News & Commentary

Edinburgh Gardens: trash or treasure?

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I was out of the country for New Year’s Eve but I almost choked on my non-single origin coffee when I logged onto Fairfax Media the next morning and read that a story about a wild dance party in Melbourne’s Edinburgh Gardens was in the top five best read stories on all its websites around the country.My shock wasn’t so much that the nation was reading about my gardens, whose green fields I happen to live opposite in Melbourne’s inner-north. No, my coffee snorting astonishment was that a story about thousands of people partying in the Edinburgh Gardens and leaving a sea of rubbish behind was news.
Didn’t that happen at New Year’s the year before? Yes it did, and I was there observing the magic of thousands bringing in 2013. And at 7 am the next morning I and many other residents were also there to help clean up the mess.
That party of more than 15,000 people was an unadvertised and spontaneous event as the many people who live in this relatively congested area found themselves gravitating to its welcoming and expansive gardens, which act as the inner-north’s green lungs.
So why was New Year’s 2014 so different that it made Australia wide news? Reports, comments and opinions in the media expressed outrage at the “carnage’’ in the park, the “violence” (a 17 year old boy punched a policewoman), and the berserk and Bacchanalian behaviour of the 15,000 people who attended. One News Limited piece characterized the crowds as inner city, socialist, litter-bugging hipsters who are exactly the sort of take-take-take-never-give people who leave big government to clean up after their mess. Apparently the scene at 5 am on New Year’s Day was like something from Shaun of the Dead as scores of the living dead staggered from the flowerbeds to throw themselves at taxis on Brunswick Street.
True, there is an over supply of young men in the inner-north with neat comb-overs, bushy beards and penchant for wearing brogues without socks. And yes, young women dressed like Audrey Tautou in Amelie tend to float by on pushbikes decorated with fresh flowers as they flip through Frankie magazine, but until the gardens became a New Year’s venue I had never, ever thought of these hitherto well-groomed and eco-aware hipsters as messy.
If you don’t live in inner Melbourne, you’d agree because you would have seen these kinds of people serving free trade coffee or shopping for classic LPs in the background on shows like Offspring and Jack Irish. Almost every TV and movie made in Melbourne has its crews filming in the Edinburgh Gardens or the graffitied laneways of the inner north about every second week of the year.
The City of Yarra, which controls this part of town gets about a $1000 a day for a film crew to use its streets and parks to communicate to the rest of Australia just how artily hipster, grungily creative, kookily idiosyncratic and coolly photogenic this neighbourhood and its people are.
So it was a surprise to read that the City of Yarra leading the chorus and sheeting home the blame for the mess on New Year’s Eve entirely on the crowd, many of whom might’ve come because they hoped to find Eddie Perfect or Kat Stewart dancing in the charmingly whimsical rotunda in the centre of the gardens.
In a letter to residents late last week the Mayor of Yarra, Jackie Fristacky, did not seem to be joking when she said the council had learned from the year before so they put some extra rubbish skips and Portaloos in the gardens this year. She explained that, um,yes, the bins and loos were hard to find because the park isn’t very well lit, as we all know. She went on to say that the council didn’t expect the crowds to be so big and hey, they were monitoring social media too. Maybe Mayor Jackie thinks scrolling through Twitter is like being at mission control at Cape Canaveral.
The reason this story warranted national coverage might be because it reveals the schism between how governments, tourism boards and lifestyle-peddling property developers like to imagine how urbane and sophisticated we are, when in fact our authorities still expect everyone to behave like Sandy Stone asleep in suburban contentment.
State governments and city councils love to crow about where they score in livability and creativity ratings, but one of the consequences of the selling of the inner city “lifestyle” is the need to embrace our public resources and amenities.
Drive past most big parks in Melbourne and they are largely empty except for joggers and exercise groups whose leaders pay councils for the privilege. The Edinburgh Gardens are different because they are filled at weekends and summer nights with kids playing, families picnicking, dog walkers, cricketers, footballers, basketballers, lawn bowlers, and yes hipsters, some of whom can occasionally be seen jogging. No wonder so many thought this was the place to be on New Year’s Eve.
The Edinburgh Gardens is a living, breathing park and it, and every other large city park in our major cities should be enjoyed more, not less.
Years ago I lived a block from Central Park in New York and the city programmed free concerts and events every night and weekends through the summer. People didn’t trash the park because the authorities promoted and managed the events and its audiences were educated in how to behave.
No one can excuse the behaviour of those who junked the Edinburgh Gardens last week but if the City of Yarra is as progressive as it likes to bill itself then it should lead other local councils around Australia. It should use the fees it collects from ratepayers, dog owners, personal trainers and film crews to bring even more life to the Edinburgh Gardens by programming free events, including New Year’s Eve dance parties.

