Thursday, December 01, 2022

Tales of Power – A Visit to Waddamana

 

Waddamana -where Tasmania's first publicly - owned hydro - electric Power Station opened in 1922. Now a museum, it not only traces the development of hydro -electricity in this state, but captures a large chunk of Tasmania's history and keeps memories alive for the thousands of  people who lived or worked on Tasmania's power schemes

The Highlands Power Trail

I hadn’t really planned on doing the Highlands Power Trail but I wanted to avoid the steep valley where my van gave up the ghost last year. Now, belatedly looking at the brochure, it seems I did most of it anyway. Apart from the fact that the C 178 was unsealed and narrow and there was always the risk of meeting a fast moving ute flying around a blind corner, it was a lot more interesting than the A5. This was obviously where most of the action was before the main road came through. Farmsteads with freshly -shorn lambs clung to hillsides, elder trees with frothy flat flowerheads lined the banks of the Shannon River and puffy clouds drifted overhead. It looked altogether more lived in than most parts of the A5. 

I shouldn’t complain about the road. Had it not been for the Hydro Electric Commission, most of Tasmania’s roads would still look like this and many parts - especially in the West, would still be inaccessible.

 Waddamana

Waddamana was Tasmania’s first Hydro village. It's named after the Aboriginal word for noisy water. In contrast to the Steppes, Waddamana which had a population of just 4 at the 2016 Census is undergoing something of a revival. About half of it has just been bought* by a Sydney family intent on making it a prime fishing and B & B destination and restoring it to its former glory. Not too far back you understand. The first residents had to walk overland from Deloraine for the joy of living in tents in what is regularly the harshest climate in Australia. All equipment and materials had to be either brought in with horses and carts or manufactured on site. The video is worth a watch because it shows what it was like in those early days. Two more power stations were added over the ensuing decades and hundreds of men worked in 24 hour shifts to keep them going, that is, until 1995 when new generating capacity came onstream first from Poatina (1960s) and then the Pieman Scheme on Tasmania's West Coast. Many families just moved from village to village as capacity had to be continually expanded to meet the needs of industry and growing populations. 

 

 

*[This isn't the only ex Hydro village on the market either. I understand Tarraleah which has 55 fully restored homes is also on the market should you have a spare 11 million.]

As I pull into town, I see builders working on a couple of cottages, a trampoline in a front yard and a boy riding a bike down the main street. To my surprise, there’s even a fully operational coffee van parked at the end of the road. It's not a mirage. Even though I have my own coffee, the aroma of  freshly brewed coffee is irresistable and beats my thermos of lukewarm instant hands down. On the off -chance that the van it isn’t operating when you call, you can even get a reasonable coffee inside the power station for a dollar or two - small price to pay, given that entry to the museum is free. Three cyclists pull up as I leave.

 

A village in transition and a link between the future and the past. Some cottages were sold off earlier for an educational camp
 

Technology's Temples 

 

The Turbine Hall is not only a testament to the love and care lavished on the exhibits but also the care which was put into our early industrial buildings.They are monuments to progress, science and technology. The private Power Station at Lake Margaret with its high ceilings, clerestory windows and  gleaming brass is another. Bereft of workers and other visitors they feel like churches, though the tiles also make me think of tea dances and aspidistras.

Suitably fortified, I wander through the Power Station Museum under the watchful and friendly eye of engineer, Ian McKeown. Everything gleams. The woodwork is polished and it looks like the power station is ready to leap into life at any moment. I’m not normally excited by heavy machinery, but it’s not only impressive but colourful too. The museum holds many memories for Tasmanians in particular. It’s said that at one stage – around the time of the Pieman development, one in four Tasmanians were directly or indirectly employed by the “Hydro” as the Hydro Electric Commission was known, including several members my own family. It was also rumoured on the West Coast at least, that there wasn’t a family in the state that didn’t have a pair of sturdy Hydro issue gumboots.  The History room holds photographs and interactive recordings and videos - in effect the memories of those who worked there.

