Right, after my rather gnomic last post I'll expand a little on why I found the stewarding at Oxegen to be sub-standard. Frankly I'd much rather be talking about the music but that has been done in countless other places to better effect. So I'll whine on for a little while about the security arrangements there and hopefully feel better about it all.
1. I'm sitting on a deck chair in the car park polishing off a bit of grub with the missus on Saturday afternoon when I notice that the confused-looking chap standing motionless a few yards behind us has clearly recently had the shite kicked out of him. His lips and nose are bleeding badly and from the bruises on his face I'd say he's probably been kicked in the head, rather than punched. I ask if he's OK and where his mates are but get no coherent response (and I speak fluent Northern Irish, so it wasn't just that. A few minutes later he's still there and showing no signs of moving so we offer him a seat and a drink of water. He has absolutely no clue where his mates are, where their car is parked, where he's camped, or even what has happened to him. Herself fetches the nearest steward who comes over looking incredibly pissed off to be called away from his detail of standing around doing fuck-all. He's aggressive and surly to the Nordie guy for no apparent reason. We ask if the guy could get some first aid and he expresses doubt about this and wanders off mumbling something about getting someone else. Five minutes later a more senior steward arrives and points vaguely to the direction of the far end of the car park, saying he might get some medical attention there. "Can you get yourself there?", he roars into the guy's face, as though he's deaf and retarded, rather than shaken up. I doubt the lad could walk from one end of his own bedroom to the other, the way he's looking right now. "Will I take him up there?" I ask. "Yeah, would you mind, I don't really have time. There's cars being robbed left, right and centre." This is blatantly untrue but I don't feel like quibbling with him. So I take the guy on the half-mile walk where he finally receives some sympathetic and competent attention.
Now, I'm no alarmist but people do die from head injuries. I don't think this guy was about to but he was certainly badly-concussed and anyone with an ounce of medical knowledge could tell you that it's best not to feck around with these things. I fully accept that the job of the stewards in the car park is first and foremost to protect people's cars but I'd like to think that people's safety might come first. I'm far from naive and have seen a few scrap casualties in my time so believe me whenI say this guy was in a bad way. Also, should protecting people's cars not also be the function of the many Gardaí stationed around the place? There wasn't a single one patrolling the car park, yet a few minutes later I see eight of them standing around having a natter at the area where people's bags are vaguely searched for drugs and glass bottles as they go from the carpark to the campsite. Three more are dealing with a young lad who may possibly have nicked a pair of wellies from one of the dodgy vendors there.
What wonderful delegation of resources.
2. The next day and a similar situation unfolds. Starting to feel like the fucking Mother Theresa of Oxegen at this stage. We're passing by the official T-shirt stand, opposite where the skaters are. I notice a guy lying on the ground at the base of a fence and take a good look at him, mostly out of amusement because I find people who are so out of it that they can sleep anywhere pretty funny. I notice he has a vicious-looking bump and gash on the back of his head and has lost quite a lot of blood. It's less funny now. The ladyfriend goes to get a steward, who has to radio someone else, even though he's only a few yards away from the injured guy. No-one turns up for a while so we approach another steward. He's locked out of his skull and looks upset and confused as to why we would ask him to do anything about this. But he approaches the injured guy anyway, just as the steward who'd been summoned by radio. They drag him to his feet with all the dexterity of a gorilla on speed. Of course, a little light training might have taught them that it's best not to suddenly move people with serious head injuries.
We move on, praying these imbeciles will have the cop on to bring him to the Order of Malta tent, where someone will acyually know what they're doing. Had I offered, no doubt they'd have been happier for me to take him there. Literally two minutes later I see six stewards racing after one guy. After a chase so comically inept it would have graced any of the Police Academy movies they eventually restrain him. Two of them high-five this little victory.
3. Final night of the festival and Rage Against The Machine have just left the stage. With no machines readily to hand, many of my fellow campers decide to take out their rage against the canvas. I'm in my tent hoping to grab an hour's shut-eye before driving home in the middle of the night to avoid any traffic and hopefully get some proper bed-sleep before work at nine in the morning. I'm suddenly roared at to get out of the tent by Darren and Lottie. Our friendly neighbours have decided to finish the weekend in style by torching their tent. Their tent which is touching the one I was just asleep in. I stumble out to see my girlfriend taking on these shitheads and asking them to kindly desist. She get a firm "Fuck off" and a stream of abuse for her trouble, the gist of which seemed to be that she wasn't really getting with the festival vibe. Luckily, he and his mates slink away with the charming riposte of "Happy Oxegen, I wouldn't recommend staying here much longer if I was you..." I say luckily because violence against young ladies didn't seem to be particularly objectionable for a number of guys at 'the greatest rock and roll weekend of the year', according to several reports I've heard. We took our friendly neighbour's advice, got the tent down in about 30 seconds and got the fuck out of there. was there a steward anywhere to be seen during our confrontation? Was there fuck.
Now, to qualify all this, I would say that plenty of the stewards seemed like friendly, competent helpful sorts. I'm sure the majority of them were. Thankfully, neither myself nor any of my firends who were at oxegen came to any harm. But people do die at festivals, people get badly robbbed and people get raped. Perhaps these things are unavoidable sometimes but I personally do not find it acceptable. The problem overall seemed not to be the stewards themselves but the management of them, the spreading of resources and the glaring lack of any kind of training some of them showed. I'm old enough to remember 17 year old Bernadette O'Brien being killed at a Smashing Pumpkins gig in Dublin in 1996. I started going to concerts a few months afterwards, causing my mother to absolutely freak out whenever I mentioned one. But for about 3 or 4 years afterwards, a huge effort was made to crack down on any dangerous behavious in concerts, particularly at the Point. Time healed all wounds for the concert-promoters though, and safety standards at live shows are slumping again. They'll adjust them when someone else dies.