25 responses to “Edinburgh Gardens: trash or treasure?

  1. Gotta tell you Raymond, it was a disaster! I live there.
    I am an environmentalist who totally supports free trade anything, am proud of my trade union background and am a native animal rescuer and an environmentalist.
    Let me tell you man, there was no loving the environment that night, they totally trashed the place, they graffittied the trees, scared the shit and life out of the wild life, and treated the elderly neighbours with nothing but contempt. It was no nice little party in the park, it was a nightmare that turned a beautiful place in to a shithole.

    1. Way to completely miss the point of the article, which was that if the council had taken a more active interest in utilising the park and participating in such public events, this scene wouldn’t have happened.

  2. I suspect all the commotion over the previous year’s celebrations was free advertisement for this year’s event – perhaps drawing in ‘tourists’ from non-local suburbs to cause more substantial damage.
    I find it hard to believe that the local hipsters could have allowed such a negative force to impact a place they hold in such high regard.
    Then again they are a relatively lazy bunch of ‘individuals’ who don’t give a hoot about what anyone does nor thinks. So why should they intervene?
    Rest assured they will comment about it somewhere on the interweb.

    1. I think you are spot on about the “tourists”. I was not there myself, but from what I’ve heard from those that did a lot of “outsiders” were there. If it was only people from nearby there would not be enough people to create such trouble! And dare I say people from around here are usually a more relaxed crowd? I feel people’s assessment of so called “hipsters” as lazy individuals are not overly helpful…Not to mention the whole business of labelling people hipsters all seems pretty ridiculous, as there are definitely different groups and things that are all lumped together under the label. There is no movement that defines itself as hipsters, it is mostly used as a derrogatory catch-all for trendy inner-city youngsters… it does not seem a helpful dialogue as people identified as “hipsters” are not necessarily people who have much in common anyhow. There are definitely different but related groups or types who are lumped together by it

  3. So the upshot of this article is that the council should put on free events or else the locals will continue to trash the place?

  4. The related issue that got a brief run in the music press is that various venues (such as the Tote) were denied exemptions on their licenses to open late on the Tuesday night of NYE. A hangover, I’m led to believe, of the ridiculous 3am lockout trial of years ago – the laws haven’t been updated since then.
    If you don’t give people the option of going somewhere to party legitimately, guess what’s going to happen: house parties that annoy middle-class neighbours, or unsanctioned park parties that… annoy middle-class neighbours.

    1. I don’t see what the class of the neighbours has to do with anything here – regardless of class, neighbours would be annoyed. The fact that the party-goers left the place in such a disgusting mess is the main issue here – if they aren’t willing to treat the place with respect, why should they given any respect. If they can’t play nice, they should have their toys taken off them.
      However the fact that the council acted with surprise at what happened, when the news reports this year were almost identical to the news reports last year is quite surprising.
      4/1/2013: An historic park in Melbourne’s inner north was trashed on New Year’s Eve when about 15,000 people showed up to an illegal dance party there.
      1/1/2014: Illegal New Year’s Eve dance parties that left Edinburgh Gardens resembling a rubbish tip have outraged nearby residents and emergency services workers….where between 10,000 and 15,000 people attended several illegal dance parties through the night

      1. Well the residents of north fitzroy, especially the ones overlooking the park are thoroughly middle class……..

  5. Raymond, I wonder if you were in the country/home and you went down to the gardens early on New Years Day 2014, whether you would have written this same article?
    While clearly the council didn’t do enough, the degree of disgrace those revellers left the park in was so bad it was worthy of national news! I’ve never seen anything like it. People who behave like that towards public parks don’t deserve access to them. I hope when they all sobered up they were embarrassed to see what they did but, sadly, I doubt it.

    1. That’s complete rubbish mate. The scenario you’re describing sounds a lot like depressing and stale suburbia to me.
      15,000 people organise their own NYE celebrations with no security and the only thing you have to complain about is rubbish? Please.

      1. Not just the rubbish. I went to the Gand stand with friends at around 11.45pm. We saw illegal fireworks going off on the oval. Few of which, went flying off at ground level, left and right exploding into the hauds of people gathered around them. It was horrifying to watch.