 

Who said machinery had to be ugly? Here is a giant butterfly valve which was used to control waterflow through the penstocks - the big pipes which carry water under gravitational pressure to the turbines                

 
A Genset with a bright orange Pelton wheel behind it. Tell me again what a genset does.

 
When did you last see such large or such clean spanners ? These were made on site

Looking at the remnants of original landscaping, I remarked how nice it it was that the Hydro had gone to the trouble, especially with the row of dense pines along the main street.  Ian tells me in that matter -of -fact way that engineer's have, that the pines were planted to dampen the sound of the turbines


How the Hydro came to have such a dominant place in Tasmania

There were effectively three industrial revolutions – the first involved harnessing the power of steam, the second was about using coal, oil and gas to drive machinery and the third was about using electricity. Tasmania was right at the forefront when it came to harnessing electricity from water. The Francis turbine which is still in use today was invented in 1879 and the Pelton wheel to drive the turbine was invented  a year later. Only a year after the first private and commercial scheme began in Wisconsin in 1882,  the Mount Bischoff mine in Waratah on Tasmania's West Coast was using hydro power to drive its stampers and light up its premises. Other countries were hopping onto this new bandwagon too. Grand Rapids in Michigan, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls were other early adopters. By 1885 Waratah had extended lighting to its township and the City of Launceston had begun using electricity generated by the privately owned Duck Reach Power Station to operate its streetlights.  Despite further developments on the South Esk River, demand by industry soon outstripped supply and plans were made to harness the waters of the Great Lakes in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. Waddamana was initially to supply electricity to private homes and the zinc works in Hobart.


One of a row of Art Deco cottages built for engineers in 1923


Unfortunately finance for the scheme fell through due to the outbreak of World War I in Europe and as the company fell on hard times, the government's newly minted Hydro Electric Department - later the Hydro Electric Commission, took it over in 2016. Despite many trials and tribulations such as budget shortfalls and snow storms, the Waddamana power station was finally opened in 1922. This marked the beginning of an ever -greater expansion across almost all major watersheds until the 1980s, when the Franklin River in the South West was the only major river left without power developments on it. 

Earlier protests over the damming and flooding of Lake Pedder had already given rise to the world’s first environment party -the United Tasmania Group. This now led to the formation of the Tasmanian Greens who set about garnering international support. The debate divided friends, families and communities. There were huge public demonstrations and more than 1500 arrests,  but it eventually led to Federal intervention and the protection of the river and a large area of wilderness. At this point the Hydro lost much of its near omnipotent power and had to make do with several smaller, less environmentally destructive schemes instead. However, the Hydro remains a leader in the field of renewable power generation and has shared its expertise in the field with many other countries. 

In the 1990’s -not long after NASA and the US Department of Energy developed the first prototype for large scale windfarms in 1981, the Hydro began developing wind farms in some of Tasmania’s more remote regions, such as Woolnorth in the North West, which lay directly in the path of the Roaring Forties and on King Island which had been too far away to benefit from central distribution. King Island now runs on a combination of various energy sources, but is able to rely on renewables plus energy storage for 65% of its needs. Many of the things we take for granted today would not have been possible without these developments. Even in the 1970s country women would tell me how grateful they were when they finally got a nice clean electric stove. However, this wasn't the only contribution the Hydro made to life in Tasmania.

 The Hydro as an Agent of Cultural Change

Post -war refugees and immigrants from many countries found themselves thrown together in remote parts of Tasmania in villages such as this while working for the Hydro. The following quote comes from the page about  the Hydro's  Centenary Celebration in 2014.

"With over one hundred years of innovation, we created employment for more than 5200 direct jobs at the peak of construction, and in the past century, have employed more than 30000 people. Through the electricity we generated, Tasmania's manufacturing and agriculture industries thrived.

We saw roads built where there had been none and villages grow in the wilderness. With the introduction of diversity through our migrant communities, Tasmania's culture has flourished; from what we drink and eat; to our music, art and community celebrations. Our engineering and technological breakthroughs have helped change the way the world approaches the challenge of generating energy - and still do."

