Tuesday, 12 July 2011

'Toilet in the Park'

My ears are still buzzing from Saturday night's event, which must have been one of the loudest gigs I've been too. At comfortably over two hours the main band's set was probably the longest I've heard, and an appreciative crowd danced the night away. On the downside, there was a fair bit of excessive drunkenness, and fans left the area strewn with beer cans and other debris.

No, it wasn't T in the Park, it was a bash by AC/DC tribute band Bon's Balls (!) in sleepy old Kirriemuir, held as part of a 'Bon Fest' to celebrate the birthday of the real band's former lead singer Bon Scott, who was born in the Angus town, but in the style of true rock 'n' roll martyrdom drunk himself to death over thirty years ago. Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be, and all that.

Anyway, with hindsight if I'd died myself of something alcohol-related at about the time of Bon's death then I doubt if it would have come as a huge surprise to those I left behind, but as a puritanical teetotaller these days who takes an interest in Scotland's alcohol problem it was instructive to compare then and now in relation to what was going on at the weekend. And this admittedly limited evidence perhaps confirmed the more liberal approach to these things as compared to thirty years ago.

For a start, I don't think alcohol would have been sold in a venue like Kirriemuir Town Hall back then. I recall attending a couple of gigs at another Angus Council owned property - Forfar's Reid Hall - at around that time, and I somehow doubt if alcohol was on sale. Ditto Dundee's municipal Caird Hall, where I saw numerous bands.

Thus the floor of the hall wouldn't have been strewn with empty beer cans, but in any case would we have disposed of them more responsibly? A difficult question, but as I said in last year's moan about T in the Park, at the original Band Aid at Wembley in 1980 I'm sure we - and most of the rest of the crowd - dutifully bagged our empty cans and other detritus and took them to one of the skips in the stadium, thus generally quite unlike the T in the Park rabble.

Also, some of the punters in Kirrie's town hall on Saturday were clearly excessively drunk (or drugged), but this didn't seem to deter the sale of alcohol to them or concern the stewards in any way, thus if Angus Council can't even control its own venues then it's little wonder that sections of the licenced trade shows little restraint.

Indeed, I was in a Kirrie pub before the gig and even by 8pm or so quite a few punters were staggering about, shouting and generally being a bit of a nuisance. But the bar staff seemed unconcerned, which again I doubt would quite have been the case three decades ago, although it was by no means the most raucous pub I've ever been in.

But the Bon's Balls event ran ten minutes or so past its midnight licence, so police arrived and had a word. So that's OK then. Box ticked, job done, only the supermarkets left to sort out.

But it's all just rock 'n' roll, so what's the problem? And if police, politicians and the press indulge in their predictable praise of the good behaviour and community spirit of the Balado rabble then what's wrong with that? Well this post is beginning to drag on a bit, so no time for an attempt at chapter and verse. But there's the implications for wider society for a start; don't bother about lax law enforcement and concentrate instead on fawning statements from the press, police and politicians. And shift all the blame onto the supermarkets, who're always an easy target for society's ills.

Then there's the double standards. If gypsy travellers leave an (illegal) site looking like T in the Park on Monday morning then the press and (some) politicians are up in arms, but if T in the Park is left looking like a recently vacated illegal gypsy camp then that's great according to the 3Ps, because there were only x arrests, and no one was raped or murdered.

And anyway, apart from the environmental hypocrisy associated with T in the Park, the community spirit thing also seems overdone, since one or two people who've attended the event have told me that it's full of drunken and obnoxious Weegies, or suchlike (their phrase, not mine, before I'm accused of being anti-Glaswegian, or racist, or whatever).

And indeed the inspiration for this post is a letter in today's Scotsman penned by a couple from the USA:
We travelled from San Francisco in the hope of attending a fantastic festival in the Scottish country side. Instead we leave your beautiful country disheartened. T In The Park could have been wonderful. The list of artists was a who's-who of performers. Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I leave wondering why one of the most enchanting countries in the world tolerates such squalor. After attending many concerts, in many parts of the world, nothing prepared us for T in The Park.

The combination of disturbing behaviour and a bewildering lack of bins transformed the Scottish summer landscape into a garbage dump. When we first arrived we watched in amazement as people discarded plates, food and cups on the ground.

As the festival progressed, walking became akin to hiking through a sea of trash. Words can not describe the smell. And a lack of sufficient facilities coupled with offensive behaviour conspired to turn what could be a world class event into a toilet.
Of course, with the likes of the Citizen T initiative to encourage responsible behaviour it's perhaps fortunate that the American couple didn't attend the event in previous years; indeed, the Courier's main report on the event yesterday said: "It was also one of the cleanest festivals at Balado, with litter conspicuous by its absence."

Thus the Scottish psyche on matters like cleanliness and "positive community behaviour" clearly differs from that elsewhere in the world. But no doubt the event was yet again carbon neutral. I wonder if our American friends noticed?

(The headline is that used in the Scotsman letter.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They should also have had indoor smoking facilities.