More kindess please. An incident from Grey Lynn Festival.



Shamefully yesterday was the first time I have ever been to the Grey Lynn Festival. Us Auckland South-siders do not often venture all the way to the other side of the city for such festivals. This is a pity because the Grey Lynn Festival is freaking magic. My six year old boy and I went and we both thoroughly enjoyed everything there was on offer. Food, displays, rides, stalls, performances – magnificent.

The organisation of the festival seems like a well-oiled festival machine. I love the layout of everything which made it easy to find things and there were plenty of rubbish bins and toilets. I have nothing but respect for the hard work and monumental task that it takes to pull off this festival.

And yes there must be rules. Okay I am not a huge stickler for ‘rules’ and have been in public trouble for disobeying the odd one here and there. But I fully appreciate that to organise a festival for the Auckland community that is fair and safe and can be enjoyed by all rules must be applied.

This brings me to the rules about holding a stall for the festival. Certainly anyone can apply to have a stall on the day providing you pass the reasonable criteria, pay the reasonable fee and abide by reasonable rules.

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And there was someone who did not do that. Oops. My son and I were none the wiser when we were leaving the festival and came upon man and his toddler son selling home-made brownies on the edge of the festival grounds. Brownies are like heaven for my little boys so there was no way we were going to walk past such a treat. Especially with the cutest wee toddler fronting the marketing strategy for them.

Just as I was giving over my cash for the brownies, a woman came bellowing over ordering the man and his young son to leave. She was a festival organiser and was put out, maybe understandably, that this man had set up his moonlighting stall. She mentioned that they had rules about stalls and that he could have gone through the proper channels. She explained that they would have too many people behaving like this without those rules.

“Totally fair enough” said the man. He was calm and apologetic and moved to vacate his little illegal selling table immediately.

The woman just kept ordering him to leave. Her tone was that abrupt and annoyed and unforgiving that my little boy whispered into my ear “oh no mum they weren’t supposed to be doing that aye”.  When the man asked her genuinely about the process to hold a stall she said “sorry there’s no time for that now you just have to leave”.

I uttered a very big and loud ‘thank you for these they look absolutely lovely’ to the man and his son as we left with our brownies.

The woman was well within her administration and moral rights. She was correct in upholding the rules for the good of the festival. But she could have done so with some more thought to the two little boys who were involved in the whole affair. There was my son and the sweet toddler rebel selling brownies with his dad. Dad was cooperating and apologetic and listening. I wrote in my head a far kinder script for still being able to run a tight festival ship without the destruction of dignity. I was left explaining to my son that the woman was right but she could have spoken in a way that did not make the little boy feel bad. “And the poor dad” said my son. And it seems, my huge hearted son.

“Hi there. Those brownies look delicious actually I might buy one. I’m really sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to leave the grounds though because you haven’t gone through the proper channels for this stall. Just outside on the concrete is not considered our festival grounds by the way. Also for next year check out our application process so you son can sell his brownies and get more customers too. Thanks heaps for moving I really appreciate that you know how it goes – we’ll get flooded with illegal stalls and won’t be able to run this festival safely for everyone. Hope we see you next year.”

………..all delivered with a big cheery smile.

The woman had expended quite a bit of negative energy in dealing with this man and was winding herself up no end. This might have been the 1000th niggly thing she had to deal with that hour. But expending negative energy was not going to lower her stress level at all.

Just a little more kindness might have made things pleasant for the woman herself. No bending of the rules, just kindness in delivering them. That’s all I am asking of us all in our daily footsteps.


  1. Yes, totally agree. It’s not what you say, quite often it’s the way the message is delivered. Sad that this experience will probably remain in the memories of all involved for many years to come. Doesn’t take much to be civil and it’s no wonder some messengers get shot!

  2. The woman who runs the Grey Lynn festival is a complete tool, she spends half her time bitching about the burden of running it and the other half of her time bathing in the glory of running it.

    • I’ll stand my acknowledgement that this is a huge feat to organise having project managed similar headaches that were smaller but still enough to drive me batty. 🙂

  3. except if he went through “proper channels” he probably would not have been able to sell his brownies

    in order to sell food it must have been prepared in a council / health dept inspected and approved premises / kitchen

    I discovered this when I inquired about selling home baking at my local summer fair

    I think it’s bureaucracy gone made

  4. Agree…D.B.A.D. ( Don’t Be A Dick )…people (especially that women) need to adopt this as as there litmus test in interactions with others…

