16 June 2012

Silk Road Night Market at the Museum

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So Mrs LSWCHP insisted that we all troop off to the Silk Road Night Market gig at the museum this evening.

I think the museum staff must have expected a couple of hundred people to roll up on a cold Friday winters night, because it looks like that’s all they catered for. As it turned out, when we arrived about 7:30 it seemed like most of Canberra was also heading for the action, with miles of stalled traffic, cars going everywhere on the footpath, and heavy streams of foot traffic as far as the eye could see. I’ve seen Raiders games with smaller turnouts.

We walked around for a while, amazed at the giant crowd that had showed up for what could best be described as nothing much at all.

We’re all still a bit puzzled. What’s the scoop here? Did we completely miss the point of the show? Was there more to it than we thought?

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It was excellent – in theory. But clearly a lot more people turned up than seemed to have been expected. There was hardly anywhere to get food and, other than a couple of fire twirlers, no entertainment for those waiting outside in the dark and cold for the doors to open.

If they do something similar next year, I would suggest using the forecourt to have heaps more stalls and lots of food and beverage outlets. Some nice lighting (everyone was stumbling around in the dark) and some music would also help.

And the puppeteer was really annoying. She needs to yell a bit less.

I know someone involved in running this thing. They planned for up to 5,000 people, expected around 2,000, and got 10,000. So twice the absolute maximum they thought would show, and five times as many as what they actually expected.

Hopefully the excellent response results in a bigger and better event in the future! There’s obviously an interest out there.

I saw the traffic at 7pm and decided to head into the shops instead – every single access road off Constitution Ave was backed up and causing traffic chaos. If you didn’t know what was on you would have been very confused.

I went back at about 8.30 and it was much quicker to get in and i got a park near the entrance – but cars were parked all along the access road and wherever they could find a spot. Stalls inside were pretty similar to Kingston or Hall markets – seen most of them before. The lighting however, I think they were going for mood lighting but it was too bright in some areas and stall holders were using torches in others so you could see what they were selling – one poor stall holder was being blinded by the lights and her products were in the dark from our shadows!

Music was pretty good, reverberating through the hall with lots of people enjoying it.

The only food stall I saw was the pancake people out front and I think the museum cafe was open but I couldn’t get there through the crowd listening to the music. There were lots of empty glasses so there was wine available somewhere. I was dissapointed there weren’t more food stalls available on the entrance area.

Supposedly you could go look at the Silk Road exehib. for free but the line was pretty long and the area very crowded.

My estimate – several thousand people there across the night.

Gungahlin Al12:10 pm 16 Jun 12

It was a crazy huge turnout wasn’t it? Took from 6 to 6:30 to get from Civic to the Museum.

I went there as part of the Canberra Astronomy Society’s setup to show people the night sky. At 6 the sky seemed almost 100% cloud, but by the time I got there (couldn’t turn around!) it had completely cleared. Putting aside chronic light pollution, the sky was incredibly clear with very good “seeing”.

I spent the next three hours showing people Saturn, Mars, the Jewel Box open cluster, the Omega Centauri globular cluster, and more.

But the hit of the night was definitely Saturn. People’s reactions when they saw it was invariably “Oh my god” “It’s so clear” “It looks like a sticker”. And they were right – it was the clearest I have ever seen Saturn. The sky was so still and sharp. Listen to some typical reactions.

But the signage to the stargazing was very small and almost hidden – sure many people didn’t even know we were there.

At 9:30 I finally packed up the scope and went in to see what the show itself was about. A handful of market stalls. Food sales only though the cafe and one stall outside selling gozleme. Great puppet shows by the wonderful Marianne Mettes and family. But otherwise, disappointing. People told me they queued for half an hour just to order the gozleme, then had another half hour wait to get it, just to find it was VERY ordinary.

Marianne and a bunch of other friends I stumbled on came out to another impromptu session with the telescope, including some photography. So I had a long but fun night, with plenty of new converts to the wonders of our night sky. But I can see many others were probably disappointed. It was a great idea Museum folk, but maybe you need more of them to space out the crowds a bit, but more food outlets and content. Oh – and far better promotion for the sky viewing please!

There is a public viewing planned by the Astronomical Society next Friday up on Mt Stromlo from 7pm. Be early – it can get crazy up there. And please leave any white light sources off. Helps to wind the brightness way down on your smartphones too. Oh – and download a copy of Star Walk, Pocket Universe or Distant Suns.

It was free. What more do you need to know?

Don’t know. When we discovered the traffic gridlock on Parkes Way, and that it was destined for the NMA, we detoured into Civic and had a lovely meal at Taze.

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