Nimbyism over Brooks concerts a reaction to disrespect for public spaces
Opinion: Residents around Croke Park who expect the worst might be right
“I arrived back in Ireland after five days and nights at Glastonbury, a unique and colossal festival where nearly 200,000 people on site generally get along and are polite, friendly, and manage to have a great time without falling into the dopey traps so common at Irish outdoor shows.” Above, festivalgoers leaving the Glastonbury festival in Somerset. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
The triumph of Nimbyism at Croke Park, where a few hundred residents were shocked to realise that buying a house next to one of the largest stadiums in Europe means they will occasionally encounter crowds, is the perfect articulation of one of our national pastimes: expecting the worst. Potential antisocial behaviour being cited as one of the reasons the licence wasn’t granted for five Garth Brooks concerts is a curious smokescreen. If potential antisocial behaviour was a genuine criterion for not granting a gig licence, there would be no large-scale outdoor music events in Ireland. We live in a country where potential antisocial behaviour is just a bottle of Buckfast away.
Outdoor music events excel at both potential and very immediate antisocial behaviour. Big gigs make some people change from polite, law-abiding citizens into raucous, drunken idiots. That’s just normal, right? That’s to be expected.
Irish people are brilliant at expecting the worst of each other. Sure you can’t give people free bikes! They’ll set fire to them and throw them into the Liffey at the first opportunity. Sure you can’t charge for plastic bags! People will riot in the aisles and burn tyres outside Lidl. Sure you can’t have a smoking ban! No one will abide by it, publicans will strike, and the country will implode. We look at the facts and head directly for the worst-case scenario.
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For someone like myself who goes to a couple of gigs a week at venues ranging from warehouses to the National Concert Hall, and spends the summer travelling to music festivals, you get a good sense of crowd dynamics, and what Facebook might call “contagion” when it comes to standards of behaviour. It’s hard to generalise. Poor behaviour isn’t specific to age, although there is an assumption that the younger the crowd the drunker they will be. I don’t think that’s always true. One of the ugliest behaving crowds I’ve come across recently was at The Killers in the Phoenix Park last year – thousands of thirtysomethings and fortysomethings absolutely ossified. Yet at the last Oxegen event, where its transformation into a commercial dance festival was expected to attract a badly behaved crowd, I found people to be nothing but courteous. At One Direction in Croke Park, I expected at least some teenagers to be knocking back naggins of vodka and falling around the place. Not so. It was a lesson in organisation and stewarding.
Last Tuesday I arrived back in Ireland after five days and nights at Glastonbury, a unique and colossal festival at which nearly 200,000 people generally get along and are polite, friendly, and manage to have a great time without falling into the dopey traps so common at Irish outdoor shows.
Despite the widescale consumption of alcohol and drugs at Glastonbury, on half a dozen occasions I’ve attended that festival, I’ve never once witnessed anything approaching idiot behaviour. There are no lads getting in the faces of people and whooping like apes. There are no people vomiting. Urinating in public is very much frowned upon.
The previous weekend I was at Body & Soul in Westmeath, which borrows heavily from the Glastonbury aesthetic and manages to create a nice vibe. But the day after I came home from Glasto, I went to see Kanye West play in Marlay Park, and the idiocy was there in full effect.
People argued with me online, saying the crowd wasn’t “that bad”. Well, that’s the problem. When our projected standards are so low, if those expectations are even half realised, we equate the consequences as “normal”. So when we go to a gig and assume it’ll be carnage, and people’s behaviour is subsequently terrible, we call that normal. It is not normal for men to urinate in public. It is not normal for people to hit each other. It is not normal for people to drink so much they fall on top of other people.
Why we can’t have nice things
The residents around Croke Park might be colluding in spoiling the party, they might be expecting the worst, and they might be right. It can’t be nice to have five nights of drunk people shouting outside your house and peeing in your garden. Our level of respect for outdoor spaces in Ireland is terrible. When you travel to other European cities, and see happy people lying back in the sun with a can of cider in a public park, and then observe the rowdy boozing on Irish beaches, you can’t help but think “this is why we can’t have nice things”.
The problem isn’t just our consumption of alcohol, it’s how we act subsequently. It’s our hedonism. It’s the pent-up idiocy that is unleashed when a certain amount of alcohol puts pressure on the inner Neanderthal button. There’s a reason we expect the worst: because when it comes to socialising en masse, that’s what we often get.