisation, initially with Damien Hubert as President, Sue McGary as Vice President and myself in charge of marketing the event.
The first edition of the Brisbane French Festival took place the following year, in July 2010, at South Bank Parklands and was a great success, with 17,000 attendees over a day. The event included stage entertainment as well as 45 stalls of French food and goods. In 2011, we started to benefit from the support of sponsors and created our Arts & Artisans Pavilion showcasing French Interior Design, Fashion and Perfumes, to offer the crowd an opportunity to experience more aspects of the French culture. The concept was so successful that we extended it in 2014 with a Wine Pavilion. Once again the event proved to be very popular, so popular in fact that it was overcrowded. The previous year (2013) was a gap year dedicated to strategic planning, which resulted in a few major changes. Firstly, the 2014 edition of Le Festival became a two-day event and a $5 entry fee was introduced in the hope to entice the francophiles out of the crowd. This move proved successful, with more than 40,000 visitors over the two days.
The revenue generated by the entry fees (approximately one quarter of our budget), combined with more sponsors and more stall holders (now up to 80), means that we have been able to invest in better equipment and entertainment for future festivals. Last year, we were able to feature 50 acts on stage representing a total of 25 hours of entertainment. This year, we are excited to host the Official Daft Punk Tribute band and will extend our programme by opening our doors one day earlier (from 5pm to 10pm) making it a three-day event including Friday 8th, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of July.
Can you describe your personal background, and your role as Director?
I came to Australia 21 years ago after completing a master’s degree in international business. My plan was to get overseas working experience, in order to fully validate my degree. Hired by Mack Trucks Australia, which was then taken over by Renault Vehicules Industriels, I ended up staying 5 years in the company. In 1998, my husband and I decided to join forces – he as a graphic designer and I, as a marketing specialist – to create our own company OLG Multimedia. We both had stayed long enough in Australia and felt that our deep knowledge of both cultures could be of service to the corporate world. The company, which has now been operating for more than 18 years, is mostly run by my husband as I have been now appointed as Director of Le Festival.
As Director of Le Festival, I orchestrate the whole event, from strategic planning to logistics, with the help of 26 committee members and one full-time intern. Le Festival simply cannot exist without the support of this incredible team of volunteers. Our committee members are either business owners or full time professionals with different expertise and a common passion to share their culture. From 20 to 65 years old, these men and women somehow manage to deliver top quality support to Le Festival, despite multiple commitments. In my 20 years of working, this is the best team I have ever worked with.
Another aspect of my role consists in engaging with various community stakeholders and sponsors, who are key to the success of this event. I want to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors for their ongoing support. We are particularly grateful for the support of Total E&P, Air France, Veolia, Albatross Lawyers, Alliance Française de Brisbane, Le Comptoir Français and Hotel Jen, also members of the FACCI.
How do you envisage the future of Le Festival and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
This year Le Festival has partnered with other local French associations to create ‘The French Week’; a week full of French activities across Brisbane. Our vision is to involve the whole city in our French Week and eventually the whole country. When Le Festival started in Brisbane 6 years ago, it was the only French Festival in Australia. Now Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and even the Gold Coast have a French Festival, which all proved popular with visitors. There is no doubt that many Australians are francophiles at heart, with more than 80% of our attendees being Australian. The other 20% comes of course from the French community who is incredibly supportive. More than 300 people have signed up to volunteer during the 3-day event. The future of Le Festival cannot be imagined without the enthusiastic support of this army of volunteers.
The link with the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce is obvious as many FACCI members can naturally become exhibitors or partners. We particularly appreciate the referrals of new members who can bring new products and savoir-faire to Le Festival. In the long run, if the Festival evolves towards a French Expo, then the Chamber’s connections to the corporate world will become even more valuable to us. But for now, let’s enjoy our 2016 edition!
For more information, consult Le Festival’s website: lefestival.com.au.
Interview conducted by Claire Dupré on the 18 May 2016
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© 2017 FRENCH AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE