Interview with Audrey Mates-Bills, co-founder and President of the Goald Coast Bonjour French Festival
Could you tell us more about the creation of the Gold Coast Bonjour French Festival?
The idea of a French Festival on the Gold Coast has been brewing for a few years. The local French community, which already represented 7,000 people in the 2011 census and keep growing steadily, has been expressing interest for a popular event for some time. Gold Coast City, which is Noumea sister-city since 1995, also seemed like the perfect partner to create such an event… But finally, the creation of our organisation was born from a key meeting between my-self and Julia Baber, who had been running her own marketing business and dreaming about the same thing for years. In 2013, we eventually set up the Gold Coast Bonjour French Festival structure, which is a not-for-profit entity, and were able to put a team of 15 together.
What are your objectives for the first edition of the festival?
Our goal is to create a popular summer festival offering a wide range of stalls and events for all ages. A French produce market, French a la Carte in the Park, live music, kids’ activities, Street Culture Hub and Art Exhibitions are just a few of the highlights of the festival. We will also have a massive display of Peugeot-Citroen and Renault (our Platinum sponsor) classic cars. The festival will be a mix of traditional flavours and lesser-known modern facets of our culture. New Caledonia working in close partnership with the festival means that you will be able to find New Caledonians artists as well as famous singers straight from France. We are working actively to increase this amazing relationship with New Caledonia, which is the closest French territory to the Gold Coast. In terms of attendance, we expect 5,000 people au minimum, hope for 10,000 and dream of 15,000! And who knows, we might have a surprise visit from President Hollande who will be attending the G20 in Brisbane and has officially been invited by the Gold Coast Mayor! At any rate, it will be a great opportunity for all QLD Francophones and Francophiles who cannot wait a whole year till the next Brisbane French Festival to enjoy a special French day at the beach.
Can you describe your personal background and your role within the GCBFF team?
I arrived in Australia 14 years ago. After a diploma and career in Hospitality Management, I created my own company, Voilà Events GC, 4 years ago. Specialized in the organisation of all events with a French flair, I was the natural Event Coordinator for the festival while Julia Baber, co-founder and Secretary, is in charge of the marketing. We are both self-employed and mothers, so we pretty much juggle three full-time jobs! Both our companies are sponsors of the event.
What did you learn about business since you have arrived in Australia?
It is true that Australia is still a land of opportunity for people who have a vision and are ready to work hard. Australians are in general laid-back and it reflects in the way they do business. Overall, people are more accessible and open-minded. Great ideas and projects are embraced by the institutions and businesses, even when you are a “nobody”. As Europeans, we bring in a savoir-faire which is really appreciated. We also have learnt to be cautious and thoroughly secure deals on paper.
What do you hope to achieve by being a member of the FACCI?
It seemed natural to seek a partnership with FACCI as more and more French businesses are setting up on the Gold Coast. It is both an opportunity for FACCI to be present on the day and for us to gain in visibility within the Queensland French-Australian business community. We invite your members to express interest, as our venue allows for 45 stalls and there are still some spaces available. We also seek further sponsorships, in complement to the Platinum sponsorship that Renault has already obtained.
Interview conducted by Claire Dupré.
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