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Groove Tunes festival is centering artists and audiences with disabilities

People with disabilities to the front!

If you’re a music fan in Australia, across the last week or so you’ve probably seen many headlines proclaiming the death of music festivals. Analysts have assigned them to a world long gone, one without COVID-19 or a crunching cost of living crisis.

This is, of course, off the back of the cancellation of one of Australia's tentpole music festivals: Splendour In The Grass. Losing Splendour from our music industry’s calendar is huge, with its ripples felt for the rest of 2024 and probably beyond. But I’m here to tell you; don’t give up on the music festival as an experience just yet.

There’s a (relatively) new kid on the block I want you to meet first. Their name is Groove Tunes. And they are shaking things up. Now in their third year, Groove Tunes aims to serve “as a blueprint for inclusive live music experiences, across programming, marketing and execution.”

Further, the organisers of Groove Tunes hope that “by providing a platform for individuals with disabilities to enjoy live music, the festival will not only fosters inclusivity but inspire the broader music industry to prioritize accessibility.” The 2024 lineup is absolute fire – with performers including Big Words, Empres, Mz Rizk and incredible disabled artists, Mathilde Anne and Miss Emilia.

The festival is the brainchild of Dina Bassile, a specialist access consultant and the founder of Tibi Access, the organisation that runs the festival. I was lucky enough to chat with Dina, where she explained why she wants everyone to embrace Groove Tunes, why accessible live events are the only way to go, and why we need to care about what happens for and to disabled people across creative industries.

She founded Tibi Access eight years ago as an accessibility consultancy business specifically designed for creative industries. The business's remit includes everything from working with venues and festivals to musicians themselves and theatre. You may have seen them in the news recently for their incredible work across the Australian leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

As a company, Tibi Access has three main pillars that apply to all their events, including Groove Tunes, Dina tells me. “For us, it’s all about education, consultation and advocacy, which is why we also offer representation to disabled artists looking to make it in the music industry and work with festivals to diversify their lineups.” Importantly, they do so without judgement, meeting anyone where they’re at. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about if you/your event haven’t considered accessibility before… we know it’s not easy but we’re here to show you it is doable, even if the venue isn’t entirely accessible.”

In fact, that’s why Groove Tunes will be held at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne’s Richmond. It’s not a ‘perfect venue’ but the staff are willing to make things work, moving tables and designating space for quiet and sensory overload. The festival was born out of the “realisation that we’d done all these workshops and consulting but didn’t have an event of our own to show what it would all look like coming together,” says Dina. 

Over the last couple of years, Groove Tunes has created a lovely community and experience for artists and patrons alike, with big ambitions for the future. “I’d love to take Groove Tunes around the country and even do bigger shows outdoors as part of the lineup,” Dina laughs. Personally, I’d love people to one day talk about Groove Tunes the way they do Glastonbury or Coachella. Imagine what it would mean if a festival centering accessibility and artists with lived experience of disability was one of the biggest and most anticipated in the world. Wow.

Groove Tunes will be held at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, Melbourne on Saturday 18th May. You can purchase tickets here.