Serge’s Column – July

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Bonjour St Kilda!

This month I am thrilled to announce that the St Kilda Festival is going to go ahead in 2014 and, hopefully, at least for another three years! As per each year, it was touch and go… but the resolution voted at Council at the end of June is very encouraging and I am thrilled that it is proceeding!

The St Kilda Festival is 32 years old and started as a way of promoting our “village”. It did not have a very good image at the time, and we wanted to show that we were not only about the drugs and the sex, but also the rock and roll. The Festival has gone from strength to strength every year and is very much loved by all. Apart from showcasing new local bands, it is a community celebration and is of economic benefit to our city. But to host the biggest FREE street festival in the country, if not beyond, costs money, and Council has had difficulties finding a main sponsor after Foxtel ended its four year arrangement with us. Hosting nearly half a million people costs money!

We have been looking into the festival every year since I have been elected to Council. It has created some interesting dialogue in the past, with the main difficulty always being the burden on the City’s ratepayers. The Festival costs over $1.9 million to the City each year and I agree that we have got to find ways to reduce what is seen by some as a burden on our budget.

Next year, we will be considering new ways to do this. Of course, we will keep looking at ways to reduce management and production costs, increase sponsorship and, who knows, since it will be an election year, we might even get some extra funding from the State Government. But we will also look at organizing concerts on the main stage on the beach, in the spirit of the festival, on the Friday or Saturday before the festival, with artists taking part in a fundraising exercise. I am thrilled to say that the reaction from the artists and the music industry has been very positive. Through these concerts, or special events, we are also hoping to attract people who would not normally come to the festival, such as those a bit older and younger teenagers. There will also be opportunities for businesses in Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and Albert Park to take part in Live & Local program.

We might also be looking at a way to ask visitors to contribute to the cost of the organisation of the festival, like a small entry fee with details to be worked out if everything else fails. The objective is to reduce the cost to the City to affordable levels and keep the entertainment going! Feel free to contact me if you have got any suggestions.

I am very pleased to see how much the festival is loved. We conducted a telephone survey last month and 73% of the traders and 70% of the residents support, or strongly support, the Festival Sunday. Only just over 10% are against it. Interestingly, the survey revealed that 58% of the residents and 76% of the traders don’t object to Council contributing to close to $2M to the festival. Nearly 2/3 don’t object to paying a small contribution in form of an entrance fee.

So, now it is all going ahead with the aim of keeping our iconic summer event, while reducing Council’s financial contribution each year. Summer would not be the same without all our guests at our festival on the second Sunday of February!

The second topic I would like to talk about this month is the consultation that Yarra Trams is currently undertaking with residents, tram users and residents about new tram platforms in Acland Street and Fitzroy Street. I urge you to take part and express your views on the matter or we will end up with solutions that we don’t want. I have got strong reservations about what is proposed and, just as importantly, about the whole consultation process. It only allows people the option to choose between two or three alternatives, with no scope for people to suggest ideas that may turn out to be other better options. Do have a good look at what is being proposed. Route 96 may be the most patronized tram route in Melbourne, but that is no reason for turning  Acland Street into a huge tram stop and loose its character or for Fitzroy Street to be clogged up with constant traffic. Not to mention the school and the bowling club becoming isolated.

July 14th is French National Day, or Bastille Day, as it is called outside of France. Come and celebrate with me from 4pm at Evening Star at the South Melbourne Market. Renan will assemble an interesting mix of French music, French dancing – you know what I mean by that, naughty people!! – French drinks and French food. I’ll be opening the celebration so that I can then enjoy a couple of drinks with all our guests! I have always loved French history, and the French Revolution is fascinating to study. A couple of aspects that people get wrong: the date of the 14th of July was chosen not for what happened on 14 July 1789, which was a bloodbath, but for the celebration of French unity that took place on 14 July 1790. Also the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, shouldn’t actually “technically”be called that. The song, composed by Rouget de Lisle, was first played in April 1792 in Strasbourg, and not in Marseille. It was a song he composed for the Armée du Rhin, to which he belonged. Strasbourg is the capital city of the region of Alsace where I am very proud to say I come from!

Happy Bastille Day to all and speak to you next month!


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