Monday 24 October 2016

Local residents are phantom guests at every music concert

Published 25/07/2015 | 02:30

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

As happy punters stand blissfully bellowing out the lyrics to their favourite songs, plastic cup of warm beer in one hand, they are not the only ones drinking in the experience of an outdoor summer gig.

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Through the walls of their own homes, residents nearby are the phantom guests - right there in body as well as spirit, feeling the visceral thump of every drumbeat, the vibration of every guitar riff and every ecstatic roar from the crowd.

And there can be a pretty flexible sliding scale about how they feel about that.

Offsetting the noise levels, the disruption and the empty cans found in the front garden is the valuable boost such concerts bring to communities and the cash injection it can guarantee for local projects.

But as last year's Garth Brooks fiasco at Croke Park demonstrated, conflict and tension amongst residents and local businesses can go hand-in-hand with planning permission applications for concert licences.

Last year, eight nights of gigs at the Marlay Park concerts proved too much to take.

This year, promoters agreed to limit their programme to five nights.

Chairman of the Marlay Grange Residents' Association, Tom Ryan, said things were "much improved" mainly because of this but also because of a few tweaks - like bringing in the local GAA club to provide stewardship with familiar faces who knew the area well.

"In general, I think if they can keep it at this level, people will be fairly tolerant," he said.

Local Fine Gael councillor, Neale Richmond, said that while he personally received 60 complaints about the Marlay Park concerts last year, this year it was down to just "nine or 10" and there were no arrests for public order offences.

He said the concerts are massively beneficial to the area, with one small shop reporting that the spin-off from the gigs accounted for 40pc of their annual trade.

However, not everybody agrees that using Marlay Park as a regular concert venue is a good thing.

One local resident said the Chemical Brothers set at Longitude in Marlay Park managed to penetrate a set of headphones.

Meanwhile, he lamented the new landscaping of the park, claiming trees were cleared to accommodate a bar for the Longitude festival and paths widened to take throngs of concert-goers.

A petition of park users is currently under way, organised by the South Dublin Protect Our Parks organisation, which had hoped to collect a thousand signatures. They currently have at least double that and will shortly present it to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

They say the noise levels have frightened off bird life and that delicate eco systems have been upset, impacting on flora and fauna.

Residents of the Fair Green area in Ennis, Co Clare, managed to put the kibosh on the INIS Fest trad music festival scheduled for Tim Smythe Park in June and it was subsequently moved to another venue on the other side of the town.

At a series of heated meetings, local people expressed concern over a number of issues including noise pollution, the selling of alcohol in a park with a ban on alcohol consumption, anti-social behaviour and disruption.

But the idea of any such antagonism is greeted with mystification by residents in Stradbally, Co Laois, where the Electric Picnic festival, taking place at the start of September, is welcomed with open arms.

Local publican Dick Dunne said his premises will be "literally packed" with concert-goers who don't want to miss out on the big GAA action.

Things in Stradbally would be "very different", he said, if not for the vital trilogy of Electric Picnic, the National Steam Rally and the Ploughing Championships.

Meanwhile, the scars of another battle, at the Phoenix Park, are still grimly worn by residents who fought off the promoters following the trouble at the Swedish House Mafia gigs, at which two young people died.

John Martin, chairman of the Chapelizod Old Village Association, recalled that night as being like the Troubles in the North, with the Phoenix Park "a golden mile" for drug pushers.

Some local businesses were not happy with the shutting down of the concerts, he conceded, adding: "But the added business was not welcome at that price."

Irish Independent

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