Thursday, November 16, 2006

Here we go again – How did a major disruptive event get to be held in Melbourne CBD

In 2000 protestors caused disruption to the leisurely pace of Melbourne when they blockaded Crown Casino, the venue for the World Economic Forum. Then in August last year protestors once again caused disruption to Sydney’s Circular Quay precinct during the Forbes Conference.

In both these instances considerable areas of each CBD were “locked down” by Police, causing considerable disruption to traffic and access to public areas.

Now it is all happening again in Melbourne.

Assistant Commissioner Gary Jamieson told the media that police did not expect demonstrators to blockade the meeting venue, as they did at the 2000 WEF meeting at Crown Casino, but he could not guarantee delegates would be able to enter the hotel, located in the heart of Melbourne's central business district.

And get this – “Police had not been consulted on the choice of venue,” he said.

The G-20 Meeting is being hosted by the Federal Treasurer and funded by the Federal Government. Just imagine anyone else deciding to hold an event that is expected to disrupt the running of a major city and not consult the local police before booking the venue. How arrogant!

Here is how the event is being explained on the G-20 website…

Public Information about the G-20 Meeting of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, Melbourne, Australia, 18–19 November 2006

This November, Melbourne will host the world’s most influential economic and financial leaders at the G-20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. It will be the most significant gathering of its kind ever held in Australia.

Following the success of this year’s Commonwealth Games, Melbourne will again be at the centre of the world stage. Melbourne has proven its ability to deliver a truly world-class event and with the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in town, Melbourne will once again show the world what it has to offer.

The meeting will take place at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne and at several other venues around the city, showcasing the dynamic and cosmopolitan nature of Melbourne – sporting greatness, vibrant arts industry, successful business sector and the natural beauty that surrounds the city.

The meeting is likely to attract local and international interest, including possible demonstrations. As a result, it is expected that there will be some changes to a small area of the CBD however, most of the CBD will remain open for business as usual.


The meeting will be held at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne. Its facilities will be closed to the public from 12 noon Wednesday, 15 November until 12 noon Tuesday, 21 November 2006.

Traffic and Roads Information

Security around the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, and the possibility of some protest activity, is expected to lead to some minor traffic disruptions. These will be clearly sign posted and up-to-date traffic information will be regularly communicated.

Don’t you just love the reference to “some minor traffic disruptions” when you see today’s news reports. And “showcasing the dynamic and cosmopolitan nature of Melbourne” with the Paris end of Collins St blocked off to traffic and pedestrians.

The 2002 WTO meeting was held at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park – well away from the Sydney CBD and where the police had special powers under the Sydney Olympic Park Act to control protestors. Surely this is a much saner way to manage such events.

However Sydney’s turn will be next.

APEC is being staged this time next year in the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. I got a taste of how some of this will be managed when I had to make a delivery to a client at the SIBOS conference at SCEC last month. The carpark under the exhibition was shutdown and the entire centre was restricted to those with appropriate accreditation. This is a venue that can handle that type of security. Although for APEC one would assume that the lockdown perimeter will be far more reaching.

A word on APEC.

Remember all the speculation some months ago about whether John Howard would stay until the next election? I kept saying that APEC was the reason that he would stay on. This will be the first time that a full APEC meeting will be held in Australia (it came out of an informal Ministerial-level dialogue group with 12 members in Canberra in 1989) and there would be no way Howard was not going to host it.

Let’s face it; he has to get his own back on previous hosts by dressing them in Ken Done shirts.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It’s a new soundsation!

Recently I had my first close quarters experience with a band using in-ear foldback, and it was very disconcerting.

The band was playing a corporate event at SCEC’s Bayside Grand Hall, the exhibition and function space under the main convention hall at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

The FOH sound system in the hall has been “upgraded” from a Meyer UPA system to a line array system. Now this in itself is intriguing because the while the Meyer system provided a very good, even coverage of the room, the line array system is very focussed. While it pushes the sound right to the back centre of the room (where the FOH mixing desk is located) it provides no coverage to most of the dance floor or to the sides of the room. So fill speakers are used for the sides and the dancefloor.

However the band on this occasion was being mixed from the side and the operator was frequently seen walking to the side of the dance floor to assess the mix from directly in front of the line array. However, the front middle section of the dancefloor was getting nothing from either the line array speakers or the infill speakers rigged on the lighting truss.

Normally this isn’t a problem because there is usually plenty of spill from the band’s stage monitors and foldback. However, the drummer was enclosed behind a Perspex screen and the electric instruments were plugged directly into the mix without on-stage amps. This meant that the only sounds that could be heard in front of the stage were acoustic - the brass and a proportion of the drums. Watching the guitarist go into a very dramatic solo and just hearing the scratching of the strings was like listening to a teenager practicing without an amp – very weird.

The lead singer made a number of forays into the crowd – no problem with feedback as he never got in front of a live speaker and his singing could be heard better than when he was on stage.