  5. Hi,
    Before everyone winds themselves up with self righteous opinion you might like to know that the man was also given permission to continue with his stall. We had a children’s stall this year for kids to sell small amounts of whatever they could bring along at no charge. Yes we have to deal with bureaucracy gone mad too but we try very hard to support individuals in raising a bit of cash.
    Thank you for your positive comments about the day. We were very pleased with and our organisation it ran really smoothly. It is a shame to have to be the one to draw attention to the rules and to try and enforce them when one is also trying to attend to issues of people safety importance which is what I was on my way to do. Sorry if I did not smile enough and take lots of time to explain a simple and rather self obvious fact that with an event of this size we can’t have people setting up where and when they like. This man was extremely nice and I ended up saying oh carry on then and get in touch with us next year. We have had problems in the past with 20plus stalls setting themselves up with no contact through us. We are open to anyone who makes contact with us. We have rules placed on us by Council and have to sign off legal responsibility for every person and stall on site. All done for free on my part, what a tool I am. The fact that this person set up like this need not have happened at all, hopefully the thousands of others who provided a great day out for the community might counterbalance this one incident. Kindness needs to practiced as well as preached. GLPFT.

    • Marama Davidson wrote: “Not sure what GLPFT is? That’s a reasonable response really glad to hear the acknowledgement that the man was very nice as I thought he was incredibly calm for what could have been a whole different response. That’s nice he was allowed to stay. I didn’t expect for that to happen at all. As explained in the blog, I upheld the reason for the rules. Had no issue with that. 🙂 I stand by my blog in just asking people to spend more of their energy on kindness in doing the right thing. Kindess does indeed need to be practiced, and preached:) (Marama)”

  6. Not sure what GLPFT is?
    That’s a reasonable response really glad to hear the acknowledgement that the man was very nice as I thought he was incredibly calm for what could have been a whole different response. That’s nice he was allowed to stay. I didn’t expect for that to happen at all and that is indeed kind and generous.

    As explained in the blog, I upheld the reason for the rules. Had no issue with that.

    I stand by my blog in just asking people to spend more of their energy on kindness in doing the right thing and it seems that that has also been done. Yay!

    The festival is great and I hope to come back next year and buy brownies.

    And maybe this discussion might have just caused us all to stop and think about how we might behave in our own next challenges of practicing kindness. This is the real reason or why I wrote.

    • GLPFT?

      I googled it, nothing.

      Then a blinding flash of light! (actually, more a dim bulb, slowing warming up …)

      T-something? (Terroriser, Tachyphrasia, Tyrant? )

      Note: Grey Lynn festival is really cool.
      Thank you to all involved in running it, even those who occasionally lose their cool 🙂

    • I don’t know wether to be more offended by the tyrant lady at the market or the abusive amount of tacky acronyms being used these days, who cares what GLPFT means,really.

  7. I’ve loved it whenever I’ve been able to go. I can imagine the rules becoming more important with increased gentrification of the area. Bureaucracy is a great way to ruin anything. Let’s blame Rodney Hide.

  8. Ahh bless Marama.. Kindness indeed in a world where there is so often a price on everything, even a cost to that, and we are all prone to jump at times and then jump back because how we see things, is through our eyes or the perceptions or preconceptions presented to us ‘in the moment’..
    Glad this one had a happier ending and glad I read all comments before responding.. 😉
    Love Grey Lynn Festival too..
    Missed it this year as on Waiheke..
    Last time we were there a few a boys behaving badly and battling hard happened right at the end as we were leaving, and rather spoilt the mellow nature of an otherwise fun few hours.
    The unexpected can always mar a memory or teach our young ones a great lesson in empathy and how to treat each other even in stressful heated times
    Kia ora

  9. Why do people get so uptight about bureaucracy?

    It’s an essential service that, if we didn’t have it, a hell of a lot just wouldn’t get done.

  10. I’m gonna weigh in with a proviso: I’m a professional event manager myself, and have controlled operations for festivals involving 15,000, with multiple community, corporate stalls and managed the public and — dealt to transgressions of all types, of all degrees. What looks small, in the context of our job, can have big repercussions you’ll never, ever see.

    Firstly: looks like this initial altercation happened with what ended up a fair outcome for all. While it might initially have been handled tersely, please be aware that in heat of the moment, you don’t know what the person you’ve just observed has been dealing with prior.

    Second: yep, rules are there for a purpose, sorry about that. But take it from me – I’ve dealt with cars trying to run over Marshals just because some people can’t wait for 1 minute, yes 1 MINUTE, for a road closure to end. We went through 8 months of Council processes to audit safety protocols, meetings with Police, filed goodness knows how many H&S plans, Risk Management plans and the like. I mean, you think bureacracy is mad – you want to see what we have to deal with to get something like this organised, stall holders and Vendors only deal with a small bit of it truth be told!

