Rebelling against Big Brother at Winter Festivals

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The other day I checked out the winter ice rinks in both Fremantle and Northbridge and you won’t believe what I saw. Insanity or brilliance you be the judge.

Winterland Perth © The Ponder Room
Winterland Perth © The Ponder Room

Living in the summer tinderbox that is Perth we’ve come to respect the immense power of fire. A small spark can eradicate a lifetime of possessions in an instant. We heed total fire bans and avoid unmanned fires, like a bride avoids a chocolate fountain at her wedding reception. So perhaps you can imagine my surprise when I saw this at Winterland in Northbridge.

Sure the clever flower design meant little kids couldn’t reach the fire but still. There was no fire guard and no signs plaster all over the place warning of the impending hazard. In recent years modern cities have become festooned with health and safety messages. No skateboards, no dogs, no smoking, no children … no breathing. For a moment I pondered whether I was still in Perth. Perhaps sanity would prevail at the Winter Garden in Fremantle, although given the port towns bohemian brand I didn’t like my chances.

The W inter Garden took the insanity one ste


p further.

We hapless members of the public were encouraged to part with a dollar coin in return for two marshmallows and a flimsy looking stick (think long matchstick). The more reckless amongst us could double the risk with five marshmallows for $2 and two sticks. We were then directed to two open fire pits where we could insert the impaled marshmallows into the burning embers. I know insanity right?

Winter Garden © The Ponder Room
Winter Garden © The Ponder Room

As I moved towards the open fire pit I tried to remain calm.

It’ll be okay I pondered, there’s sure to be an officious uniform clad dictator directing exactly how and where we could insert out sticks. When I got there though it was just a fire. The only ‘official’ person I saw was a man who wandered over lobbed some more wood on the fire and then disappeared like Dynamo the Magician. Dumbfounded I watched on waiting for the horror to begin. What I saw was …

Parents took responsibility. They explained to their children that the fire was very very hot and they had to be very careful

The children beamed as they extended their sticks

Strangers helped each other, pointing out the best place to stand so they didn’t get covered in smoke. This opened up more discussions.

Grandparents chatted about when they were kids catching fish and cooking it on a beach fire.

Teenagers helped smaller children reach the fire.

Different cultures stood shoulder to shoulder around the warmth.


When I was there no one got hurt. There were no screams. Not even any crying, just giggles. Everyone enjoyed the oozing sweet goodness. As I retrieved my own crispy marshmallow from the fire I pondered …

  1. How could such a simple low cost idea foster so much community spirit, intergenerational and multicultural exchanges.
  2. If only this could be a regular winter event.
  3. How good would it be finishing Australia Day on the beach with everyone around a fire? (Okay I guess you can sing Kay San if you have to)

The only way this could have been better would be if the money raised went to charity … burns victims or people who lost their homes in the summer fires  perhaps (maybe it does I don’t know).

Who would have thought that if left alone we would manage to look after both ourselves and those around us … perhaps there is hope for the human race after all.

So what do you think insanity or brilliance?

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