The St Kilda Festival came and went…… 

                   The question is, will it will ever come back?  Attendance was down from 420,000 in 2011 to an estimated 280,000 this year; a 33% drop in numbers.  Because of this drop in numbers, the festival had a more relaxed family feel this year, and wasn't as noisy.   Perhaps the ban on alcohol and a heavy police presence helped, perhaps people are staying away because it's no longer a big piss-up, anything-goes noisy day out. 

For some years unChain has been trying to get the councillors to take the final responsibility to reduce and fix decibel levels by resolution of council, but all care and no responsibility, they never have and its been left to the council officers. However it wasn't as noisy this year, the officers must have got the message following an acoustic report unChain commissioned in 2011 from Dr Norm Broner, senior acoustic engineer and resident of East St Kilda. 

The council couldn't find a sponsor; they left it to the officers rather than hiring an expert to find one, and as a result the rate payers are footing $900,000 out of the total estimated cost of $1.8 M.  It almost certainly cost us much more than that but from past experience the council won't produce any detailed evidence to enable us to make up our own minds about the adequacy of this cost estimate.  It almost certainly doesn't includeallof the council staff and overheads cost involved, does it include the extra police cost or the cost to Yarra trams? We'll probably never know despite all the promises about greater transparency.

As for the music, the children of my friends who I polled thought it was even more ho-hum than last year. The council makes much of the fact that the SK festival is free, but my young respondents said they'd rather pay for good music at somewhere like theBig Day Out.  One of the younger organisers asserted in a meeting in 2010 (in relation to the continuance of the Festival) that'we have a responsibility to emerging music.'  I'm not sure how all embracing she thought 'we' was but it's doubtful that most ratepayers would support that million dollar view, particularly as some of this year's performers had already 'emerged' when I was a boy. 

I'm probably biased but it's my feeling that most St Kilda residents don't want it, and I'm sure the residents of Middle Park or Port Melbourne wouldn't want it moved into their quiet areas either.  But let's not argue about it, there's a simple democratic way to find out; put it to the vote.  It wouldn't cost much, a simple YES or NO question could be added on the piece on the bottom of the rate notices that gets returned with our rates.  However if past experience is any guide, this suggestion will be probably be ignored, and as it's an election year, we should at least get all candidates to declare their position on the Festival and state how they would rather see that million odd dollars spent… OR saved by reducing the rates!

Don Gazzard
March 2012