News Comment

Friday 19 September 2014

How a little bit of conversation could restore harmony to the angry chorus in Brooks row

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

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Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

WHAT has happened with regard to the five Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park is a shock to everyone. I am very surprised that the eventual outcome wasn't flagged months ago and something done to ensure that it didn't come to this.

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There is no doubt that five shows in Croke Park, on top of the three already played by One Direction, 'intensifies' the planning conditions at the venue. There can be little doubt that this was going to cause concern for Dublin City Council and that when such problems arise, as they do arise, I am surprised that there wasn't engagement between the various interests long before now.

Just because an artist is capable of filling a venue five nights on the trot doesn't necessarily give you a right to do this. In 2001 I had two U2 shows in Slane, but we decided not to do them 'back to back' but to leave a gap of a week. I had to make this decision based on my own experience and after consultation, so I don't think what happened with Garth Brooks was necessarily the sensible thing to do. From that point of view it appears that there was a breakdown in the process.

There is a view that what happened over the last few days is putting Ireland in a bad light, but if the licensing process was done properly, problems would have been flagged long before now and I can't understand why that didn't happen.

Dublin City Council, the promoters and Croke Park are all involved in this. From my own personal experience, promoting concerts at Slane Castle, I know that once things begin to fall into place myself and the concert promoters – in my case MCD – would have a level of engagement with the local council. Instead of waiting for something to happen we would engage in an unfolding process rather than wait until shows are in danger of being cancelled.

A lot of the work planning a concert such as Slane takes place before the application for a licence is made. I am puzzled about what happened here and the whole business of blaming the licensing process. From my experience this is wrong.

A great number of people who bought tickets to the Garth Brooks concerts have now been left wondering what is going to happen, but in my opinion this mess could have been avoided. The scenario was that you had two, then five Garth Brooks shows. Maybe that was a bridge too far. Somebody should have put their hand up and said "this is a bit too much". In life one has to take a balanced view. Last year at Slane we had Bon Jovi at the beginning of the summer and Eminem at the end – they were differing acts, different demographics, but that was all thought out and we explained this to the local authority and kept them in the picture.

There has to be an exchange of information between the venue, the promoter, the gardai, the local authority and residents. In planning concerts for Slane Castle I have to take into consideration the views and opinions of people in the locality. I stand back from the event itself and talk quietly to people and listen – I don't necessarily agree with everything people say, but I do have to take a balanced view.

Croke Park is a very different venue and I know this event is important from the tourist industry point of view. But you also have to get it right. It is a crazy situation, especially when so many people are making plans and coming to Ireland from abroad, that they are confronted with such a mess just weeks before the concert takes place.

I don't know what the solution is, I don't have an answer. What I would say is that Garth Brooks has a big organisation and it is capable of re-evaluating the situation. Obviously there would be costs involved in staging it at a different venue. I don't think the statement issued by the Brooks and the promoter that it was "five or nothing" was appropriate.

The whole thing is now a mess, from start to finish and it shouldn't have come to this.

What has upset me, and others in the music business, is the impression out there now is that the current licensing system doesn't work. That is just not true. It does work, if the process is understood and seen as a process of engagement between the various interests involved.

The message has gone out that Brooks can't play Ireland and that is the wrong impression. It would not have gone out if my experience of the licensing system had been followed.

If I decided to put on five shows someone in Meath County Council would have said to me: "Henry, get a grip . . . that is not workable" and they would be right to say that. I think it is unfortunate that the situation didn't work here. A lot of people are puzzled by this. The Minister for Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said in the Dail that the licensing systems needs to be reviewed. The licensing system has worked. It didn't work in this instance because there wasn't the level of engagements necessary or things didn't happen that should have happened.

That is the unfortunate part for all involved.

(Lord Henry Mountcharles of Slane Castle in an interview with Liam Collins)

Irish Independent

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