Darwin Blog

Tourism NT’s Latest Campaign
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 5:21 am
Filed under: Observations

Channel Nine news proclaimed last week that Tourism NT is now utilising cyberspace!

I don’t know where Channel Nine has been, but Tourism NT has been utilising the web for quite sometime, but I guess they were making reference to the latest Destination Darwin campaign – which you can check out here – http://www.travelnt.com/en/

The campaign is fresh, colourful and exciting and portrays Darwin in and extremely positive light.

But, I do question the validity of placing a campaign in the national market from this weekend that has quite a bit about the Festival of Darwin, when the Festival has been put to bed for 2007.  Since the campaign is to entice people to travel to the Territory during what is traditionally known as the shoulder season – is it relevant to include the Festival when you can’t actually participate in it and there is nothing remotely looking like it anywhere in town?

The campaign also includes an interview with Malcolm Blaylock, the Director of the Festival.  Nice guy, but you know what, he doesn’t even live here full time.  If he loves it here so much, why hasn’t he made the full transition and commitment to reside in this beautiful city of ours?

Mindl Beach markets are also mention – it won’t be long before they close for the wet season.  I understand that at the moment for the next couple of weeks it is a little hard to get flights and very hard to get accommodation with many people visiting – so by the time people convert their desire to travel here to actual tickets and accommodation bookings – the markets will be over.  Did anyone think to ask the locals what they do during the “Green Season” and incorporate that into the strategy.

Singapore, Malaysia and Bali have all transformed themselves, many years ago, to year round destinations and have successfully maintained the interest – why is it so hard for Darwin?  Maybe we just are sophisticated enough yet and we might be pushing too hard too soon?  Who knows!  Is there lessons to be learnt from our neighbours.  How come it is so easy for Singapore to market itself to us for a weekend away and it doesn’t have to be all about shopping?  I can imagine to many Singaporeans, there just isn’t anything attractive about coming here – we really don’t have great shopping either!

Yet again, Tourism NT has pulled out Jimmy Shu to sell Darwin.  Jimmy does well out of Tourism NT with the amount of free advertising for the Hanuman mentioned throughout the interviews as well being there giving is own hot tips – what about some of the other places available that actually have better food than the Hanuman and believe me there are plenty.

I love how Tourism NT has personalised their marketing approach to pull people into the Territory, but sometimes I have to question what the motive is with the people they pick.  We have yet to see some of the long time residents and real Territory families be incorporated into the marketing to sell the Territory that they love, but perhaps they are just not funky enough for Tourism NT to consider or perhaps they do not want to portray a place you could be tempted to stay.

Perhaps for the next Darwin campaign, Tourism NT could start getting out and meeting some of the other culturally diverse people here in Darwin and have some new faces – the people that have been used to date are just a little to close to those producing the campaigns at Tourism NT.


SoCo Cargo Club
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: Observations

One of the other attractions of the Festival of Darwin was the SoCo Cargo Club.  We finally made it there on the final night due to my determination to see DJ China and I was very curious about the concept of having a club inside demountables.

I am not a big fan of nightclubs in Darwin and unfortunately if you want to see some the best dance DJs perform, you need to go to Discovery – I do not even contemplate it.  But the SoCo Cargo Club offered an alternative.

We got there just after 9.30pm, as we had been told that it was a free venue and if not there early, you have to line up and in Darwin, I just do not line up for anything – there is no need!

No problems getting in and the venue was a lot bigger than I envisaged.  It is a fabulous concept and a pity that some savvy businessman in Darwin did not come up with this idea in the mid to late eighties, when there was a devout house and trance dance scene in Darwin and put this concept in the middle of Winnellie!  It could still work now, although there would be heaps of objections from the public.

Speaking of objections, my understanding is that there were plenty.  The Minister for Planning also amended the Town Plan at the last minute, to allow the Club to proceed as part of the Festival line up.

DJ China was excellent for the 45 set we listened to, unfortunately no one was dancing, perhaps it was too early, perhaps people hadn’t consumed enough Southern Comfort!

This is where it gets interesting.  Southern Comfort, as in the liquor, is what SoCo stands for.  The club itself is a promotional tool for Southern Comfort.  It is all you can buy from the bar – premixed Southern Comfort drinks, Southern Comfort cocktails or whatever one mixes with Southern Comfort.  I tasted Southern Comfort about 20 years ago and it tasted awful then and I suspect nothing much has changed.

Whilst this Club was heavily promoted as a drawcard for the younger generation and placed in Mitchell Street, there are a few things I do question.  In Darwin and the Northern Territory for that matter, there are serious issues in relation to the consumption of alcohol.  Is it sensible for an organisation to have an event that is run by a liquor company, which is primarily a tool to promote more drinking to such a young audience.  I also question the validity of another bar/ club in Mitchell Street where the incidents of violence is escalating.

Are Festival organisers looking for an easy way out to involve the 18 – 35 age group, rather than looking at what is the best fit?  Sure, much easier to go with a Club concept whereby everything is provided and hell Southern Comfort would have the resources (including financial) to run the promotion, establishment costs etc because, well, it is in their best interests.

What I also object to is not one bit of the marketing material put out by the Festival of Darwin acknowledge the fact that the concept is a Southern Comfort marketing tool.  We came home and read the Festival program again, looked at the SoCo cargo Club booklet from back to front and also went online – nothing and I mean nothing mentions Southern Comfort.  No doubt an application had to be made to the Liquor Commission – was this fact acknowledged?  I would some how think it might be imperative to mention this small fact?

To some degree I think the marketing of this event was quite deceptive and how foolish of organisers to think that Darwin people wouldn’t get it.  Southern Comfort is plastered all over the Club, right down to the stamps they use on your arms and to the stencils they have over the lighting so that Southern Comfort is projected onto the dance floor.

