Park Doof

Dan and Steph showing excellent balance on the precarious Fairfield Amphitheatre steps. (Photo credit: Jonny Hobbs)

N.B. This article was started in February before the explosion of global madness caused by novel coronavirus 2019 (SARS-CoV-2), due to that and other circumstances the release of the article was delayed.

The Fairfield Amphitheatre in the inner north-east of Melbourne is a gem of a party spot tucked away on the banks of the Yarra River. The space can be hired until 9pm at night, by anyone, for anything. Recent events include a wedding and, what this writer is dubbing, a park doof. Scoping out the area the previous weekend, the most striking thing about the venue is the gradient of the flag stone steps – which precipitated the thought that next weekend there are to be many people here listening, and hopefully dancing, to dance music, leaving me wondering about the first aid provisions.

Raising my concerns about safety, toilet access and the general logistics of the event in the seemingly sparse, infrastructure-free space, I was suitably ribbed until eventually falling off my high horse and I subsequently took off my OH&S hardhat. The event was run by DJ crew, Synapse, who, with only 80 followers on Facebook, seem to be a relatively new collective. This party stood out with it’s BYO drinks policy – with Melbourne’s by-laws allowing the consumption of alcohol in parks, the oppressive blanket ban on public drinking in most spaces in the state was thus circumvented – and that the party was a fundraiser for the ‘Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities’.

There was an air of casual understanding between all party goers, with the event having a very free and open feel to it. At points it wasn’t clear who was running the party, but, and this was the only instance of bad behaviour we witnessed, when a patron was seen lobbing grapes from the tiers into the crowd, out of nowhere a high-vis came and with a quiet word and a fist-bump a cessation of grape throwing ensued. Adding to this openness was the offerings of watermelon that came around to assist the partiers in the heat, and the placing of water containers around the steps to conveniently quench your thirst was a simple, yet thoughtful touch that meant hydration was a matter of course rather than a forgotten necessity. The toilets used were those of permanent structures linked to the amphitheatre: these things are important to get right, we might love a boogie but we are still all animals with basic needs.

The best set of the day went to Toni Yotzi, framed in the dappled light between the eucalypts the set got the party going in late afternoon, with a carefully selected set of tracks that switched between 4 on the floor and break-beat, with the only disappointment being that there were more people settling into the party with their ice boxes on the steps than on the dance floor – such is the nature of the slow burning start to most day parties.

As the evening grew, so did the population on the dance floor. There was consideration for other dancers, with everyone having enough space to strut their stuff. Eventually, the evening drew to a close, with the crew ending the night precisely at their designated 9pm curfew. No sooner was the party finished, than the clean up started and an amphitheatre of ten or more tiers that had been carpeted in tinnies and other detritus from throughout the day was diligently cleaned, and a stroll through the park the next day left no clue as to the hedonistic scenes that took place the previous day.

* * *

The original point of this article was to promote a more free-form, yet law-abiding structure that a party can take on and to advocate for more of this type of gathering. In light of the global events of recent weeks, with social distancing and lock downs becoming the new norm, it will be a long time before we are able to meet and socialise in this way. MSG wants to encourage everyone to stay at home and keep your communities safe, especially thinking of all those workers who are putting themselves in harms way to treat and support vulnerable members of our communities.

We hope that when we come out on the other side of this unprecedented (couldn’t help myself) series of events that there will be an explosion of celebration in the form of parties that curate safe spaces, with a focus on the music rather than profit making, such as the Synapse park doof.

Stay safe, stay and home and look after yourselves and each other.

MSG xxx

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