    And we consulted with Residents 3 times as part of official public consultations – and anyone, absolutely ANYONE with urgent requirements for example, would get a pass/waiver out a police escort (especially Drs needing to get to an emergency etc. People who had work requirements? No problem, we’ll let you out with the right credentials, absolutely fine – but please let US let you out. Don’t try and run our Marshalls over and abuse our people… we’ve had people radio in with insane things “I’m on the bonnet of this guys car, what the f**k do I do?!?!”). I’ve had people jump safety barriers because “Hey man, my bus is just over there” Yep, it is. There’s also traffic, thousands converging into the area as well, and when you get run over, perish the thought – we get slammed to hell and back because you decided “It’s okay, it’s just me.” No, it’s not just you – one person does it, a lot of people start doing it.

    You’d be amazed at the herd mentality of people. Or maybe not, considering people voting for National … back to the issue then…

    H&S – We don’t prevent people from putting selling food for the fun of it. It’s because we don’t want to poison someone because of something dodgy being served up. Guess who carries the can for not making sure dodgy stuff gets served up? Yep, us. And the consequences are big on us, not just the Vendor at fault, and not just the guy who now might end up in the E&R. Yep, the same rules may apply to the brownie guy and the person selling a full meal, but imagine if we split that up even further. Even more bureacracy. But, like I say, we as Event Managers actually deal with the very thick end of the rules, we actually only make Vendors deal with a subset of these in context… and the public, even less. But we are ultimately responsible for all of it.

    As I say, sounds like it ended up a good outcome overall, and while it may not have been dealt with to everyones liking at first, it was the putting right that actually matters in the end, and going forward, an understanding of where things could be handled better.

    I’m sure it’ll be going into the post-event evaluation.

    Be aware, it’s an insane amount of work putting on Festivals of this magnitude. Some of your organisers will have been up since the very ,very early am making sure what’s in place benefits everyone.

    At any one time, they could be pulled in multiple directions. I had one scenario myself as one of many examples of this type where all at once, staff were handed off and then needed to be re-deployed to another area and needed direction, an ambulance crew needed to get out from the park where the finish line and a festival for everyone else was going on onto the course (it was a Race event) while several people were blocking their exit point (yes, despite signs and barriers, they still blocked it — “But, I just want to take a picture! I’ll be quick!” yes – you, and now you’re doing it, ten others!!!), people were jumping barriers at another end to do their quick dash across a road, into oncoming traffic, bag vans were getting deliveries into the park to contestants, now being hassled by the public by walking down their clearway … all of it at once.

    Up since 2am, day didn’t end until 4pm, so at times, our faces may look a tad stressed, but rest assured, we’re not doing it to hassle you – we’re doing it to ensure everyone stays safe. We’re not trying to ruin your day with rules.

    But where the public is concerned, we have to ensure certain guidelines are in place and that they are followed.

    And after saving people from getting run over, you wouldn’t believe some of the abuse our people get at times. And they’re expected to wear it by the way, re-state the rules calmly, and then … get bollocked again. Which isn’t always a nice thing to have to swallow, but swallow it many, many times we do. Certain corporates putting up shows like to throw their weight around, because … “I’m a corporate, I’m paying sponsorship”. Yep, you are, it doesn’t mean you get to abuse the hell out of us because YOU forgot your map we issued you with to get to your spot. Oh, you had to arrive at 7.30am to set up? Try 4am buddy, and we’ll see how pleasant you are getting abused. But, calm, smile, re-state the rules, re-issue the instructions. And wave pleasantly to the scowling driver muttering obscenities at you!

    So, just be aware that the next time you go to a festival, everyone on the team is trying to do the best they can, because we sincerely do have your ultimate enjoyment as our highest priority…

    • Thank you for this posting which many people who do not know the hard work end of event management may not understand. You do. You have spoken of so many of the experiences we face. All in the name of doing ‘community work.’ It is hard for people to believe what we experience. What Ms. Davidson does not know is that the particular gentleman being discussed was not a first timer, in all innocence. He has set up in this way at three previous Festival years and been asked politely not to do so. It was his decision to involve his small child in his trading, not mine. He has been told before to communicate with us and if he cannot afford a stall fee we would have helped him. GLPFT? Grey Lynn Park Festival Trust. ie 4 people who put this on for you all. Thank you Alan for sharing your knowledge. An event does not happen just by sweet smiling magic.

    • Actually I did mention my understanding of this sort of project management. If you read the blog properly I talk about this incident possibly being the 1000th niggly thing in that hour. And I definitely acknowledged the reason for rules and so forth. But yes you went into further detail of the same point I was making was all.

      Regardless of what the man had or had not done earlier, whether he was a first time ‘offender’ or not – the two little boys bearing witness were not offenders at all and we as adults all have a responsibility to the children of our community in our dealings and to role model to them and to dismiss that as ‘it was his choice to involve his child in this incident or not’ is in my opinion, no excuse.

      Alan I do not at all think that people reading and commenting on this blog are completely ignorant of the work behind this planning – I think we all get that point to be honest. I think the learning is still the kindness that was the reason for my blog. And learnings for us all in being able to compose that in times of challenge.

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