See more history here or call in and say Hi to Ian.

 

The house that belonged to this lilac tree has long gone, as has its owner, but it makes me think of the women who accompanied their menfolk to places such as this and tried to make houses into homes. The fragrance lives on. Read more about their lives here

A Glimpse of the Future

High on the hill before Waddamana, I catch a glimpse of the new Cattle Hill Windfarm built by Goldwind Australia and Powerchina Group on a former pastoral property. Before it was built in 2019, there was grave concern about what would happen to our threatened wedge -tailed eagles who still call this region home. To prevent eagle -strike, the company has been trialling an optical tracking system which automatically turns off the turbines if it detects an approaching bird. According to independent reports, not a single eagle has been lost in two years of operation. 



 The Hydro now exports excess power to the mainland via the Basslink cable, trains international teams and has a commercial consulting arm. It is also working on pumped hydro systems as part of its plan to make Tasmania “The Battery of the Nation." When that happens, remember that it all began in Waddamana. 

Two More Hydro Villages

I pass two more places which owe their existence to the Hydro on the way to the West. The first is Miena on the Lakes Highway - recently renamed the Highland Lakes Road, at the Southern edge of the Great Lake. It was here that the then privately -owned Tasmanian Hydro - Electric and Metallurgical Company began building a dam in 1915 to supply water to Waddamana. After taking over in 1916, the state owned Hydro built another dam there in 1922 and raised the level again in 1982. At 1000 metres elevation, Miena is both the highest and the coldest settlement in Tasmania. However, it has since made a name for itself as the centre of a thriving trout fishing industry due to its location within 'The Land of One Thousand Lakes' and currently has a permanent population of around 100. With the Highway now sealed and new windfarms in the offing, its future seems assured. It also happens to be the only place between Bothwell and Deloraine where you can get fuel. 

Turning south west from here along the Marlborough Highway - highway being a bit of a generous term - watch out for the potholes- you come to Bronte Park, another former Hydro village. In the 1950s it was home to 700 workers and their families while dams and power stations were built at Butler's Gorge, Tungatinah, Tarraleah and Lake Echo. In those days it had its own police station, post office, cinema, hospital, shop, a dairy and church.   When construction ended in 1979, the village closed and most buildings were removed, with the remainder being sold to private owners in 1991. These days it has around 28 permanent residents, a chalet and 19 cottages which are mostly let out to fishermen. I always  assumed that the country names of the cottages - Norway, Scotland, Wales etc., reflected the multicultural nature of the Hydro, but they were in fact named after the country of origin of participants in a fishing competition. 

There's no song for Hydro workers either, though there probably should be. The "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell might have to do. 


 

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PS: You might think that with all this power coursing through our powerlines, Tasmanians would have cheap power, but that isn't so since we are now part of the national grid and much of it has been privatised. We must also heat a lot more than most other states, so while my solar panels have saved me from the worst price hikes, I'm not much better off than I was before. The consolation is that it could have been worse. My bill says I’ve saved  $987.57, 3.28 tonnes of CO2 and planted 180 trees. 

NEXT: Tullah - The little town that keeps on keeping on

 


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Backroad Therapy* – A bit about Bothwell and Beyond

*I stole this great title from a country song by Alexandra Kay  Not sure if I like the song yet, but perhaps it will grow on me. I do like listening to a bit of country music when I'm on the road.  

