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Outrage at noise levels mars Coke Fest

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Outrage at noise levels mars Coke Fest

by Aly Verbaan
09 May 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Police received at least 20 complaints of 'unbearably loud music' at the My Coke Festival held at the Kenilworth Racecourse last Tuesday night.

The music festival's line-up included top international performers Evanescence, Staind and 3 Doors Down and had already been hosted in Johannesburg the previous week.

But while an audience of some 30 000 revellers enjoyed hours of entertainment, nearby residents were bombarded by what they say were "unacceptable noise levels".

By 23:00 Claremont and Wynberg police had received 22 complaints, while some complainants resorted to phoning the city councillor for the area, Owen Kinahan.

This was the first time the racecourse, owned by Gold Circle, had been used for such an event.

John Langford, chief operations officer of Big Concerts International, the company that organised the concert, told People's Post that the racecourse had been booked because the Green Point stadium has been demolished.

But Langford denied the allegations that the noise exceeded the legal limit, saying the company had used the same sound system and settings as it had done for the past 10 years.

"The volume was no louder than we set it for the concerts at Kirstenbosch or those we staged at Green Point in the past," he said.

Langford conceded, however, that the acoustics of an open area like a racecourse could differ from the more enclosed Green Point Stadium.

"It's possible the noise travelled further than expected," he said.

Residents of Athlone, some three kilometres away, could apparently hear the concert clearly.

Langford added that venues such as the Bellville Velodrome and the Athlone Stadium only had a capacity of 9 000 and were thus too small for the event.

Big Concerts International had complied with the city's regulations regarding such events and had obtained the necessary permission and exemptions, said Langford. The company had also advertised the event in a local newspaper and distributed flyers further than required by council.

Said Langford, "We followed all the rules. We went out of our way to notify the residents, even consulting with two residents' associations. We understand that the noise can be an inconvenience, but we put it to the community that Cape Town needs these events to put it on the map. After the concert we used local labour to clean the venue and the surrounding streets. We would like to use the venue again in the future and appeal to residents to think of the big picture".

Councillor Kinahan said the issue was an extremely sensitive one, as "one person's groovy sound is another person?s intolerable racket".

"What is clear is that the city needs to formulate a watertight policy for such events, listing basic conditions that are not negotiable," said Kinahan.

The city's director of health, Dr Ivan Toms, said that Big Concerts International had not violated any conditions of its agreement with the city, one of which was that the speakers would face the M5 highway. Toms suggested that a complex situated between the stage and the M5 had "perhaps not been taken into account" and that these residents had been the ones to complain about the noise.

Gold Circle's operations manager for the Western Cape, Russell Southey, said the Kenilworth Racecourse was "mindful of its neighbours" and had therefore stipulated that the concert would finish by midnight. It in fact shut down an hour earlier due to the cancellation of the last band, Guns 'n Roses.

Southey said that while Gold Circle realised that individuals were occasionally inconvenienced by such events, he believed the benefits to Cape Town should be weighed up against this. He added that the racecourse would "definitely consider" hosting this event again in the future.

Meanwhile, it is unclear what council-owned outdoor alternatives can be offered while the new Green Point stadium is being constructed. Until 2010, it would seem that event organisers would have to make use of privately owned land, or make do with the smaller venues offered by the city.

City media liaison officer Charles Cooper said the city was currently advertising for a manager to handle events at the Green Point Stadium after the 2010 Soccer World Cup was over.

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