Dermot Morgan himself could hardly have contrived a more colourful storyline as the first Australian Tedfest degenerated into a debacle over the Easter long weekend, leading to an avalanche of complaints from angry festival goers.
By Easter Sunday morning, about 170 of the 200 Father Ted fans who paid $250 to attend the festival had left the venue in protest, with a number of furious punters contacting the Irish Echo to vent their displeasure.
Local police raided the festival bar on opening night – Good Friday – shutting down the venue at 11.30pm after finding a number of patrons intoxicated and noise levels at what they deemed to be unacceptably high levels.
The action effectively left the event without a licence for the remaining two days.
Angry festival-goers lashed out at Tedfest organisers in the aftermath, with some saying they were “appalled” by the organisation of the entire event and the $250 entry fee.
“It was the most embarrassed I have been to attend any Irish festival,” festival-goer Catherine Hurley, who has spent the past five years in Australia, said.
Freelance journalist Lachlan Colquhoun, who had planned to cover the event on behalf of a number of print media outlets and ABC Radio, echoed Ms Hurley’s sentiments.
“It would have to have been the worst organised and shambolic event I have ever been to…. I met some Irish people later in the nearby town of Orange and they agreed with me and were very angry about it.
“We were disappointed, disgusted, and ultimately appalled at how badly the thing was organised. It was a total farce.”
Festival organisers, however, have put the blame for the disastrous weekend squarely on the shoulders of the local liquor licensing police command Sergeant Colin Boggs.
Festival director Peter Philips alleged that Boggs, who is understood to hail from the north of Ireland, was against the event from the beginning.
He “let some kind of prejudice interfere with his job”, Phillips said.
Phillips said he had two outstanding lines of issue with the local police, and that he was taking legal advice on the matter.
“The first issue relates to how the event was handled by the local licensing sergeant,” Phillips explained. “The second issue is how a reality TV crew [for Channel 10 show Recruits] were filming at the event without permission.
“The fact that the crew arrived both times with the police implies that it was with their blessing. A couple of my team would give evidence that the TV director incited the crowd to behave in a rowdy manner.”
Indeed, the arrival of the television crew also sparked anger in many punters.
“The police arrived and filmed us without our consent,” one angry festival-goer told the Echo. “They will use this video to put us Irish in the worst possible light and make the police look good,” she added.
Parkes Shire Mayor Ken Keith told the Echo that the decision to shut the bar down so quickly had perhaps been a harsh one.
“I think the crunch came with the arrival of the television cameras. It would have looked very bad for him [the licensing officer] if his bosses saw all this happening on TV and he hadn’t done anything about it.”
Mr Phillips, meanwhile, has told the Echo that he will not be offering any refunds, claiming that the product itself had been delivered.
Despite numerous attempts to get a comment, both Sgt Boggs and the television production company declined to return the Irish Echo’s phone calls.
by Aaron Dunne