Over 20,000 people marched in Melbourne on February 23rd in probably the biggest protest in Australian history organised in defence of culture and the arts. The rally recreated the AC/DC clip "Its a long way to the top" by following a flat bed truck down Swanston St.
Organised by SLAM "Save Live Australian Music", the rally came out of an enormous grass roots campaign which protested the closing of the much loved Melbourne music venue The Tote. The Tote had closed due to the onerous security and licensing restrictions placed on small music venues. Any venue that has live music has been deemed "high risk" and must pay big licensing fees and hire security guards. This misguided attempt to crack down on alcohol fuelled violence does nothing to clamp down on the corporate owned beer barns of King St but places enormous strain on the live music scene which is not responsible violence on our streets.
The rally was interesting from a left-wing perspective in that through using Facebook, Myspace, word of mouth, graffitti and other low cost measures many thousands of young people who don't normally protest joined the movement. The rally really gave life to the old adage "Its not my revolution if I cant dance" as thousands of people danced and played instruments to express their dissent on the steps of parliament. 12,000 people confirmed attendance at the rally via Facebook. The left can learn some valuable lessons from this vibrant organising effort.
Secondly, it also has a good chance of success. The ALP State government is highly sensitive to lost votes in this election year in inner city seats. They quickly announced they would sign an accord with representatives of the campaign to look at making exceptions for smaller music venues. This is yet to become law. The Greens also showed their political ineptitude highlighted by Age columnist Melissa Fyfe in an opinion piece by not taking a strong stand on this issue. Instead we were treated to the laughable sight of Liberal politicians in suits holding "Liberals for live music" placards!
See the links below to see and read more about this rally
Official campaign site
You tube clips
Facebook and Myspace
Mainstream media coverage