Wow, when it comes to ‘festivals’, Sydney is right up there with the leading cities in the world for the sheer number of such events that we stage. There have been endless music and film festivals, food festivals, art festivals, community festivals, multicultural festivals and even a ‘Festival Of Light’ – although the latter was in fact a conservative Christian lobby group led by Fred Nile in the 70s that targeted the gay community and other so called moral issues.
It was at times more a ‘festival of hate’ than any kind of celebration and has since been rebranded FamilyVoice Australia so as not to be confused with other ‘Festivals Of Lights’ such as Vivid. Forgive the digression but it’s one way of highlighting how the ‘festival’ title takes many shapeshifting forms.
The question that does arise is, are there just too many festivals soaking up our hard earned dollars on the Sydney calendar? For my own part I know of a number of cultural obsessives who insist on attending every local film festival from the Sydney Film Festival through to the dozens of smaller ethnic events – so much so that they now continually see subtitles in their sleep.
Whilst we have yet to embrace some of the world’s weirder festival concepts like the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea, which is low on cultural content but big on mud, the door is certainly open. One way of combating increasing ‘FAD’, or ‘Festival Addiction Disorder’ would be to offer alternative events that were both easy on the pocket and provided an anarchic counterplay to the usual festival focus. Whilst I’m not suggesting that we all wallow in mud like a bunch of swine in the Domain to the accompaniment of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, here are just a few potential ideas that we could certainly entertain.
THE COCKATOO ISLAND CLOTHING OPTIONAL FESTIVAL OF BODY ART: Apart from the Biennale nothing has really worked on Cockatoo Island when it comes to festivals but the promise of nude psychedelic body painting would surely draw ferry loads of punters to Sydney’s own Alcatraz. An adults only event, ticket holders would have the option of going au naturel themselves and raincoats would be banned.
THE ‘REAL’ SUBSONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL: There’s already a doof doof music fest with the same name in rural NSW but can their bottom end match the ultra low frequency delights of the Sydney Town Hall’s incredible pipe organ? It’s rumoured that the lowest bass notes can blow out the windows and it’s time that theory was put to the test. With a specially composed piece, audience members would be encouraged to bring all manner of fragile glass items and enjoy the mass shattering. Safety glasses would be provided.
THE TWENTY FOUR HOUR FESTIVAL OF ABSOLUTE SILENCE: Everybody would love to escape the constant barrage of traffic noise, construction noise, noisy neighbours and other ambient ear bashing – if only for a short period. A giant sound proofed dome in the Domain would provide that opportunity with ticket holders able to enjoy total silence for a period up to 24 hours. Bouncers would be employed to throw out anybody who answered a mobile, broke into laughter or made any noise whatsoever (flatulence included!).
THE SYDNEY GRIDLOCK FILM FESTIVAL: There are many older Sydneysiders who cherish the memories of the old drive in cinemas and no doubt many younger folk who would love to have that experience. With peak hour Sydney traffic in virtual gridlock, a series of screens would be positioned along major traffic arteries and feature films could be screened regularly between 4pm and 6pm. If the traffic did move you could pick up the action again at the next big screen as everything ground to yet another indefinite standstill. Roving vendors on roller skates would provide choc tops and popcorn.