Last Sunday, as a result of a serious failure to fully consider the implications of the term 'other duties as required' before signing my employment contract, I found myself in the artists' area behind the main stage at the St Kilda festival, dressed as a giant bird. Yes (spoiler alert! drag your kids away from the screen!), as one 45-year-old man who spent 10 minutes staring through the fence at Sid Seagull concluded aloud "There's a person in there".
Although it may surprise many fans of the lisping star of the original 1980s skin cancer prevention television ads, Sid is not in fact a real seagull. And so in the interests of raising awareness of the importance of sun protection in the wider community, it had come time for me to lay aside the surveys and focus groups which are the more usual tools of my trade, and 'don the gull' for an afternoon.
To those of you who complain that slipping on a shirt is too hot on a summer's day, can I refer you to the temperatures experienced inside a plush seagull while pulling out some frantic moves to the eminently appropriate summer anthem (as voted by our Facebook fans): 'Rock Lobster'.
The inaugural Great Mascot Dance Off attracted a mixed bag of entrants. Our friend Oliver from Hepatitis Victoria with flailing hand gestures urged the general public to ‘Love your liver’ (did you know that in Australia around 165,000 people are living with chronic Hepatitis B – which causes 80% of primary liver cancer cases worldwide – and 1/3 don’t know they have it? More info at www.hepvic.org.au/page/hepatitis-b). A very nervous but (big) game Zooperman pranced to ‘I need a hero’ in aid of Zoos Victoria’s endangered species program. And the street sign from Adam Hills in Gordon St obliged the somewhat bemused crowd with a public demonstration of the implications of budget cuts to the ABC's costuming department (non-elasticated tights + leotard + emerging from large zip-free foam tube costume ≠ dignity).
At the end of the day, despite corporate might prevailing in the dance off, it was a far more rewarding afternoon than my previous trip to St Kilda, when I had to be restrained from yelling 'Skin cells in trauma!' at the collected mass of semi-naked beach-goers. Maybe it was due to the limited line of sight available through an over-sized beak, but here's hoping that slipping on a seagull was a somewhat friendlier reminder to at least a few festival-goers to protect themselves from the sun. After all, who needs a trophy when you can save lives?
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