 

This post should probably have a Scotch Thistle but its the season of dog roses and hawthorn

 

I love Tasmania’s winding country roads with their hedgerows and lovely old towns and I've seen much too little of them these last three years. It’s taken over a year to get the van back due to a lack of parts and now we were set to have four days of good weather, something else we haven’t seen much of this year. It snowed again on Tuesday night – Snowvember, our public broadcaster called it, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

 

Bothwell has more than 50 heritage listed buildings. This is St. Luke's (1830), Australia's second oldest church

I call in briefly at Bothwell. Although the official population is around 499, it serves a much larger rural community of about 3,700. It’s one of Tasmania’s oldest towns and has just celebrated its 200th birthday. Thanks to its Scottish roots it has Australia’s oldest golf course (1830) and until recently (see below) a world -famous whisky distillery. Bothwell is full of sandstone buildings and charming cottages. There are also some interesting places to have afternoon tea and coffee, but today I just stop in at its Visitor’s Centre to make sure that the roads are open. You never know what to expect in Tasmania’s High Country. There can be  snow and ice at any time of year and after all the rain there might even be a bit of flooding in low lying sections. 

 

Approach to the Visitor's Centre. Everyone takes pictures of Bothwell's charming cottages and stately homes, but I'm in love with its beautiful old trees. Apologies for the dull pictures. These are from another trip when the weather wasn't as kind but I wasn't in such a hurry


Just inside the Visitor’s Centre there’s an enormous ball of wool. It was started by local resident Barbara Fowler (OAM), who unfortunately passed away recently at the age of 95. Her dream was to collect pieces of wool from every part of the world  -enough to stretch right around the world to connect people and places in a Thread of Friendship. I keep forgetting to bring some, but you can still add your bit. It’s also a reminder that Bothwell has or had a thriving Spinning and Weaving culture which had a festival every second year, though it seems to have gone into recess since the pandemic. It may also have had something to do with Barbara Fowler's passing. She was quite a mover and shaker.
 

 

You might still find a Tam -o -shanter or a beanie in your clan colours in Julie Honner's crowded Weaver's shop in the old school building along from the Visitor's Centre. It also sells a lot of other things including old patterns, knitting needles and bric a brac






The current Post Office was one in the 1830s and then became a wheelwright's premises.Today it also has excellent homemade cakes, gifts and freshly ground coffee. Note the whisky barrel rubbish bins. The town also has tartan street signs, both a legacy of Barbara Fowler's work.


This Post Office dates from the 1890's. It still has a hitching post outside

 A Scandal

After crossing the River Clyde, I pass the sign to Nant Homestead. They aren't farms around here but properties which get passed on from generation to generation. Nant dates from 1824 and still has a water -driven grist mill. Until recently it was also the site of one of Tasmania’s best known whisky distilleries. Unfortunately it is now also known as the site of one of Australia’s biggest financial scandals Apparently there was quite a bit of creative accounting and it’s alleged that advance sales of whisky far exceeded actual production. This meant that not a few investors got their fingers burnt as did the people of Bothwell. I thought it sounded like a great plot for a movie, but I hear that Netflix is already working on it. It’s a great setting. The song “Friends in Low Places” comes on as I pass by. It would make a great soundtrack. 

 

 

Don’t despair about missing out on a wee dram of the good stuff. I am told that although Nant hasn’t reopened to the public yet, production has resumed. In the meantime, there are at least 70 other places in Tasmania where you can try the liquid gold on Tasmania’s Whisky Trail. Brewing whisky has been a fine Tasmanian tradition since the earliest days of the colony, despite Governor Franklin's best efforts to stamp it out. 

Other country songs spring to mind as I climb up the series of hills out of Bothwell. I learned today that there is a pair of them here which are colloquially known as the Sabrinas for reasons that may become apparent as you drive past. A few black -faced sheep look up as I drive by as do a few of what are most likely the progeny of the Black Angus cattle which were marched overland from Hobart after arriving from Scotland in 1824. They are now the dominant breed in Tasmania and a mainstay of the local economy.  



This is still the home of the Mountain Cattlemen who take stock up to the high country in summer. I'm reminded of a friend who used work as a jackaroo in these parts. He said it was so cold in the mornings that his feet would stick to the floor of the caravan he was staying in. The only relief from the daily grind was being allowed into town on the occasional Saturday night. Since then I always think of Lee Kernigan’s “The Boys From the Bush.” when I’m driving through.

