Friday, February 13, 2009

Bagpipe busker ban busted

"Who pays the piper calls the tune" - so they say, but apparently not in Dunedin.

In line with some other stunningly shortsighted decisions lately, the out of-touch boffins at the Dunedin City Council banned a bagpiper from busking in Dunedin's central business district.

We heard about this around about the same time we realised that even though the vast majority of Dunedin citizens are against wasting our money on a big empty ugly stadium building whose location will divorce the town from its harbour basin and whose cost will bankrupt the city and cause every other amenity to be starved of funds till all we have left is a slum or a ghost town, that the council is set upon the madness anyway.

Their name is Ozymandias. Look on their works ye ratepayers, and despair.

The self-aggrandising destruction of what Dunedin really stands for, and replacing it with a crappy plastic alternative, continues with the apparent attitude of many at this council, that the historic Scottishness of Dunedin is somehow distasteful.

They want to market Dunedin as a cool hip city with a big sports ground. Get real.

This piper is a champion player and popular with locals and tourists.

Fortunately somebody back-tracked after the public outcry at his being banned, and yesterday he was back on the streets, being warmly welcomed and congratulated for his victory over bureaucratic stupidity.

The Council said they had received complaints about the bagpipe noise - but it turned out that one of only three complaints had been called in by council workers themselves! So some of the hostility towards the ethnic Scottish music was sourced from within the council.

This anti-bagpipe behaviour didn't surprise me. Last year on Robert Burns Birthday as on every year for as long as I can remember, many of the people of Dunedin celebrated the day by meeting in the Octagon and listening to Burns poetry and bagpipe music and eating haggis and drinking a nip of Scotch. A whole pipe band had turned up as was usual, to entertain the public and mark the significant event, all the richer for taking place in our Scottish-founded city.

Locals and tourists alike crowded around keen to hear the bagpipe concert after the poetry and the speeches. The guys looked great in their tartan and sporrans.

But alas the events team at the city council was offended by the noise of the bagpipes and told the pipers not to play. What? Why? The pipers were dismayed and some were outraged. They had to go home without playing.

Apparently the events team had organised a memorial service in the nearby Anglican Cathedral, for Sir Edmund Hillary, and I myself heard a council employee telling the pipers that it would be "disrespectful" to continue playing the bagpipes while the dignitaries filed into the cathedral for the religious service.

I saw one letter to the editor of the local paper, decrying this appalling disrespect for the traditional Burns event.

As I heard an angry by-stander say loudly, "Sir Ed would not have wanted this insult against the people of Dunedin to be carried out in his name!"

The double booking of the Hillary event to time with the years-old traditional Burns Birthday celebration was not an isolated incident.

Similar actions made by the same "events management" city council 'team', have - either deliberately or through ignorance - served to eradicate the Scottishness from the New Year's Eve Octagon celebration, which now has a jazzy Latin American theme.

A lone piper no longer plays at midnight, and so of course the one thing that made Dunedin of interest to the rest of New Zealand and indeed the world (the striking of the town clock and the playing of Auld Lang Syne by the lone piper was an oft-televised live sight flashed around NZ and the world on the first stroke of the New Year) has now been successfully suppressed and Dunedin, with its toy fireworks display, and its hokey 'carnivale' New Year's Eve theme, is no longer of any interest to anyone anywhere else.

The sterility of the anti-heritage approach will become more obvious as this council attempts to destroy everything that makes us unique and interesting (like the famous Carisbrook) in pursuit of some corporate faux global phantasm of 'success'.


Mike (AKA Pops) said...

If the "Council" is really this out of touch with it's constituents why aren't they being thrown out of office? Here in the States we've been known to toss out presidents, surely a council can't be that difficult!

artandmylife said...

Having just moved from the Wellington area, I love the heritage aspect of Dunedin and the desire to emulate larger more populous and much blander cities is ridiculous.

A piper lives and practises within hearing of our house. Actually the guy in your post comes from here - maybe ist him? Anyway I love it.

And fix up Carisbrook i say!

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Hi Mike, thanks for commenting. I really enjoyed looking at your bagpipe blog.

This elected city council will be indeed be held accountable at the next election. Alas, though, not all the candidates are honest about their real intentions when it comes to campaign time. (Sound familiar?)

I'm not sure it's so easy to change the agenda the employed city staff are hell-bent upon. They busy themselves thinking up snazzy "marketing" ideas while overlooking and devaluing the very things that make Dunedin special.

The Paradoxical Cat said...

AAML: greetings fellow citizen!

Yes Dunedin is a beautiful and unique city, and it seems a kind of madness for the current administration to try to make us something we are not. The delusions of grandeur are pathetic, and are destructive to real community.

Lucky you to be hearing bagpipe music - I'd be in tears regularly as it stirs my Scottish soul.

I do live within earshot of some occasional Samoan drumming and I love that. Any real music is so much better than the moronic bass beat of an overloud stereo.