Reflecting on the Centenary.

By 16 December, 2013 8

skywhale reflected

I was there

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.

And yet…

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?

[Photo by Hannah]

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8 Responses to Reflecting on the Centenary.
#1
peterw4:31 pm, 16 Dec 13

The main criticism that I have of the Centenary of Canberra is that it succeeded as a local event, but failed abysmally as a national event. Canberra is the national capital, and C of C should have been a national celebration as well as a local one. It palpably wasn’t – the rest of Australia either didn’t know about the C of C, or simply didn’t care, despite the heroic efforts of Ms Archer (who I thought was fairly high profile, but justifiably so). For this I blame the Federal Government for not putting serious resources into nationally promoting the C of C. I thought Robyn et al did a great job with limited resources

#2
MERC6005:29 pm, 16 Dec 13

peterw said :

The main criticism that I have of the Centenary of Canberra is that it succeeded as a local event, but failed abysmally as a national event. Canberra is the national capital, and C of C should have been a national celebration as well as a local one. It palpably wasn’t – the rest of Australia either didn’t know about the C of C, or simply didn’t care, despite the heroic efforts of Ms Archer (who I thought was fairly high profile, but justifiably so). For this I blame the Federal Government for not putting serious resources into nationally promoting the C of C. I thought Robyn et al did a great job with limited resources

Agree with PeterW that the rest of Oz didn’t know. A few tv news shots of skywhale and that was it. I saw skywhale in Hobart but didn’t see a stand handing out info on the centenary, or even just handing out the usual tourist stuff.

#3
grunge_hippy8:13 pm, 16 Dec 13

The Canberra Festival of yore was better than this lame hipster infested tripe. Back in the 80′s they knew how to throw a good party.

The whole “One very big day” was one complete snore fest. You had literary 3/4 of Canberrans (well it seemed like that many) in one place at one time and for what? Not much. Very little entertainment and even little food and amenities. The only highlight was seeing The Church play.

As for the rest of the year, meh. Maybe I am just a grumpy old cow but it certainly did not live up to the hype. Especially not for families.

#4
martin7510:57 pm, 16 Dec 13

‘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.’

Wow, only 3 million for a hash tag!

#5
HiddenDragon12:38 am, 17 Dec 13

Corporatist Canberra at its clodhopping, cringeworthy – but entertaining for some – best.

#6
Ben_Dover7:25 am, 17 Dec 13

Embarrassing really that a city which calls itself the nation’s capital could throw such an important event, and have it go unnoticed outside of the city itself, ignored by the nation, and not even a blip on the radar anywhere outside of the country.,

Oh apart from the tittycarp making us a laughing stock on the “drop the dead donkey section” of some overseas news reports…

“And finally, over in Australia in the capital, (not it’s not Sydney, it’s a place called “Canberra”,) to celebrate the centenary of it’s establishment, they came up with this piece of carp…..”

#7
davo1019:18 am, 17 Dec 13

Canberra’s 50th Birthday got us the Carillon.

So your beef is that the UK didn’t give us a gift for the centenary?

#8
zorro2910:21 am, 17 Dec 13

How do you pay money for a hashtag??? Or was it for someone to come up with one? Either way, the loser twitter-verse do that for free…problem solved

great photo btw….if I looked out the window and saw that, I’d be like “WTF?!?!”

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