 


The signal fades as I reach the wild bush country. Before the Hydro Electric Commission came, this was the realm of the hunters and trappers. Remnants of their rough huts can still be found in them thar hills but most of these have either returned to nature or been replaced by up - market weekenders, especially around the lakes.

I search in vain for a song dedicated to them, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Nor is there one for the road workers, though there’s a memorial to them at the Steppes further up the A5. I won't see it this time as I'm turning off towards Waddamana. 

 

 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Preventing and Surviving Crowd Surges

Spectators at a football match

 

Making Public Events Safer 

In the previous post we talked briefly about safety at concerts and festivals and how even performers can influence the way crowds behave. Good planning is essential. To run any kind of public event in Australia usually requires permission from local authorities and lodgement of detailed plans. For an idea of what is required the NSW Government’s starter guide, developed after a death at a Big Day Out festival in 2001 is a good place to begin. 

For a more detailed overview, see also the checklists provided by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience for Crowded Places. It also has a comprehensive Safe and Healthy Crowds Handbook intended primarily for event managers, emergency personnel, professionals in the field and so on. This covers everything from crowds encountered  in shopping centres, stadiums, public streets and transport hubs, pubs and clubs, sporting and cultural events, political rallies, protests and religious gatherings. 

 

Football and Soccer Matches

Football and Soccer Matches are known to arouse passions and have been the site of several deadly crowd surges in many parts of the world.  A match in Lima in 1964 which resulted in 328 people losing their lives, remains the worst on record, but the one in Indonesia last month in which 153 people died is not far behind.

At least Indonesian authorities had the good sense to disallow spectators from the opposing team. In the UK it’s more common to have separation between fans  e.g. one side of the stadium or rows of empty seats between fans of different persuasion. Banning or limiting alcohol consumption at such events is another factor intended to keep things peaceful and orderly. Kenya has drawn up detailed plans specifically for football matches. Among its recommendations are screening fans upon entry for possession of contraband which would simultaneously eliminate potential weapons. Since this would cause delays, it suggests having several entry points, thereby  preventing crowds from building up and becoming impatient.

Staggering arrival  times is another option mentioned in the Australian Crowded Places Handbook, along with only allowing pre -booked entry, which would certainly give a better indication of numbers to expect. Another excellent point mentioned by both is having experienced crowd observers who can detect early signs of trouble and remove unruly elements. More training of security guards in crowd control is another. Having more exits would certainly have helped in the Indonesian football tragedy or the Love Parade Festival in Duisburg, Germany in 2001. 

 

Theatres and Nightclubs

We do learn from our mistakes. For example, after the 1903 fire in Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre which resulted in 602 deaths, there were changes to building codes and laws to ensure that there was emergency lighting in aisles and around exits 

A fire which broke out after a pyrotechnic display at the Station Night Club on Rhode Island (USA) in 2003 and contributed to the deaths of over one hundred people while trying to flee, also resulted in changes to National and International Fire Codes which meant hat all venues catering to more than 100 patrons would have to have automatic sprinkler systems and trained crowd managers.

Fireworks or similar were also responsible for the 2013 Kiss Night Club fire in Brazil which claimed the lives of 242 people and injured 500 others in the ensuing crowd crush. The high death toll was found to be due to an over -capacity crowd and a lack of signage and emergency exits. One of the consequences of the enquiry which followed was a general fire safety inspection of all clubs – 60% of which failed and much tighter  regulation. 

 

Better Planning but New Threats

As we can see from the above, almost every major incident has resulted in better planning,  better site design and crowd management and more legislation to keep people safe. Despite some injuries at a festival in 2017, there has been no loss of life at such events in Australia* since new guidelines were introduced in 2001. However, new threats continue to emerge – for example, there is increased emphasis now on how to prevent hostile acts such as cars being driven into crowds. Unforeseen events still happen too and mistakes are still made. An unexpected hailstorm at a football match in Nepal for example, caused a fatal crush which was made worse because exit gates were locked. 