  6. I find it amusing that posters think that the type of people, hipsters or whatever would be conscious of the environment and clean up after themselves for such an event. People when sober generally have good intentions, however when inebriated especially after a good 24 hr session, such consciousness generally goes out the window. It has nothing to do with the type of people but rather the amenities, security and access. Other parks in Melbourne had Council organised NYE parties so perhaps the Council should get off their ar*e and plan for next year properly and for everyone to accept that yes the park will get rubbish on it but let’s put in plans to minimise it. It’s either that or 200 police and guard dogs forcing people into the streets…..
    And as for the disgrace of the park, I’ve been to plenty of bush raves and festivals over the years and I tell you the whole site is a tip afterwards (as is the MCG for most of the year after a game). This is planned for with a commercial cleaning crew spending days cleaning. I usually camped for a week after the festival and ate like a king on the uneaten food just dumped by people. Even picked up tents, pots ‘n’ pans you name it…(when people are inebriated they don’t eat a lot).
    If Federation Square had little lighting, no amenities and stuff all security I reckon it would kick off in much the same manner…

  7. Friends, there aint nothing wrong with having a shin dig, but y’all gots to remember that them parks are for everyone, not just drunken hipster douchebags with Professional Victims Degrees who think that their 2013 music is something and wouldn’t even know who Mr Fletcher Henderson is. And that aint right friends.
    Billy J. Jack
    The Duke of Brisbane

  8. Quite frankly, the whole thing outraged me to a similar if not greater extent than the News Ltd. set. But not because the party was messy. No. My gripe is that it was a bad party. The music was awful (is it only gen x bush rave fezzas who can get it together to organise a soundsystem – early 2000s techno, really?), the place smelled of urine (which could be tolerable with decent tunes), and the vibe was mashy without the joy. I’m personally outraged that the Northern suburbs couldn’t get it together to put on a decent bash. I feel betrayed.

  9. Hheheh white trash issues indeed – – my friends said the vibe was great !
    15 .000 people and only (maybe) one kid tried to smack a cop – sounds better than other gatherings of the same size

  10. It seems to me that this whole issue is being deliberately blown way out of proportion by the council and police. I was there on NYE and saw nothing but well behaved people enjoying themselves.
    While Fairfax is irresponsibly stirring up trouble by talking about violence and lazy hipsters, it seems to me that the only standout issues are rubbish and noise. If a suburb as vibrant as Fitzroy isn’t able to host a celebration one night a year and have the council spend a tiny fraction of taxpayer dollars cleaning it up then that seems pretty off to me.
    When you compare the violence, vandalism and alcohol related injuries that occurred in the gardens to other areas like the CBD I think you’ll find that all those ‘lazy hipsters’ were among the best behaved young Melbournians out and about that night.

    1. You may not have seen anything but the local residents who use the park do. They Still Do.
      The lawn is still littered with broken glass and bottle caps, the trees are graffitied, the 5 sections of the brand new 4meter high fence around the tennis court are damaged. This isn’t just left over party mess, this is vandalism.

  11. It’s nice to love your backyard – and all the words you put into the piece kind of make that clear. But, no offense, this isn’t a personal vendetta against hipsters, your lifestyle, ethos or your domicile (however, unique or special any of this is). Papers need a Day 1, Year 20xx story depicting carnage and the fracture of modern Australian culture.
    I would imagine that the normal targets, (usually coastal gatherings in beachside towns without a decent police presence) were a bit dull in comparison to the gardens this year. And it did appear to be a doozy looking at some of the comments here 😉 Next year it’ll be some other part of the country featuring a different bunch of un-Australian youth leaving their rooms untidy.

  12. I was there and want to make 2 points:
    1. I’m not sure who these hipsters or douchebags (or whatever it is that posters here are trying to cateporise these party-poers into) are. A little walk around the park on the night and I saw (mostly young) people from many walks of life and backgrounds; not all hipsters or gen x-ers or any particular group. A good mix really, lots of different types of music playing.
    2. There was violence. I saw countless scuffles and a few serious fights, including one where a guy was knocked unconscious and lay in a pool of blood for 20 minutes before an ambulance was able to get through the crowd. And this was all before midnight.
    So, it kinda annoys me that people who weren’t there, or who are posting from interstate, or even overseas (like the author of the article!) are making generalisations based on something they read in the paper.

  13. I read that the organiser of this was a Sydney real estate agent! Is that true? If so, 3 points… 1 He wasn’t a local. 2 He WASN’T a hipster, and 3 it may have been a clever ruse to get peeps with a park side locale to SELL sell sell at a good price due to temporary drop in values caused by nuisance riff raff spoiling the amenity!

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