Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

More digging in the Phoenix Park

When you are planning a large-scale public event which will attract a significant audience, there’s a lengthy and detailed process in place which must be adhered to by the event organiser. This planning process applies to everything from gardening events …

"A terrible mess": what the Phoenix Park looked like after last summer's shows. Photo by Aoife O'Connor

Tue, Jul 17, 2012, 08:48


When you are planning a large-scale public event which will attract a significant audience, there’s a lengthy and detailed process in place which must be adhered to by the event organiser. This planning process applies to everything from gardening events like Bloom In the Park to the recent series of concerts in the Phoenix Park and involves licence applications, event management plans, meetings with the relevant authorities, policing plans, health and safety briefings and a whole lot more of behind-the-scenes consultations. It means that a lot of administrative work has to be completed long before the production crew move onto a site to put the event infrastructure in place.

View of the Phoenix Park landscape at the Snow Patrol/Florence & The Machine show. Photo by Aoife O’Connor

In the case of events which take place in the Phoenix Park, the relevant licensing authority is Dublin City Council and concert promoters MCD therefore applied to the council for a licence to hold a number of concerts in the park this summer.

While the relevant applications are not online, a copy of the draft event management plan was available last week at the counter in the planning department in the council’s offices on Wood Quay (the plan for Madonna’s show at the Aviva Stadium next week was also there). Such plans are freely available to any member of the public who drops by and it’s interesting to have a look at the Phoenix Park plan in light of what happened the weekend before last at the Swedish House Mafia show.

One of the criticisms which was leveled at the organisers again and again involved security and especially the policing of clearly intoxicated punters. There are a number of sections in the plan which refer to this: Section 6 of the plan refers to “Stewarding/Site Security”, with proposals regarding security organisation, identification and duties outlined in Section 15.

According to the plan, all security supervisors were to be briefed before the event by the Event Controller and Safety Officer and they, in turn, were to brief the personnel under their immediate control and to give them a document called “Duties of Security Personnel”.

This is a lengthy document which details what security personnel working at the event are supposed to do, depending on where they are stationed. It contains instructions about not allowing patrons to climb trees, wearing a DayGlo bib at all times and not to finish work until “each and every member of the public has left the premises in a safe and orderly manner”.

One of the most striking sections is 15.2, which outlines additional duties for stewards positioned at entraces and exit gates. One of these, subsection 2, states “do no allow patrons, in possession of alcohol or any offensive weapons or those who have consumed excessive alcohol, to enter the site”.

It’s worth reading again, especially in light of what we’ve heard about alcohol being brought onto the site, the number of weapons which were confiscated (the infamous hammer) and especially the clearly intoxicated state of the patrons when they turned up for the show. Let’s hope the question is asked if and why this instruction was ignored in the review of the event which the gardai and MCD are planning. Let’s hope a question is also asked about if different procedures were in place for each of the three shows and, if so, can these procedures be produced.

In light of this briefing to security personnel working at the event, and the fact that adhering with such an instruction might have resulted in a huge number of fans being turned away to roam the park, it is important to look at the number of and role of the non-public duty gardai on duty for the event. As we pointed out here last week, non-public duty gardai are expensive for the promoter – MCD paid €350,000 for non-public duty gardai at Oxegen 2008, for example – and the questions posed about this aspect of the security operation are further highlighted by the above security briefing.

MCD is promoting a series of 22,000 capacity shows next month in Marlay Park in south county Dublin featuring acts like Kasabian, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Noel Gallagher and David Guetta. The relevant authority which grants licences for this venue is the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and MCD would have had to lodge an outdoor event licence application, fee of €2,500 and site drawings for these events with the council.

As is often the case with these licences, final approval is not given until very close to the wire (hence why you hear or see the line “subject to licence” on all advertisements for the event). It will be instructive to see how the council deal with this application and what additional questions, if any, will be asked about policing, profiling and especially the instructions given to security personnel about admission procedures.