Flower arranging

Plans for one of the island’s most cringe-worthy annual events were revealed yesterday. If we needed any more evidence of the tourist department’s utter incompetence, may I refer the jury to http://www.manx.net/isle-of-man-news/81949/theme-for-2017-isle-of-man-flower-festival-is-announced.

In a nutshell, this event consists of….well, flower displays in churches. Um, that’s it. No, honestly, it is.

The only really interesting feature (at least for number-crunchers who make a living from “re-interpreting” statistics) is the clever way in which a few carloads of grannies wandering around a church magically becomes “thousands” in the official annual tourist figures. It works like this….

The organisers in each church are issued with little clickers, which they press every time a visitor or volunteer walks in the door. The thing is, there are 11 churches, and the event makes no sense unless you visit every one. So, if 100 genuinely interested people visited one church in a week, by the time they’ve seen the lot the total becomes 1100. If you consider that the obligatory party comprising the governor and his entourage alone adds up to about 12 the numbers go down even further. Then there’s town and village politicos, tinies from the local primary school and other compulsory attendees. It all adds up – in a not entirely honest way.

This scam was developed by local heritage bods in a linked government department around the millennium, when an expensive “historic attraction” was losing money hand-over-fist, partly because of constant new repairs demanded by initial bad design, partly by sheer lack of punters. Outside of compulsory school visits and TT Week, the suspicion was that on many days the real footfall for a massive public investment that demanded, for example, the entire re-routing of a town traffic system (killing off all local shops in the process) was in single figures.

To inflate reported attendance, an electronic scanner counted all who passed through the front entrance, and the figures produced became the official attendance quoted in annual reports. This sounds fair until you know that the centre’s own staff pass in and out maybe 20 times a day. Then, because of the constant repairs, there was a constant flow of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers and other tradesmen, passing in and out with each plank, brick, bag of nails, fuse, light-bulb, etc. etc. Amusingly, the attraction won a “Museum of the Year” prize not long after. Some might wonder if a prize for fantasy fiction might have been more in order.

I merely add that the same government body, for about a decade now, has also underwritten an event called Praying the Keills. The tour claims to allow devout Christians to follow the steps of the Celtic saints. In practice quasi-geriatrics and other social misfits are led from one random pile of stones in a windswept spot to another. I am not sure if an ambulance actually follows them around, but I suspect one would have to be on permanent standby.

Seriously, in what parallel universe does a government body go out of its way to promote tourism for retired faith-heads? And in what real world will some very well paid public servants ever get judged on actual good ideas or success?

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