Australian bureaucracy on world stage for best noddy awards

David Marr SMH

December 13, 2010

    Hard done by ... the crowd at the Domain raise their arms for Jack Johnson.Hard done by … the crowd at the Domain raise their arms for Jack Johnson. Photo: Getty Images 

    GENE RANSOM had a bad night out at the Domain on Saturday. For his 62nd birthday, his kids had given him tickets for Jack Johnson, the laid-back singer-songwriter from Hawaii who Ransom rates as ”extremely pleasant listening”.

    Trouble began at the gate when the grey-bearded Ransom was asked to show his ID. Why? It was a long time since he had looked under-age. ”In case there is trouble,” explained the guard, one of 150 or so from the stable of Secure Events and Assets.

    Laid back ... Jack Johnson performs on stage.
    Laid back … Jack Johnson performs on stage. 

    A bag search revealed three plastic bottles of soft drink in Ransom’s cooler bag. One was opened and emptied on the ground before he was allowed to enter with the other two.

    Ransom regretted the picnic and the wine he had been warned to leave at home. Their $97 tickets gave them a patch of ground to sit on – more of that later – with many hours to wait before Johnson appeared, long queues for the food stalls and only beer and cider at the bar. Security was very visible.

    Others in the crowd of 17,000 in the Domain have told the Herald”the vibe was weird”.

    ”People were antsy,” Jackie Munro said. ” I don’t think Jack Johnson would have liked it.” Her 57-year old partner was also asked to prove he was old enough to drink. ”He looks young, but not that young.”

    Meanwhile, the Ransom party was having trouble settling down in the picnic blanket exclusion zone, where the concert promoters, Michael Coppel Presents, expected patrons would be up and dancing when the headline act finally began hours later.

    ”We were approached by Brunnhilde of security, who informed me sitting on a cushion was prohibited,” Ransom said. He had made a cushion of the banned blanket.

    Another in the party was reproached for sitting on a folded towel and a third for using a folded cardigan.

    ”We were told we must actually have our bums on the grass. It was so blatantly absurd.”

    A Botanic Gardens spokeswoman, Kerry Brown, assuredHerald readers these are not new rules to be imposed all summer in the Domain. It sounded to her as if things may have gone to ”a silly extreme”. Cushions, wine, rugs and picnics will not be forbidden at free Sydney Festival events in the park.

    Dave Rubin, the manager of commercial operations for Michael Coppel Presents, said he wanted to satisfy himself of the facts but said if this happened it was damn silly. ”Discretion could have been used.”

    Jim Fidler, the director of Secure Events and Assets, wouldn’t comment except to say that if this happened he ”wouldn’t be happy”.

    Once the music began everyone was on their feet. And the music was great, Ransom reports. ”But how,” he asks, ”have we as a society so comprehensively lost the plot on a simple night out?”

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