12 Oct 2018

SABOTAGE? No, it was a calculated protest

By Julius Grafton. Publisher, CX Network.

The lighting protest at Sydney Opera House on Tuesday October 9 was never going to be anything greater than symbolic. A battery of Barco’s finest projectors with ultra long throw lenses always would overcome almost anything, let alone a fragmented protest with people encouraged to hold up iphones(!) and bring torches.

Whomever started the protest – someone called ‘Desk’ on Facebook – set guidelines. No drones, no lasers, no balloons. 3,000 people checked in and said they would roll up, and about 1,000 actually did. It was a festive yet cranky cross-sectional mob with just a few ‘professional protesters’ who stand out often by their smell. The majority were fragrant and divergent as to why they were there.


Non-Sydney folk will be confused and bemused by all this. The fundamental is the people are pissed off with their state Government for doing deals behind doors and seemingly bending over for one radio shock, the now old and very nasty Alan Jones. Jones is a bully, and his on-air salvo at Louise Heron, the manager of the opera House was nothing short of verbal assault and battery. Look it up.

In short, the Friday prior he had demanded she give consent to the projection on the Opera House Sails of the barrier draw for The Everest horse race, dubbed the ‘richest race in the world’. It’s a relatively new large scale event for Sydney, a city that desperately needs events since the very same Government throttled the arts (with reduced funding and zero support for new venues – indeed closing venues like the Entertainment Centre and the Royal Hall of Industries) and nuked the live entertainment industry with nanny state lockout laws. Sydney is a joke for international tourists wondering why the hell there is almost NO live music during any weeknight and why the place is so quiet after 9pm.

People were very pissed off, and the petition against the projections hit over 250,000 names. In that climate, I took a stand.


I had word some people in the industry were preparing to marshal professional equipment to make a statement in support. I knew several things – firstly it would not really work due to distance, secondly the NSW Police would certainly prevent it, and third that there was a possibility no company would take on the projection gig.

This was never going to be a show for an appreciative live audience. It was a barrier draw from which gambling odds would be set. That very same barrier announcement would be released online at the same time. They did not need to shout it from projection, we stopped making visual signals after the system of flags on masts announced shipping movements.

If there were good people massing to watch a lovely Vivid show on the sails, I would be the first person to try to stop someone disrupting that. Everyone in the entertainment industry are unified around the absolute convention that a show MUST go on! This was not a show.

The intention of the projected barrier draw was optics for the international promotion of the race for years to come. I also knew that whatever happened at 8pm Tuesday, the projections could roll again in the wee hours for shooting IF real disruption actually happened.

Across the hours leading up to the projections the wires were live with a lot of chatter and I remained of the opinion that not much would disrupt the thing. The projections rolled early, the thousand there booed and waved torches. Then the five Chauvet beams lit up over the crest of the hill near the Southern Pylons of the bridge – about 1,100 metres away.

Incredibly they stayed on for several minutes, until the Police woke up and stopped them. I was amazed the guys who did this were able to drive up and set up and that the Police did not think to secure this one road in plain line of sight!

We had over 300 Facebook posts afterwards and around five people were angry that CX would support ‘sabotage’. I totally ‘get’ the sentiment.

But it wasn’t. We didn’t. And it will probably never happen again, because the set of circumstances were highly particular and un-usual.


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