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Hi-Fi Brisbane Unprofessional Complaint Management

Patron concerns regarding safety and security have been labeled "inaccurate" and "irrelevant" by Brisbane live music venue The Hi-Fi. Retweeted at least five times was the link which exposed the relatively new venue in Brisbane as one which does not take seriously the views of its patrons, let alone one which responds to such matters in a responsible and attentive manner.

Long-time live music scene patron Kathleen was so appalled by standards of health and safety at The Hi-Fi that she took to writing to them. She commented on unnecessary queues in cold weather, broken glass, ill-placed bathrooms in the venue, poor band management and more importantly, extremely poor security.

I saw people waiting outside in a queue for 20 minutes and they had tickets. The queue wasn’t even that long, they were just being made to wait. The first band were already playing. The door staff would let people in in a trickle, or not let people in at all.

It's winter. Queing for a show already paid for which is already starting... not a great start to the night, no.

I queued and got inside and headed for the toilets, which were to my dismay, up a flight of stairs down a deserted corridor. I don’t mind that the toilets are up a flight of stairs, but they are well away from the main room and I believe this puts your patrons at risk of assault or rape. I think you urgently need to address this by having security patrol upstairs regularly.

Issues are getting serious now; when your patrons believe that they are not safe in your venue, you are doing something wrong. Very wrong.

I was shocked that you were serving drinks in glass, especially with the recent “spate” of glassings. I was standing in the middle of the steps on the dancefloor for both sets and by the time the Dreamkillers had finished playing, there was broken glass all over the floor. The broken glass on the floor only increased while The Fireballs played. I saw punters deliberately throwing glasses on to the floor and into the crowd. I was truly horrified.

I saw the crowd break up fights and scuffles but security never intervened. Security was also nowhere to be found when punters were smashing and throwing glass. Security were nowhere to be found when a young man had a fit on the dance floor, I saw his mates carry him out. I noted one security guard on the barrier but he stayed in the one spot the entire time and didn’t move or interact with the crowd.

Like I said before; very, very wrong. And my favourite summary sentence from Kathleen:

I have never been to a venue with such weak and obviously incompetent and overwhelmed security.

This was the abysmal reply which Kathleen received from Scott Ahpee, a month later and after a second e-mail:

As the General Manager of Operations, I read through your email immediately on receipt, and clarified all matters with our venue staff.  Replying to your email was (until today) on my ‘to-do’ list, but a detailed response on every matter would require time I’ve yet to have spare.  However, since you clearly require a response immediately, I write this now.  On discussion with venue staff, management, security and production crew, as well as discussions with the tour manager of the Fireballs, I found most of your complaints to be inaccurate, and others to be irrelevant.  If you do not wish to return to the Hi-Fi, that is your choice.

Time yet to spare? Perhaps Mr Ahpee should be allocating time to deal with public complaints about his venue before a significant amount of patronage is lost? Your venue has been complained about in the retrospect of health and safety concerns, which I deem to be quite damn important. There are reports of glassings and injury as a result of lack of security and you claim them to be "inacurate"? Also, if he had so little time to write an e-mail, I question if Mr Ahpee even had such discussions with the above mentioned parties. Might want to check that 'to-do' list again.

Meanwhile, the Hi-Fi bar is looking to utilise my favourite social media network, Twitter. How on earth will they be able to manage a constant stream of customer comments of 140 characters if they take a month or so to reply [even if indecently] to a formal complaint?

20 Years On: The Hillsborough Disaster, 1989

“They're killing us, Bruce, they're killing us”

I came across a detailed article by Brisbane -based journalist Derek Barry outlining the disaster that cost the lives of nearly one hundred Liverpool Football Club fans twenty years ago from today. Not only being an event manager, but a second generation Liverpool FC fan myself, I couldn't help but be drawn into the description of that afternoon game at Hillsborough, England. From a more shallow point of view also I find myself analysing the steps game organisers could have taken to avoid such a terrible consequence.

Wikipedia explains that the Hillsborough Disaster was a deadly human crush that occurred on 15 April 1989, at Hillsborough, a football stadium home to Sheffield Wednesday in Sheffield, England, resulting in the deaths of 96 people (all fans of Liverpool FC). It remains the deadliest stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the worst in international football.

Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar gives his account of the tragedy:

“I said to the policewoman - I thought it was a policeman - 'Get the effing gate open. Can't you see that they need it'? And there were screams coming at the time. I kicked the ball upfield, and I went back and said, 'Get the f***ing gate open'. I turned back and the ball went out of play on the left, and that's when I shouted to the referee. The policeman came on to the field, and the game stopped."

The venue was not suitable for such a rush of attendees arriving in such a short amount of time. The allocation of tickets nor physical space at the venue were not in proportion to the expected demographics of Liverpool fans vs Nottingham Forest's. Organisers knew from the previous year that Liverpool fans would try to swap areas from the tiny spaces they had been allocated, but refused to resolve the issue claiming it would confuse the crowd. Even the technology which allowed organisers to calculate when the venue had reached capacity was flawed as it did not calculate for particular areas in the venue, merely overall.

Barry argues that "the one key change that did lead to confusion" was that the Chief Superintendent was newly promoted weeks prior to the event and had not managed such a game on the grounds for ten years. Requests for the game to be delayed were repeatedly ignored, whether to misunderstanding of the situation's severity or the choice of superiors. At one point, dog handlers were called instead of ambulances because police thought a pitch invasion was occurring  rather than the surging forward of the crushed masses.

Although the game was stopped after six minutes, doctors and nurses were not on the scene until half an hour afterwards. Even then, there were only six stretchers available for the entire relief effort.

I am glad, however that not such a terrible day has happened in UK football since, as ramifications were put in place immediately by the English government. Barry explains the consequences of the day well:

The Hillsborough disaster would ultimately revolutionise the game in England. Barely two days later, the Thatcher government set up an inquiry under Lord Justice Taylor with a remit to “"to inquire into the events at [Hillsborough] and to make recommendations about the needs of crowd control and safety at sports events". Taylor heard evidence from families of the bereaved, supporters, the football association, Sheffield council, Sheffield Wednesday staff and their insurers, police, fire and ambulance authorities, and a consultant engineer. After 31 days, the Taylor Report recommended all top division stadiums in England and Scotland phase out their perimeter fencing and concrete terraces, and become all-seater. By the 1996 European Championships in England, the game and its grounds had changed utterly. 96 people had paid the ultimate price to make the game safer for all of Britain’s millions of football fans. Their sacrifice, while preventable, was not in vain.

Woolly Days: The Hillsborough Disaster: “They're killing us, Bruce, they're killing us”.