Student Ashlee Barr on landing a job with “The Hills Are Alive” Music Festival

When she’s not busy studying Entertainment Management at Collarts, Ashlee Bar has been making some incredible inroads into the entertainment industry.

After getting the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes at Paradise Music Festival and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival through Collarts, Ashlee met Collarts Guest Lecturer, Aidan McLaren, Artist Manager at We Are Unified and Director of The Hills Are Alive Music Festival.

After introducing herself at the guest lecture, Aidan offered Ashlee the opportunity to work with him on a variety of projects, and along the way, he’s introduced her to an incredible network of movers-and-shakers in the Australian music industry.

We caught up with Ashlee to ask her about how it’s all been going, and in particular about her most recent work with Aidan on The Hills Are Alive Music Festival.


1. Talk us through how you first met Aidan and how that evolved into working on the festival.

It all started in Trimester 3 of last year when I was in Alicia Brown’s ‘Critical Survey’ class. That class involves having industry professionals come in and talk to us about how they’ve gotten to where they are today in their career, and what challenges they may have faced along the way. Aidan McLaren (the Director of The Hills Are Alive Music Festival) was one of the guest speakers Alicia arranged. Aidan was someone I previously knew of, and I was super excited to hear about his wins and losses in the industry.

After the talk in class, I went up and introduced myself to him, telling him that UNIFY festival, which he is a part of, was “my life”. He laughed and told me he wouldn’t forget me and I suddenly realised I had made a goose of myself. He proceeded to give me some useful tips to try out in regards to getting managers and agents to pay attention to me.

A few weeks later I reached out to him, informing him that I had put his advice into practice and it was really paying off, and reminded him in case he’d forgotten that “I was the girl who told you that UNIFY was my life”. That really kicked off the conversation and we started speaking quite regularly. Since then, Aidan got me involved in selling merchandise at shows for REMI, doing poster runs for UNIFY and The Hills are Alive, and then most recently working at The Hills Are Alive festival.

Since knowing him, not only have I learned so much from the experiences he’s helped provide, but he has also introduced me to some really important influencers. It has been incredible!

2. What was your role with the festival?

I was a part of the production and setup team.

I drove up to the festival site in Loch (South Gippsland, Victoria) on Thursday morning and began putting together The Wreck Bar (a bar built around an old boat) and the Mr Mooyagi Cowraoke bar with another girl. After that, we set up the sports field, and then cleaned and set up the Dr Pong Shed ping-pong area).

I also painted the famous The Hills Are Alive Hollywood Sign letters, which made me feel great as I could see them all weekend and they’re so famously symbolic of the festival. Other than that, I was busy with plenty of final bits and pieces to ensure everything was where it needed to be like getting stars onto gates, setting up flags on the barriers, etc.

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The famous ‘Hollywood Sign’ at the festival which Ashlee painted and helped setup


The view from the top of ‘The Ship Wreck Bar’ that Ashlee helped build 

3. What were your favourite moments of working on the festival?

Arriving at the festival I didn’t know what to expect. I have volunteered at numerous festivals before, but I have never been given such an incredible opportunity like this.

Being able to meet all of the crew on board the festival was definitely a highlight. Everyone I met and worked with was so welcoming and kind, even in just the smallest ways.

My other favourite moment was seeing the punters having so much fun around the bars and areas I had created (Mr Mooyagi Cworakoe, Ship Wreck, Mr Pong etc), that was just the best feeling.

Also, I got to shower every day in a proper shower – not a portaloo one! 


Ashlee and friends enjoying the sunset once all the hard work in setting up the festival was out of the way!

4. What was the most important thing you learned from the experience?

Teamwork is definitely key, and there is absolutely no I in TEAM.

Our production team met every few hours to debrief on the jobs we had completed, what hadn’t yet been completed and anything we noticed that needed to be done. It was quite interesting to see that certain jobs had to be completed in order for others to begin and without everyone working together, they wouldn’t get done.

It was also important to learn that not everything will work out perfectly, that there will almost always be flaws in plans and that unexpected things will happen at the last minute – like volunteers dropping out, misspelling of artists names on programs – but they’re all quite easily fixed.

5. What advice would you give to others that are looking to build relationships and break into this kind of work?

Don’t be afraid to approach somewhere whom you would like to work with. I encountered Aidan three times and emailed for weeks before he asked me to work with him, but it all paid off. I’ve had great advice from him and met and worked with incredible people while making very important connections, which is just what my course at Collarts is all about.

6. What have been your favourite parts of studying at Collarts?

The opportunities and knowledge I have gained through Collarts have been incredible. I never thought I’d be able to network as well as I already have, and the teachers there have been more than helpful for whatever your needs are – you can tell they really want to see you succeed.
I have also been incredibly lucky to have been chosen to represent Collarts and be awarded a scholarship to study at Drexel University in Philadelphia for trimester 6, something I have only dreamt about since I was a little girl! I am so incredibly excited and cannot wait to see how it all works out.

Ashlee Barr is currently in her fourth Trimester of studying the Bachelor of Arts (Entertainment Management) at Collarts.