The 2018 #Sandz event was the second time they had used the Seventh Harbour venue. He conceded problems the year before, but nothing like what happened last night. He felt the venue was suitable and they had done all that was required – got the permits, including a parking permit from the Norman Manley International Airport, police on site, wreckers to remove those who parked on the shoulder etc. Parking was to take place at a different site “one minute away” and there were shuttle buses. The problem was – no one wanted to use the designated parking area and the buses. Patrons parked where they chose along the soft shoulder. The wreckers removed a few cars, but then could not get back to the scene because of the traffic gridlock. A JUTC bus broke down as well. At 5.30 pm, the promoters turned off the music to encourage people to leave, but they became disgruntled. The music was turned back on, but low. He was inside the venue so not on the road to witness what was happening, but they were getting reports. At about 7.20 pm, they turned off the music for the night. I told him that people reported problems well after that time, but he was not able to say why the road had not cleared more quickly.
He asked me if I was going to be negative in what I wrote. “Certainly,” I said. “The airport road was blocked for hours and people missed their flights. But I am calling you to get your side of the story.”
He agreed what happened was bad. He did not want to get into “the blame game” but ascribed the problem to the unruly behaviour of his patrons.
And I had some sympathy with him because I could so easily visualize how quickly our capacity for indiscipline and disregard for any kind of order could overwhelm attempts at traffic control.
“Maybe we’re not ready for parties?” I ventured. “Or any kind of large event?”
He didn’t respond to that, of course, but he asked me if I thought the venue was suitable. I told him of my experiences running beach cleanup further down the strip, and as a result, that the Palisadoes Road is NOT a suitable venue for large entertainment events. “I wish I had known you before to ask your advice,” he said.
The thing is – he should not have had to ask my (or anyone’s) advice. The regulatory bodies concerned should have anticipated these problems and not given permission, particularly as there were problems last year. It’s a given that far too many Jamaicans will not obey parking rules and this has most serious consequences when the location is the only road to an international airport.
Will we learn anything from #Sandz 2018? To be seen. Would also love to hear from patrons who attended, what their experience was like. Why did they park on the road? Do they take any responsibility for what happened?