Is it all about tech or music or celebrity or the future of human resources or green energy? What is SXSW and what can we learn from it for Newcastle?
Today marks the half way of my SXSW journey, and I can break down this huge festival ofideas into five key words; Enliven, Engage, Challenging, Dream and Act.
You often hear people refer to towns and events as “alive”, I am a strong believer in the ability of events to achieve this outcome.
When I first walked out of the Hilton on Thursday and into Austin Texas, the overwhelming feeling coming from the streets, the people and the city was an absolute vibrancy – you felt as though you could reach out and touch it. It was palpable. My mind immediately went to “imagine what we can do for Newcastle with DiG!” There are blocks of streets closed off, activations everywhere – it’s a party with a purpose and an economic outcome. For DiG to become like SXSW it needs the support and involvement of the entire community – from the creative industries through to the individuals in government who will sign off on the road closures required and the infrastructure required to bring this festival from a baby to an adult.
The minute the plane touched down, the people of Austin were welcoming visitors to THEIR City. They are so proud of this event, and rightly so, but they also feel an ownership and are proud that their City welcomes 32,000 visitors from all over the world annually.
Tuesday was spent discussing community management, governance and guidelines surrounding social media and meeting some awesome industry professionals – people from Dell, Google, Target, Wells Fargo – some of the top companies in the US were represented. The ability to learn from each other, is at the core of SXSW and we are working hard to ensure DiG delivers the same.
The SXSW organisers have managed to engage some very powerful people across all three areas of the festival; high profile, socially minded individuals who care for the cause, not the almighty dollar. This has taken 21 years but it shows what is indeed possible with a common goal and a vision of excellence for a City.
Newcastle has the chance to do the same – but we need others to believe in the vision and what is possible – don’t say why Newcastle, yell why NOT Newcastle!
Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, renowned astrophysicist and host of Cosmos taught me that when the tooth fairy questions start coming, never underestimate the intelligence of said 6 or 7 year old. Dr Tyson took great pleasure in explaining how his eldest and her friends at school had worked out the only time they got money was when they told their parents about said tooth – if the tooth fell out at school and they hid it there – the tooth fairy and her rewards failed to show up. Of course his kids were smart enough to work out not to advise their parents what they had worked out and just kept with the status quo to ensure their money was delivered. He told this story to remind us of a time when we would challenge life.
The main message I am taking out of SXSW is to start to challenge EVERYTHING in our lives and stop accepting mediocrity. Why are we doing what we are doing… are there better ways to do what we are doing – and most importantly how to deal with the tooth fairy.
It’s also about challenging the systems we use and the people we manage to use those systems. The subject matter has been diverse, overwhelming and heartbreaking – but at all times challenging.
Having now experienced the event, I have enormous hope for the future of the DiG Festival and what it can do for the Newcastle and Hunter economy and culture. I have heard lots of figures thrown out this week, the most impressive is the $200 million that is injected in to the Austin economy directly by The SXSW Festival. This doesn’t include the associated businesses that are being set up here; if we can even do 5% of this figure it will be a success.
My sincere hope and dream is that government and the corporate community can embrace the 2014 DiG Festival for the enormous economic, social and cultural impact it can have on our beautiful City and be a showcase to the world.
Unfortunately for all the highs, there is a low.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am proudly patriotic – but if Australia doesn’t move yesterday on our connectivity infrastructure, we are going to be left behind and left behind significantly. This has been proven in a very small scale with Hunter Medicare Local highlighting speed issues and its implications and the announcement this week of BarTV having to move their operations out of the Hunter.
We should be shouting and screaming and not accepting this. I have spent the last week operating my business from the States using nothing but FREE WIFI – let me repeat that! I have happily run Eclipse and my work for all my clients remotely, at great speeds and it’s FREE – in hotels, restaurants, airports – you name it. I am currently writing this in a restaurant in downtown Austin as I have breakfast. This is not only standard for the average American, it is expected! If a restaurant doesn’t have WIFI they move on.
Yet as Australians we continue to accept sub standard – it’s no longer good enough. Australia get it together or you will miss the IT boat – this is the next industrial revolution – and it’s already happening.
So at the halfway mark and with the interactive component complete, I now turn my attention to the film and music industries and wonder what else could be in store for the Hunter? Do you dare to dream too?
Tracy McKelligott is the Managing Director of Eclipse Media, Events and PR and is a co-creator and partner in the DiG Festival with Craig Wilson of Digital Marketing Agency Sticky and Stephanie Hinds of Growthwise
Follow all three – @Tracy_EclipseMD, @mediahunter and @growthwise