Everyone’s been asking about this year’s Allston DIY Fest. The annual summer celebration of music and community usually takes place one Saturday afternoon in July – but this year, the city did not approve our permit.
Since starting an online petition, my fellow organizers and I have struggled to express our viewpoint to public officials, the media, and our community. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around in the mainstream media (see: Boston Magazine), but all it takes is a cursory glance at the comments on our petition to see that Allston DIYfest is a well-loved event, one that reflects the community it seeks to engage.
So, if there is such widespread community support, why didn’t we get the permit? When the Boston Parks and Recreation Department first reached out to me, the official answer was noise complaints from two neighbors. Once the media reached out to Parks and Recreation, the reason they had originally given us mushroomed into a safety issue and a size issue. They claimed the park just wasn’t big enough for a "successful" event like Allston DIYfest.
Success is not about numbers. DIYfest never had the 1,000 attendees that some claim we did--maybe over the course of the day, but certainly never at one point in time. There were still pick-up games in the basketball courts and folks walking their dogs. Typical activities in the park still had plenty of room to take place, and in the three years of Allston DIYfest no one has been hurt or arrested. Each year the music is over at 4 pm and a team of volunteers meticulously clean the park, careful not to leave behind any trash or debris.
We have a successful event because it is constantly changing its flavor-- each person who plans, attends, or plays at the event has the power to shape DIYfest. No two years look the same, and as a friend of mine said recently, no two hours at DIYfest look the same. There’s a constant flux of people, pets, artists and neighbors, children and activists, Allston-residents and those just passing through.
This is reflected in the diversity of those who plan the ‘fest. The reason I’m involved with Allston DIYfest is because I grew up in Brighton. I went to Jackson Mann Elementary School. Every recess of my childhood was spent in Ringer Park. I practiced Spice Girls dance moves on the bleachers. I performed science experiments in the same location where amplified music is performed during DIYfest. For me, this park has always been the site of joy and exploration. That’s why I help organize this event--it’s about sharing art and music and activism with my neighbors. It’s about welcoming everyone to join the vibrant arts community in Allston.
I’m a resident of Allston and I want to see our community flourish. I don’t want to host this event in another part of Boston. It’s the antithesis of democracy to deny neighbors the ability to congregate and make music and art in a public space. This is an issue that bonds us across all divisions--from the peaceful protestors in Istanbul this Turkish Summer to the Occupy Boston movement in Dewey Square. We want to exercise our right to freedom of expression. We want to build a community not based solely on commerce and profit, but one based on friendship and collaboration.
Ringer Park is a symbol of creative expression, and I think it would be a great loss for our community if we lost the right to use the park peacefully and respectfully.