Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Anyone for some more pain in Slane?

There’s a report from Tim O’Brien in this morning’s paper as this story shows no signs of going away. Venue owner Lord Henry Mount Charles is not a happy bunny about the amount of post-gig complaints and criticisms which the …

Thu, Jun 25, 2009, 11:46

   

There’s a report from Tim O’Brien in this morning’s paper as this story shows no signs of going away.

Venue owner Lord Henry Mount Charles is not a happy bunny about the amount of post-gig complaints and criticisms which the Oasis gig has provoked. Per the report, “he had become “extremely concerned” to hear of concert-goers’ bad experiences, largely though the media, in the wake of the event. The complaints mainly related to crowd control issues, which Lord Mount Charles put down to “a failure of systems, particularly around what people are now calling the Dublin gate. I am talking to those involved and I am far from happy – I say that as an understatement.

“Quite certainly there are implications for future concerts at Slane, and I regret the awful shame and the damage to the reputation of Slane Castle as an international venue. I will be looking with care to obviously avoid that in the future”.

Meanwhile, spokesdude for promoters MCD, Justin Green, repeats the admission earlier in the week that ticket scanning had been temporarily suspended at one entrance for about 30 minutes at 6.35pm to ease the build-up of people entering there. He does, though, point out that “at the same time the gate behind them at the bridge entrance was closed, thus ensuring that no one could enter the system knowing that ticket scanning had been temporarily suspended”.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the post-Slane fallout over the last 24 hours and a few things come to mind.

I did a behind-the-scenes piece at Oxegen in 2007 and had access to such areas as the event control room. That room had 17 monitors carrying footage from the different closed-circuit cameras around the site, while there was also a Garda control van outside the building monitoring feeds from different cameras around the racecourse. All footage was recorded and stored.

I would assume that there would be a similar amount of cameras and policing employed for an event like Slane, with its licence for 80,000 paying customers. If so, did experienced crowd control gardai and stewards not see a backlog developing and why did they not do something about it earlier? Surely stopping scanning tickets is a last resort and other more pro-active policing efforts could have been utilised, especially when you have so many surveillance cameras monitoring the site?

Of course, we have been here before. Over on the never-ending boards.ie thread, one poster remembers going to see Queen in Slane in 1986, an event which featured queues, trenches for toilets, fights amongst the audience, a beer-can thrown at Queen’s Brian May, a IR£14.50 ticket price and Chris Rea, while another poster recalls that “the buses and bars were a sham at REM in 1995.”

While some things have changed since then (you can now fume to Joe, for instance), the fact remains that you are always going to get problems at shows at Slane, by nature of the venue and the village where it is located. Remember, you’re building an one-off venue for 80,000 people in a hilly field in the middle of Co Meath so, of course, there’s going to be things which go wrong. After all, you’ll get infrastructural and crowd access problems of a similar hue at any large outdoor event which takes place in a venue which does not usually cater for that many people. Look at the traffic stories from Glastonbury and that festival hasn’t even kicked off yet.

Moreover, contrast a concert at Slane with a concert for a similar size at Croke Park. I live near Croker and, while it takes a little longer for the stadium to clear out after a concert than a GAA game, the systems are in place from weekly matches to make sure you don’t get problems like Oasis at Slane.

However, Lord Henry Mount Charles, MCD Concerts and all the other agencies who are involved in putting on events at Slane Castle have been doing this long enough to forsee such problems and make sure they don’t arise. After all, that’s what event management plans and event consultants are for – the latter put together the former plans which are supposed to take into account problems which arose at previous gigs at the venue, the profile of the crowd at the venue (you’d have a different plan in place for an Oasis show than you have for a Take That show) and other events around the gig (for instance, if there was a big sports event happening that day).

Such plans may not stop problems developing, but they sure as hell should be able to ensure that problems from previous years do not re-occur. And those problems are simply not going to go away if you avoid or ignore the legitimate concerns and issues of angry, paying customers.

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