Seeing so many Gen X and Y kids plugged into their ipods these days one wonders how long it will be before sound systems are done away with all together and the audience listen to the band via a wireless ipod device.

A very clean stage look - note the lack of amps and foldback

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sydney on Sale and RSVP

The second Sydney RSVP has created quite a buzz, with people I’ve been talking to this week saying they are very busy just trying to get through their follow-ups.

A number of industry old hands were likening the event to Sydney Destination One – the precursor of Sydney on Sale (the first Destination One was held in the cargo area of the OPT at Circular Quay). The hubbub was quite energetic and although RSVP is booked back into Wharf 8 for next year I can foresee that it will have to move on to larger premises, maybe the RHI where Single Market Events are next week running the Restaurant show. The big advantage of Wharf 8 is its proximity to the CBD and this was evident with the number of corporates who came in to have a look around lunchtime.

RSVP had over 4,700 visitors and feedback from the 234 exhibitors was very positive with over 85% already rebooked for next year.

The transfer across the city to Fox studios for the RSVP cocktail Party After Dark was a typical Sydney experience 30 – 40 mins to travel about 5 Kms. Another good reason to have it all in the same area.

The Party After Dark should have been a real highlight, but for me it was marred by a deafening audio system. Maybe I’m getting too old but I’m not into having my chest thumped by the bass and head sawn through by the tops when I’m trying to socialise. I thought I had left that behind in my pub band days (Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Chior Boys, Kevin Borich, etc). I seems that this nightclub venue runs a sound system more suited to the nearby Hordern.

The food from Lishas Catering was great but unfortunately the wonderful waitstaff had a huge job getting through the crowd to distribute it, which was pissing some people off who should have known better.

The star attraction of the evening was undoubtedly The Laserman Experience - this is a stunning new act to Australia (from France) that takes interactive laser dance to a new level.

This is the first industry event I know of to grace the social pages of the weekend paper (Sun Herald), although I understand it did last year as well. A number of us were intrigued by the Fairfax photographer talking into the back of her camera to record names with the photo – sure beats trying to write in the dark. You can view my social photos here (with names written in the dark, so if I got any wrong… blame the sound guy because I couldn’t hear you)

These events are usually great for networking but after about an hour conversation was impossible, I understand the band was quite good but the only place I could comfortably listen to them was outside.

Seen at the Howard & Sons RSVP stand was a very pregnant Kellie Howard with her beaming husband Andrew. Their baby was born the next day – now that’s dedication. As their proud email says “Henry Christian Howard born at 9.57am Friday 21st July 2006 7lbs 13oz. Words can not explain how we feel.” And of course in this digital age the email was accompanied by pix of mother and child. Congratulations to both.

Loved DJs corner at RSVP. Peter Jones has joked that one day he and David Grant would join forces and become known as David Jones Special Events, so there they were last week adjacent to each other at RSVP.

Friday night saw many in the industry gather at the Four Seasons Hotel (nee Regent) for the annual ISES Sydney Gala dinner.

The entertainment was kicked along nicely by the very verbose verbaliser of the vernacular, MC Rodney Marks with SMA Productions new Ohh James show. Ohh James very nicely blends the James Bond movie themes into a slick cabaret show. Being a diehard I couldn’t come to grips with Goldfinger not being sung Shirley Bassey style, however the Live and Let Die rendition was very Paul McCartney. SMA have produced great backing tracks for their shows so it was a pity that the supplied sound system was somewhat inadequate.

And returning to his old stamping ground was John Rohanna, on a break from the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai. John left The Regent to take up his current position in Dubai, so it was very nice to see him back in his old digs. And of course John totally fitted the James Bond theme of the evening by dressing in the traditional Arab Dishdashah, a most becoming look.

With ticket prices now up to $150 for the ISES dinner it is not surprising that numbers were down despite the solid membership base, maybe it’s time to re examine the style of the dinner and look at event venues rather than hotels, despite the excellent fare served in this venue.

Had a great chat at the ISES dinner to Des Wittingslow about a movie that he and his Splashdown business partner Glen Pruesker have financed. Brothers Clayton and Shane Jacobson worked up the script about a plumber working for a portable toilet company while working in event management. Kenny is about to hit the cinema screens and is a mocumentary about Kenny Smyth, who dispenses philosophy along with clean toilet humour while working for a company called Splashdown. The movie was shot on location with Splashdown’s products at events such as the Melbourne Cup, airshows, car races and even at an international toilet expo in Nashville. Watch out for it.

Sydney on Sale was on two weeks before RSVP and this year run for the first time by ETF, who very sensibly pulled the event back to a single hall. This defiantly created a more concentrated feel with the reducing number of visitors attending the show. ETF have claimed 5,000 visitors this year, however that includes around 1,000 for the offsite seminars and the cocktail party.

