Carnival is growing larger and larger every year, and the more expansive Birrarung Marr site is able to hold the expanding crowds that will no longer fit into Alexandra Gardens. The move has enabled attendance numbers to increase significantly and for the events to run much more smoothly. However, whilst the vast majority of patrons are delighted with the move, a portion of the community is unhappy about the change. We realise that there were frustrations this year due to the Upper Terrace construction works in 2013, which caused some congestion on the Lower Terrace. We were given special permission to extend the Carnival site along the Yarra (see map) to open up the beautiful shaded and grassed area known as Speakers Corner. The wonderful news is that we'll be able to use that area in future.
We are consistently told that Carnival should move back to the Alexandra Gardens, where there is "more shade", "less dust" and "things were near to perfect".
When Carnival used to be there though, we received a lot of complaints about "the lack of shade", "the level of congestion" (especially around the skate park) and, during drought years, "the level of dust". If we could find a venue with a large covered area, to protect against sun and rain, that would be wonderful, but we're not aware of such an area within the CBD. The following will hopefully clarify some of the key factors involved in selecting the venue for Carnival and T Dance:
- Shade: now that we're able to use Speakers Corner, Birrarung Marr has significantly more shade than the Alexandra Gardens
- Getting There: Birrarung Marr is closer to more public transport and car parking, though access to both locations is excellent.
- Permits: The zoning of the Alexandra Gardens means that we can no longer hold ticketed events in the space without applying for multiple Crown Land Exemptions, which is beyond Midsumma's capacity and budget.
- Diversity of Spaces:
Birrarung Marr gives us a wide choice regarding how we lay out the event. This doesn't automatically result in a better event - that is dependent on how we use the spaces - but it makes more options available to us. The spaces now available are: Speakers Corner - a lawn-covered, flat, shady wonderland - perfect for picnics; Upper Terrace - large, lawn-covered flat space with little shade; Middle Terrace - a more intimate lawn-covered flat space, also with little shade; Upper Terrace Hill - a wonderful amphitheatre setting with some shade, which may be less steep once the renovations are complete; Yarra Bank Promenade - a large, gravelled area, mostly shaded.
Alexandra Gardens: there are two large lawn-covered areas plus an asphalt path running along one perimeter of the park. The two lawn areas are separated by a very inconveniently located, and busy, skate park, which causes a lot of congestion. There is excellent shade beside the asphalt path, but only limited shade on the two main lawn areas: the "Palms Lawn" has large palm trees scattered sparsely throughout the space; the other lawn area has very little shade except around its perimeter.
- Infrastructure: Birrarung Marr has been specifically designed for holding large public events. Providing the design isn't interfered with, huge flows of pedestrian traffic are able to move freely through and around the space, as we've experienced in 2011 and 2012. Congestion did occur in 2013 as a result of the water rejuvenation project works on the Upper Terrace.
- Mainstream Exposure: Birrarung Marr showcases us to the mainstream community, though we realise that some GLBTIQ people consider that to be a negative factor. Many non-GLBTIQ people pass through the Carnival area (e.g. on their way to and from tennis and cricket events), and generally receive a positive view of our community. The views of the CBD skyline from Birrarung Marr are stunning, by day and night.
- Trees: trees are an extremely valuable resource - as outlined in the City of Melbourne Tree Policy document. In both Birrarung Marr and the Alexandra Gardens there are stringently enforced rules regarding placing structures near trees. This, along with restrictions on structures or vehicles being allowed on lawns, can render a nicely shaded area unusable for many purposes.
- Cost: Carnival and T Dance accounts for over 60% of the total annual expenses of Midsumma Festival. This year we took care to separate costing for Carnival (free event) versus T Dance (ticketed), and were rather shocked to discover that T Dance, which is traditionally run to be a fundraiser, made a loss of over $80,000! While those who attended T Dance loved it, the ticket sales were down primarily because the weather on the day was fairly cool and slightly wet, as well as the costs of hosting the event driving up ticket prices again in 2013. This in turn meant that bar sales were significantly down too.
- Income Sources: Carnival and T Dance are paid for by a combination of: donations on the day (just under $10,000 and significantly less than 2011-12 donation figures); Corporate Sponsorship; City of Melbourne Sponsorship; T Dance ticket sales; income from stallholder fees; bar takings; roving rights fees; and picnic pack sales. The Midsumma annual report and audit, to be released on 5 June 2013, will outline the financial operations and outcomes of Midsumma Festival 2013.
Carnival and T Dance are no long able to be held in Alexandra Gardens in their current format due to zoning of that space and the ever-expanding Carnival crowd size.
In order to qualify for the substantial funding generously provided by the City of Melbourne, Carnival must be held within the City of Melbourne, and Birrarung Marr is the largest space with convenient transport and public accessibility options within the City of Melbourne, where a free and ticketed event can be held side-by-side. The alternatives are that Carnival becomes a paid event, held in a private and less-centrally located venue, for example, Melbourne Showgrounds, or that another Local City Council provides a new home for the event plus significant funding, comparable to that provided by the City of Melbourne, to assist in the running of Carnival. Alternatively, Midsumma can cease to run either Carnival or T Dance in their current formats.