During the week I went to see Dan Sultan play at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne. While the venue is pretty, it's really like a giant pub gig. I don't mind pub gigs, but I prefer them on a smaller scale. It turned out to be quite a bizarre night.
My friend and I had both been out and about during the day. She was coming straight from work; I had dropped into home to drop some stuff off and then head straight out again. After dinner nearby, we headed to the Forum. After showing our tickets we were stopped for a bag search on the way in. One of the security guys asked me if I was carrying any liquid (I wasn't) and cast a very cursory glance in my handbag. I walked through and waited for my friend. I looked up and saw her in animated discussion with a female security guard.
I heard my friend tell the woman, "I'm not tipping my water out!"
My friend left the area and we walked into the venue.
My friend had told the guard that she had some water and she was then told that she was required to tip it out. The reason given for needing to waste the water was "we sell water inside".
We hadn't been inside long when a male security person came and asked my friend to leave. Of course I went with her. I thought it was ridiculous that water should be tipped out for the purely commercial reason of securing sales of water for the venue.
This time, there was a different reason given: we might be carrying alcohol. We weren't and offered security the opportunity to smell the liquid. "We don't do that," came the response. Two other security guards stood around us. This was getting ridiculous!
My friend eventually pulled the water bottle out of her bag, only to discover that it was empty.
I've had a look at the "rules" for the venue. This is an over 18's venue and has this information on their web:
Alcohol, cans, bottles, recording equipment, lazers, studded belts or weapons can not be brought onto the premises.
It says nothing about water. Stupidly, my friend's empty water bottle was allowed in which is technically prohibited. I imagine they are specifically concerned about glass bottles which could end up being used as a weapon or missile. Just about everyone takes their phone into these venues and are visible in their use of them as recording equipment.
The whole approach is offensive: three men standing over a small woman because she was carrying water; unclear reasons being given and the compulsion to waste a precious resource.
The female security guard didn't even look in my friend's bag. She only knew about the water because my friend was honest.
This approach was in direct contrast to the approach taken at Rod Laver Arena when we attended the Keith Urban concert recently. Keith actually spoke to the crowd about behaviour and got agreement that security wasn't going to be an issue. It wasn't.
Even at the Melbourne Cricket Ground they take the lid of the plastic bottle, but let you have the water.
I often think there's a type of person working in security. They seem to derive disproportional pleasure from their petty authority and the fact that they can direct other people. I suspect they are powerless in other facets of their lives. (I know that this is a generalisation, but it's also been my experience.)
I was ready to stand in solidarity with my friend as far as necessary (but secretly hoping we would still get to see the show).
I'm very interested to hear the venue's response. I'll keep you posted.