Having Sydney on Sale and RSVP only two weeks apart is a challenge for those of us exhibiting at both but the two shows seem to be settling into quite different fits. With Sydney on Sale focussing on the conference market and RSVP focussing on the more fun party market and although I noticed a percentage of buyers who attended both there was certainly quite a different set of buyers for each.

In the past SOS organisers have tried a number of presentation styles for the entertainment and usually had to cop flack from the exhibitors about the noise level. This year the entertainment was restricted to walk-around acts only with more focus on the Meeting Place for serious networking. RSVP on the other hand was a hubbub of entertainers and musicians on stage and throughout the venue.

SCEC were promoting their new very expensive coffee machines at SOS. The coffee still tasted like something made by a kid. It’s not the machine that makes the coffee taste good, it’s the barista!

Tony Assness was a very popular panellist at the SOS breakfast along with Michael Hassett (TDC), Robert and Victoria Fisher (Production Stuff) with fashion designer Leona Edmiston and Mistress of Ceremonies Nell Schofield. Probably the most telling comment from Tony was regarding his credo for how he works – you can shock an audience, entertain them, challenge them, make them cry, make them laugh, but never bore them.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Games fever in Melbourne?

Visited Melbourne this week and took in some of the Commonwealth Games preparations – here are some observations.

The Opening Ceremony
Andrew Walsh is the artistic director for the Opening Ceremony on behalf of Jack Moreton Worldwide. People in the Melbourne event industry are confident that Andrew will produce a fitting spectacular.

Andrew has rejected reports in the British media yesterday that Kylie Minogue was booked to perform at either the Games opening or closing ceremonies.
After the opening ceremony, crews will have two days to remove the 7300-square-metre stage before the athletics competition begins.
A stage for the closing ceremony will take 16 hours to erect.
The network of overhead steel cables will support many of the 3000 lighting fixtures that will be used during the opening ceremony.

Games officials are now considering giving away tickets to the Opening Ceremony to Games Volunteers. According to The Age “Thousands of Commonwealth Games volunteers will get free seats at the opening ceremony if the remaining tickets fail to sell by the end of the week.
With 12,000 A and B category seats still on sale, Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker said the tickets — priced at $590 and $420 respectively — could be offered to Games volunteers in "three or four days' time".”

Obviously the ticket prices were grossly overpriced in the first place. The Manchester opening ceremony was sold out in advance, but the Manchester stadium only accomadated 35,000 wheras the MCG has 85,000 seats.

Ticket Sales
The organisers of Melbourne 2006 were focussed on the notion that Melbourne is a sports mad city – true, Melburnians even watch rugby league even though their homegrown football is much more skillful and entertaining. However Melbourne sports fans are tribal rather than patriotic.

The Games Buzz
Comparisons with Sydney 2000 are inevitable, but skewed. The Olympics are a far bigger event in terms of events, competitors, officials, visitors, etc.
There were a few things in particular that captured our attention and imagination in the lead-up to Sydney 2000 and I shall compare them.

The blue line in Sydney marked the Marathon course and people got excited when it passed nearby, so much so that it was diverted into a pub somewhere along the route. The blue lines in Melbourne mark the Games Vehicles only lanes and are causing much angst with Melbourne drivers.

The “LOOK RIGHT” signs that appeared on Sydney footpaths prompted many newspaper letter writers to ask what the right look might be. Melbourne has missed this unique opportunity.
From about two weeks out athletes, officials and volunteers in their distinctive uniforms and ID lanyards seemed to be everywhere. There is nowhere near that saturation in Melbourne one week out from the opening.

What really set Sydney abuzz was the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the Sydney CBD about a week before the opening. This really set Sydney alight. So far the Queen’s Baton Relay has engaged little excitement apart from a protest yesterday at the site of the Eureka Stockade.

Regarding the traffic – most of the issues are currently around Albert Park where the track is being prepared for the Grand Prix that will take place the weekend after the Comm Games. The road closures are seriously affecting access to the venues in that precinct, mainly swimming.

However on the positive side people I spoke to are sure that Melburnians will get behind the event once it kicks off.

I was asked in Melbourne for my perspective on the Games from outside Victoria. I related the Queen’s baton Relay experience in Canberra. The ACT Government put on an event to mark the baton’s arrival on Saturday 25th February in the Canberra CBD. Over 100 officials, sponsors and event staff were evident in their uniforms of various hues, but they outnumbered the “excited” citizens who turned up to witness the event. The following Monday morning the Baton departed from Government House and was carried through the Parliamentary triangle to the Australian War Memorial. The National Capital Authority put on a BBQ breakfast for workers from the surrounding Government buildings – no one came. The baton was held aloft for the obligatory photo op in front of Parliament House, the forecourt was deserted.

The Arts
Festival Melbourne2006 is a fantastic program of arts events running during the Games period and it is all free. So even if you are not interested in sport, a visit to Melbourne during the Games can be well worthwhile just to check out a huge range of talent that will be on display. Information is buried on the Melbourne 2006 website.