Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

All quiet on the Marlay Park front

You could hear the sigh of relief from SoCoDu all over the city on Saturday night. In the end, the world did not come to an end with mad-out-of-it David Guetta and Tom Jones’ fans rampaging through the suburbs. In …

Tue, Aug 28, 2012, 09:28


You could hear the sigh of relief from SoCoDu all over the city on Saturday night. In the end, the world did not come to an end with mad-out-of-it David Guetta and Tom Jones’ fans rampaging through the suburbs. In the end, there was no hassle to report from the three shows at Marlay Park. Despite the fact that there was probably as many news reporters milling around as gardai and security personnel – worse, news reporters with stories to file on the last weekend of the silly season – the three shows passed off with just a handful of arrests. There was not going to be a repeat of what happened at the Phoenix Park in July. They shall not pass on this occasion with knives or hammers or naggins or cans.

Question: would the Phoenix Park palaver have happened if the Swedish House Mafia show had been policed in a similar manner? A lot of people may have expressed their surprise at the security and search procedures for the Marlay Park shows, but I bet they were glad that the promoter was adhering to the letter of the licence application to ensure a safe environment for those who’d paid good money to enjoy the shows. That’s where the much discussed promoter’s duty of care comes into things. If you’re putting on a big live show which is going to attract a full house – well, full house for David Guetta, 12,000 for Kasabian and a couple of thou’ less for Van Morrison – you need to provide the security and the process to allow people watch the shows in peace.

Having it large with David Guetta. Photo by Frank Miller

While there was definitely an element of shutting the door after the horse had bolted – look at the imbalance between 400 security personnel for a 22,000-capacity audience show in Marlay Park (1 per 55 punters), while the promoter made great play out of the 511 security working the 45,000-capacity Phoenix Park shows (1 per 88 punters) – it will be more telling if such security procedures become the norm rather than the exception at big shows from here on in. There will, for instance, be a close look taken by many as to how the Electric Picnic is policed this coming weekend. If such strict security is what it takes to ensure punters can enjoy a show, there can be few who will quibble.

Yes, there are bigger questions to be asked and these are ones which won’t and can’t just involve music promoters and other stakeholders in the live sector. There was a huge focus on Irish society’s abusive relationship with alcohol post-SHM in July, but will this issue be simply filed away with the rest of the silly season comings and goings or if that dialogue will actually go somewhere? Going on past experience with these issues in the past, few will be surprised if it doesn’t rear its head until we have another shock-horror-young-ones-drinking-their-heads-off story and the Liveline phones light up with furious indignation.

However, when you hone in on the issues which apply specifically to the live music sector, there are still plenty of outstanding questions to be answered. We have yet, for example, to hear from the Office of Public Works about their involvement in the Phoenix Park shows, their procedures for choosing promoters and shows for the venue and the fact that the July shows went against their own terms and conditions for hiring out the venue. Instead, that office has been conspicuous by their absence from the debate. Promoters MCD have promised a report and review “in due course” and it will be interesting to see what this raises and recommends about the events in the Park in July (as well as finding out who is actually compiling it). The gardai have already issued their report and there’s a bang of “not our fault, bud” off that one, so some compare-and-contrast between these two reviews should throw up some more questions.

But the real takeaway from this summer’s trouble and strife will only come with time. How will the events in the Phoenix Park impact on next year’s series of outdoor shows? Will the security procedures which were in force for the Marlay Park shows now become the norm for every outdoor event of this ilk? Or will they be just rolled out for show at gigs which the promoter and gardai reckon could cause some bother? What about the training and selection of security personnel, the issue of quantity as well as quality?

Will far greater attention now be paid to the licence application process or will the situation be allowed to continue where you have cut-and-paste applications from one event to another? Will the local authorities bring a far greater degree of transparency to bear on how they oversee this process and allow for public meetings where such applications are made where the promoter, gardai, local residents and all concerned parties can have their say? Chances are we’ll be revisiting this issue a couple of more times before we’re done.