World+Dog is chiming in to give their thoughts on Canberra’s Centenary Year.
But aside from it being my job to share opinions on such things I’m also unusually positioned to comment for two reasons.
1) I’ve been writing about it for the best part of a decade.
2) I am actually a signed up Centenary Volunteer and have been involved as a participant in a handful of events. Signing the media policy in which I promised not to talk to myself was a particular highlight.
So not a Centenary event occurred for which I didn’t have a program, several emails, possibly some pictures or video, a pressing need to spend up on costuming or bicycle parts, and on one memorable occasion a hand cranked air raid siren.
And as the dust settles I think it is fair to say there is much that was very good, too much that was meh, and very little that was actually bad.
I wish it had been braver
There were reasons the Centenary wasn’t as brave as it could have been.
In a sense it was the Centenary we deserve. Canberra is a city of cautious people. Finishing university and deciding to take a government job will, in the most part, be the path of the less adventurous soul.
The Chief Ministership changing hands just prior to the Centenary probably didn’t help. We’re all braver when dealing with a boss we know the foibles of.
A general media culture which loves finding fault in things does not encourage bravery either. I accept my own part in this.
I wish it had been newer
When the big Centenary Program [Part 1] was released in a gala event at the Canberra Theatre (which some people mistook for the actual Centenary) I opened the program, waded through page after page of pre-existing events (starting with Summernats) and the news that King O’Malleys was the “Official Centenary Pub”.
Throwing up a little into my mouth (true story) I emailed one of the revolving door of PR bods and asked “have you got a breakout of the new events taking place for the Centenary”.
I was truly disappointed when I got the reply “we don’t have any such list and don’t intend to create one”.
For those of us who regularly get out and about Canberra throwing Centenary branding on top of things we already loved was not a great enhancement to anything.
It was, however, a good gateway for people new to the town to start thinking about participating.
And the new things!
You Are Here, The Village, even the conceptually confused SPIN festival had great elements.
When it tried new things was when they were at their best.
I wish they hadn’t spent the money of ten skywhales on a hashtag
For all the Skywhale hate, at $350,000ish it was a tiny part of the cost of the whole event.
Three million dollars to generate a hashtag for the city (#canberra having been happily in use for some years) was really just the advertising industry in Canberra finding yet another way to get their snouts in the trough.
All around there was backbiting from fat piggies who thought they weren’t getting their share of the lucre and it would have been nice if all in the media and Government had just ignored their greed.
I wish there had been less Robyn Archer
I met Robyn Archer a few times over the course of the Centenary. She’s obviously very good at what she does.
But what was meant to be a celebration of Canberra at times felt like a celebration of Robyn.
Be it a one woman cabaret show or performing at Voices in the Forest, having a trill at the program presentation, heading off the India with water from Lake Burley Griffin in a drink bottle, trying to fight the media about referring to the Government as Canberra.
Over and over again it seemed to be about Robyn Archer and not about Canberra’s Centenary.
She famously joked that she could have booked the Rolling Stones to play on Canberra Day and been done with it but instead wanted to build a legacy of artistic development in the wider community.
I suspect Canberra’s creative community will do just fine, and would have done regardless.
It would have been nice to get Canberra Day right
Even without the Rolling Stones the community turned up in droves for Canberra Day and, despite having it in the calendar for 100 years, they muffed it.
A dedicated social media team was on hand but too many basic amenities and logistics had been neglected. The ACT Government in a nutshell for you there.
It could have been worse, it could have been better.
It’s done, it’s dusted, all the lessons will be long forgotten by the time the Bicentenary rolls around even if some medical breakthroughs carry any of us through to see it.
You Are Here will be a serious ongoing legacy to the city.
There’s not much point complaining. I enjoyed parts of it. It got some people out of their houses some of the time.
A lot of people made a living out of it, for better or worse.
I can’t help feeling an opportunity was missed along the way.
Canberra’s 50th Birthday got us the Carrillon. Is there anything from this year that will be so remembered in 50 years time?