Just for the record – Southern Comfort has been mentioned 13 times whilst writing this entry!

Gay Bilson
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 1:40 am
Filed under: Observations

One of the events I attended out of the Festival of Darwin program was a “chat” with Gay Bilson.  This event was possible due to the assistance of the NT Writer’s Centre, the Slow Food Group and Charles Darwin University.

I knew Gay Bilson was an accomplished restuarantuer and has quite a profile in Sydney for the amazing food she produces, but apart from that I must admit that I Googled her to find out more.  My search resulted in some very interesting reading material and also included some reviews of her book Plenty.  As a result, I really. really did want to hear the woman speak.

Prior to the event and after reading about her online, I really wanted to purchase her book to read prior to the event.  Funny that, as I went to a number of bookshops it appear that I could not get the book.

So my girlfriend and I attended the Bakery at the Charles Darwin University Palmerston campus on the Friday night not really sure what to expect.  The University students were busy baking fresh bread, making pate, frying cheese and chorizo and many other delectable goodies, as well as serving some great wines.

Local ABC radio dj, Annie Gastin was conducting the “chat” with Gay Bilson and David Taylor (Daisy amongst friends) was the emcee.  The chat was interesting, but way too short and perhaps lacked some sort of structure, because I do not think it was revealing enough.  Annie invited questions from the floor and they were not very forthcoming, in fact it would be fair to say that we were there to hear Gay talk about herself and her experiences rather than answer our questions, which would probably have had even less structure that the “chat” presently in front of us.  It was an opportunity that was a little wasted.

An audience member did ask Gay what she thought of the new trend of fusion cooking and whilst she was diplomatic in her response – I do agree with her when she says that there are just some ingredients that are not to be melded together, no matter how ground btreaking or new age the crusine is and there is a reason for that.  Neil Perry take note!

With the lack of ability to purchase her book and with some in the audience advising her so, the Manager of the CDU Bookshop, who was present, advised she had copies available, but guess what, as only can happen in Darwin, she didn’t bring any with her to sell and for us to have autographed!  How frustrating and the lack of taking up on opportunity to promote the diversity of your business, make some money and to be accessible.  This so does not surprise me when it comes to Darwin.

Festival of Darwin
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 1:24 am
Filed under: Observations

The Festival of Darwin has recently come to a close.

As a strong supporter of the arts, I have to be honest and admit that there was very little in the Festival of Darwin program this year that interested me.  This is the first time in 20 plus years that has happened.  It has shocked me to admit this and many others that I decided to be honest about it with.

What disappoints me is that the Festival is fast becoming a very Indigenous based arts and cultural event to the deteriment of the many other talented artists and quality arts product that is available locally, nationally and internationally.  I am not saying that there isn’t a place for Indiginous visual and performing arts with the Festival program.  What I am alluding to, is that there a numerous avenues and widely publicised ones that Indigenous arts flourishes within.  Indigenous visual and performing arts does not lack the exposure that conventional artists do in the main arena.  The Festival of Darwin, in its marketing, is heavily promoting the Indigenous content, overiding everything else.

There was some comment in the NT News with regard to how well some events sold and in particular, sold out although there was some difficulty in selling seats for Indigenous events.  It is then inferred that people should take a risk in attending one of the events that had not sold particularly well because they may be surprised. As a side note, the NT News covered the Festival widely, but for a paper that doesn’t not actively publish much regarding Aboriginal people (aside from the Federal invention guff, as the mouthpiece for the NT Government), Aboriginal arts certainly had a profile.  At least it is a positive news story in these instances.

Did the organisers of the Festival of Darwin think for a minute, that there is a large portion of the population of Darwin who have absolutely no desire to sit and watch an Aboriginal band belt out their tunes? Do we really what to engage to Aboriginal dancers and how many Aboriginal art shows were there on at the time – I mean give us a break and give us something we want to see.

The Festival organisers were in the paper last week skiting at how successful the Festival was.  This I do not doubt, but what is lacking is any type of evaluation of the audience with regard to the fact if the performance they were attending was their first Festival event, how many events they have attended and where they are from – and I think it is fair in a town this size, that the evaluation can drill down to the suburb.  This in itself maybe an eye opener as to the tastes and want for a certain type of product, which would also assist in the programming of the coming year’s program.  I know for events that sell their tickets through the Entertainment Centre, that the Centre’s ticketing system allows for this type of evaluation.

There are many people who attend many events of the Festival – if you attended 10 events, it is considered as 10 people attending, rather than one person attending 10 events – you can see now how the figures become skewed.  I think the Festival is grown up enough now to start evaluating what they do and how they do it and to start giving people what they want to see.

One of the issues that those working in the arts keep forgetting is that their success is also based on how many people they can attract and convert to attending an arts event on a regular basis, due to experiencing and enjoying their first exposure to the arts.  For the arts to survive in any community it is about having the “bread and butter” attractions as well as introducing new content to stimulate and encourage discussion, debate and new experiences.

I might be out there is saying this, but I think the Festival needs to remember its roots and to grow with community and stop trying to force us to actively engage with visual and performing elements that have we have no real interest in.

Thanks and Apologies
Sunday, 2 September, 2007, 12:54 am
Filed under: Observations

Thank you Tors for your comment regarding the blog.

It has become obvious from the blog stats, that there are a number of regular readers and I must apologise for not blogging for a while.  What happened? – well there has just been too much on and too little time to fit in blogging!  Anyway, today being Father’s Day and we are home just bumming around, I thought I would pen some of my thoughts from the past couple of weeks.