*Before we congratulate ourselves too much, the Australian Crowded Places Handbook notes that an inspection of nightclubs in regional Australia found several of them in breach of fire regulations which included some having locked exit doors to prevent non -paying guests or those who had been evicted, from entering -a problem which they say could easily have been solved by having extra security at those doors. It also shows the importance of monitoring and enforcement.

 

Unplanned Events

There was no one in charge in Seoul on Halloween. People just came together spontaneously in the night club district. Although some people did ring police as things began to escalate, police did not immediately respond. In the case of the Indonesian football match, it seems that overreaction by police and their use of tear gas may have contributed to that disaster. Use of tear gas and locked gates were also implicated in the Accra Stadium Disaster in Ghana in 2001, with the loss of 124 lives. 

Even Black Friday Sales in the USA  are becoming more dangerous as they get bigger and bigger and determined bargain hunters converge on shopping centres and businesses, so what can you do, if you find yourself in a surging crowd?

Protecting yourself in a Crowd

While much responsibility for public events rests with organisers and civic authorities, individuals also need to take responsibility for their own safety. Try to avoid large crowds, especially uncontrolled ones. Go with a friend so that you can look out for each other. If you are at an organised event, listen and obey all instructions. Don’t push past barriers designed to limit overcrowding and keep people safe. Note where the exits are and immediately report any concerns to security.

At the first sign of any trouble, remove yourself quietly if possible so as not to cause alarm and then call security or police. If the crowd does start to surge, keep pace, but gradually move diagonally to the sides and if you can, pull yourself up and out of the way. Remember that more people die of suffocation than from crush injuries, so stay upright and get as high up as possible. Help others up if  they fall, especially women and children as they are more frequently among the victims.

Be aware of potential choke -points. The underpass at the Love Parade Concert and Seoul’s narrow alleyways which funnelled people down to an even narrower subway entrance are cases in point. Bridges are another. 

Fatal Bridges 

The Jamarat Bridge in Mina, Saudi Arabia which pilgrims must pass over during their obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, has been the scene of several serious incidents. With up to 8 million people at such events, the much higher death toll is not surprising. After 363 people lost their lives there in 2006, the Kingdom doubled the size of the bridge to 8 lanes, enlisted 100,000 security guards and had 5,000 CTV cameras installed, yet the number of pilgrims also increased, resulting in a further 2400 deaths on the bridge in 2015.

The Al -Aimmah Bridge in Baghdad was also the scene of a major human crush event in 2005 which left 960 dead, after a rumour began about a suicide bomber. 

Similarly, 347 of the 4 million people attending a Water Festival In Cambodia in 2010, met their end on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge, when crowds suddenly began pushing from both sides as police attempted to disperse them with water cannons. 


Avoid being trapped against hard barriers by an onrushing crowd too. If you fall, make yourself into a ball and try to protect your head with your arms. The video below has more, but be warned, it’s very graphic. Also, we no longer use the word “Stampede,” but rather crowd surge because the former implies that the victims are at fault, when such tragedies are more often the result of poorly designed venues or events beyond the control of the individual. 


See also Surviving a Moshpit  at a Concert and Surviving Black Friday Sales. Much the same applies to store openings, parades and demononstrations.

Keep Safe!


NEXT: I did finally finish that trip to the West Coast that I started last October, so hope to have cheerier content for you next time.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

How to stop Concerts from turning deadly - reprinted with kind permission from The Conversation


 

Astroworld tragedy: here’s how concert organisers can prevent big crowds turning deadly

Alison Hutton, University of Newcastle

A fatal crowd surge during a performance by US rapper Travis Scott on Friday night has become one of the deadliest live music incidents in recent years. Crowd crushes during the Houston show, which was part of the Astroworld Music Festival, led to eight deaths and dozens of injuries.

The incident is still being investigated, with criminal investigations also underway. How does such catastrophe emerge in a space where people are supposed to be enjoying themselves?

