Have you put your hand up? | Editorial

THERE’s an old saying that comes to mind when we see negativity about local events – particularly those that rely heavily on volunteers.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the quote: “He has a right to criticise, who has a heart to help.”

At the weekend, the Tamworth area marked four firsts: a cycling festival; Kootingal Country Fair; activities marking 200 years since explorer John Oxley found the place that would become our city; and Tamworth Show starting in its new venue, AELEC.

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For many reasons, the latter was always a frontrunner to be in the firing line if things didn’t go 100 per cent according to plan.

Why do we say this? Because an annual show can be a harshly judged event held up to very high expectations. We benchmark it according to the magic we remember from our childhoods; it’s one of “our” flagship annual events; it uses ratepayer-owned venues; we pay to attend; and many of us have the huge metro shows to compare it with.

In the days and weeks to come, organisers will be dissecting what went right, what went wrong, the measurable results and the intangible outcomes. They already admit not everything has been perfect. Some issues will have been unforeseen; some will be a case of “I told you so.”

Attendees have already been talking. And frankly, much of what we’ve seen on social media can only be described as having a bit of a whinge: about cost, about rides, about competition entries, about opening hours. While there might be some valid points here, there’s nothing more demoralising than putting hundreds of hours into an event, hoping to create something fun or meaningful, only to have it publicly derided by people who haven’t lifted a finger. They haven’t cut you any slack – and, in some cases, they haven’t even bothered to check it out for themselves.

We’re not after a Thumper-from-Bambi outlook of, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. But if we want to criticise, let’s make it considered, constructive and in the right place. Let’s also ask ourselves, as per Lincoln: do we have the right to criticise if we aren’t willing to help? 

Before you get your back up, have you put your hand up?