“The what centre?” asked the lady at the RNA Administration building (the nerve centre of the Ekka) front desk, looking at me with patronizing eyes.
I repeated, patiently, “The Media Centre” while trying to mollycoddle both the 50+ lady and my 3 year old daughter.
“Hmm. I have worked here for years, but have never heard of that. Are you sure there is one here? What do you do at the centre anyway?”
“Umm. Get media releases and arrange for interviews with the Ekka staff and maybe grab a coffee?” I said, while holding up my press pass.
“Let me ring my boss and find out”. (If looks could kill…)
“No that won’t be necessary, I will just go to the information counter”. I trotted off, secure in the belief that the information counter next door would know where the media centre for Brisbane’s showcase event would be. I repeated the query to the nice gentle lady at that counter and her reply…
“The what centre?“.
Oh boy! Here we go again.
You know you are in trouble when the two places that would need to know everything about the Ekka haven’t even heard of the place I was looking for. Explaining to the staff that I was looking for the media centre was to them asking if they had seen the green men from Mars. They were more comfortable answering questions about showbags and cattle shows.
And this incident in my mind represents the issues with Ekka overall. It just doesn’t know what it wants to be. What is its place in a growing Brisbane – a fast changing city that wants to leap towards being “Australia’s new world city” or a city that is encumbered by a rural populace that doesn’t want to let go of it?
Ekka, for those who are not familiar with it, aims to bring the country life to the city of Brisbane.
So, you have cattle shows, poultry judging competitions, showbag pavilions filled with all sorts of tacky knick-knacks, sideshow alley, country fair rides and heaps of other things that will make you think you are smack bang in the middle of Goondiwindi.
But then it has a Woolworths fresh food pavilion that is a corporate and sponsor haven, a middle arena that only sells “gourmet sit down restaurant quality” foods, and a Lindeman sponsored wine garden.
In between these two, are the Queensland Government’s pavilions that seem to send the message – “country and city – we want to live together”. The staff here were bored and no amount of forced enthusiasm from them could take away the feeling that they had all drawn the short stick for the lottery of being sent to the Ekka.
On top of all this, everything is overpriced. A family of four on modest incomes would do well to save for at least 4-5 months before coming to the Ekka. A single entry ticket is $25 – family of four get in for $60. Don’t forget to add your train or parking fees to that before you even get started. Then endless pestering from kids for showbags, sideshow alley games, rides and food/drinks/coffees. You know that things are overpriced when you have to pay $12 for yourself and baby sitting on your lap to go on a ride. We estimated that a single day to the Ekka could set a family of 4 back by about $300-$400. Wouldn’t you rather buy tickets to the Dreamworld or Movieworld/Seaworld for that price and get better rides, better service and better value for money for a whole year? (Dreamworld and Movieworld/Seaworld tickets are $99 for the year each).
Perhaps keeping this in mind, the RNA has decided to upgrade the showgrounds with a $2.9 billion regeneration project. The project has only started this year in April and will take a couple of years to complete.
$2.9 billion buys a lot of shiny new buildings and things, and I hope that it will also clearly define what Ekka is. Otherwise it will go the way Brisbane is going. Wanting to grow up, but not confident enough to let go of it roots.
Where: Ekka, RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
When: August 11-20.
Open: 9 AM to 8:30 PM.
We visited the Ekka on one media pass + bought tickets.