I have been working in the area of crowd safety for several years. My expertise focuses on ways of boosting safety at large events such as Schoolies, outdoor music festivals and sporting tournaments. Based on reports, it seems several factors — compounded by mismanagement — led to an environment that was not conducive to what we call “cooperative crowding”.

An unsettled start

In a successfully managed event, organisers will create an atmosphere in which people are relaxed and feel part of a collective. Reports of early pushing and shoving at Scott’s show are a bad sign.

Adding to this, several witnesses reported they were unable to persuade event organisers to take action once the disaster was unfolding. It may be the music was too loud, although such details won’t be known until investigations finish.

According to the New York Times and several other outlets, Scott’s show continued for 40 minutes after city officials reported on the “mass casualty event” — with the show finishing just half an hour earlier than planned.

It’s all about event control

Event managers will often turn the lights up, or play music with a slower tempo, to help tame a rowdy audience. Lighting conditions and music are both important psychosocial considerations.

In fact, there are several ways organisers and performers on stage can attempt to settle a crowd — even among audiences of high-intensity musical acts.

For instance, German heavy-metal band Rammstein can attract intense and sometimes aggressive crowds. When the band played the 2011 Big Day Out festival in Sydney, managers put on a pyrotechnic display and ambient music between sets to helps shift and control the crowd’s mood.

Rammstein played in Sydney in 2001 for the Big Day Out music festival.

It’s about knowing your audience and the environment they are likely to create. The genre will determine the demographic and the expectation of the crowd’s behaviour. If it’s expected a particular show will attract a high-energy demographic, this needs to be prepared for in advance. Effective crowd control is preemptive, not reactive.

At music festivals, the acts in the lineup can also have a direct influence on the audience’s behaviour. Festival-goers can be persuaded to participate in activities and behaviours at the performer(s) request, abandoning safety restrictions put in place by event management.

As such, performers can create a calming environment through their interaction with the audience and have a positive influence on the crowd.

What measures are in place?

Despite widespread coverage of the Astroworld incident, the reality is that deadly crowd surges are not common. Australia’s most recent crowd-related music festival fatality was during a Limp Bizkit performance, during the Big Day Out event in 2001.

On the whole, event managers put a lot of work into making sure crowds are looked after. Investment in crowd care can come through venue “chill-out spaces”, and granting different levels of access such as ground level versus stalls, or VIP seating. This is because events both in Australia and internationally are heavily legislated.

On-the-ground security guards matter a lot, as they help ensure the crowd is sufficiently spread out and safe. The layout and design of the venue is also crucial, and the space should be able to handle the expected number of attendees.

The 2010 Love Parade disaster in Germany is one example of a chaotic crowd surge in which there were several systemic issues. The events communications system went down and there was only only one entry and exit – a catastrophic situation that culminated in 21 deaths in a crush inside a tunnel.

Closer to home, in 2016 attendees at the Falls Festival had to rush from one stage to another, which resulted in about 80 people being injured, including 20 hospital admissions.

On the other hand, there are plenty of well-organised events that manage to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people, such as the Glastonbury festival.

What can I do in this situation?

As concerts and shows start to resume, you may wonder how you can stay safe in a volatile crowd. The reality is, there is not much someone can do if they find themselves stuck deep in a dense mosh pit which is out of control, and the risk in this scenario is great.

The best way to avoid danger is to stay on the fringes, well away from the most congested sections of the crowd. If you have concert plans, ask yourself: what kind of people might I expect? Will people be drinking? Will it be family-friendly? Common sense will go a long way.

If, despite your planning, you find yourself in a crowd situation where you don’t feel safe, you should immediately report to security if you can. If you’re near the stage, you might also be able to get the performer’s attention. The performer has lot of power and, as several incidents in the past have shown us, they can shut things down until the crowd starts to cooperate.

The Conversation

Alison Hutton, Professor, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


[Found the bit about bands being somewhat able to control mood and intensity of the crowd particularly interesting here, however there are other safety issues which must be addressed whenever big crowds are expected to gather. We'll talk a bit more about this next time, along with sharing some other tips for staying safe in a crowd].