To quote SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton: “Canberra is a bit like your little sister, you’ll defend her ‘til you bleed, but occasionally give her a wallop of your own, and you’re allowed, because you’re family”. I feel this expression captures the overall sentiment of the Canberra Roast at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop on Thursday night. For most of the seven speakers, their relationship with Canberra was akin to a love-hate sibling relationship, dressed with comical jabs and just a tad of familial abuse.
On this evening, musicians, journalists, a politician, a radio personality and others from all walks of Canberran life united in their collective discontent over ACTION buses, roundabouts, winter, boredom, cyclists, distracting road safety signs about texting, fog, kangaroos, shops closing at 9pm, public servants – and did I mention winter? However, in spite of the barrage of criticisms and sharp one-liners, one couldn’t help but detect an affinity for the capital sneaking out from amidst the snide remarks. A disgruntled Ross Solly (666 ABC Canberra) commenced proceedings with a tirade against the youth and their ill-fitting pants, whilst advocating the promotion of bogans to the Legislative Assembly. Yolande Norris (You Are Here festival producer) expressed her disappointment at Canberra’s “wrecking ball” mentality towards its beautiful buildings, yet appreciated its potential. Triple J’s Parliament House reporter Julia Holman acknowledged the positives of an “average, dull, mediocre” city, in spite of it trying to kill her.
Host Chris Endrey maintained the laughs with both personal anecdotes and odd, thought-provoking queries, like whether or not it is legal to eat dog in Canberra (turns out it is, just not the actual killing of the dog). The audience was encouraged to participate in the roasting via Twitter, and so they did, with views varying from the positive and affirming, to the strange and anthropomorphic: “Canberra is a prude, come on get your tits out”.
Proceedings continued with Rebecca Vassarotti (YWCA) and Shane Rattenbury (Greens MLA) who provided the audience with fictional and non-fictional accounts of calls to Canberra Connect, such as “can foxes climb ladders?” (guess which one that was), after which political journalist Karen Middleton shared a barrage of Canberra critiques sourced from Facebook.
Jeff Thompson & Pete Lyons capped off the evening with a musical tribute to the capital. And while the chorus of “Canberra sucks!” was emphatically chanted by each and every audience member, I got the feeling that not many truly felt that way. Except for perhaps, if they were nearby, those poor (apparently edible) dogs.
Catch some more of the awesome free events at the You Are Here festival before it ends on Sunday 24 March.
Ash Goldberg is submitting work to us as a part of the fantastic Papercuts program put together by the beautiful people at Scissors Paper Pen. The work and opinions belong to them, we are simply giving them a space to show their talents.