Hallowed Ground

“It’s more than just grass . . . Imagine the amount of history and the superstars of cricket that have been on this grass. It’s a piece of history.”

If someone starts lining up at 1.30am to pick up four 30cm-square pieces of turf, it’s obviously pretty important to them. And this woman wasn’t alone – yesterday hundreds of Adelaideans lined up to get their own piece of ‘history’ in the form of a few squares of turf.

Adelaide Oval, a city landmark much loved by cricket fans, is undergoing a major redevelopment at the moment. Part of this redevelopment involves replacing the turf and the state government decided to give the old turf away on a first come, first served basis yesterday (Sunday) morning. This was promoted on the local evening news late last week but, not being a cricket fan, I promptly forgot all about it.

Then, yesterday morning, I headed off to the Museum (to do some PhD fieldwork). My route passes Montefiore Hill, which overlooks the oval and was the advertised pick-up site for the turf. I saw a queue snaking up the hill and wondered what was going on. Then I saw people returning to their cars with bundles of turf in their arms, and remembered the previous week’s news.

The queue was snaking up the hill like this when I rode past at about 10am. The giveaway started from 9am and the first person had started queuing up at 1.30am.

Footage of long queues and soundbites from happy turf collectors added some local colour to that evening’s news bulletin. Watching the news, my partner found it all a bit baffling – “It’s just grass”, he said. But obviously other people felt differently about this ‘hallowed’ turf. Was it just because it was free, and people love free stuff? Was there an element of jumping on the bandwagon given the high level of airtime the giveaway had received during the lead-up? Or do these squares of turf have a deeper meaning for at least some of these people? And if so, what are the criteria for this meaning? Looking at the comments on this news piece, it seems that some people felt the heritage ‘currency’ of the turf was diminished when they learned that it was only a few years old (the turf had last been replaced in 2007). Other people dismissed the interest as a sign of small-town parochialism and a populace with too little to do. There is also the view that cutting up and giving away the turf destroys the heritage value altogether, as in this tweet: 


So what do you think? Does a piece of ground from a certain place have meaning in and of itself? If so, under what circumstances? And is this meaning destroyed if it’s commoditised?

2 Replies to “Hallowed Ground”

  1. One thing that I find interesting about this is that grass has the capacity to grow and spread. A small patch of grass, planted in a yard, will not retain its boundaries. It will soon become seeded with nature from the surrounding area; but will also do the same thing to the remaining lawn. Soon the whole of Adelaide could be an extension of the Oval.
    A few months ago on the Museum Audience Insights blog, there was a post about ‘historical cooties’ and magical contagion (http://reachadvisors.typepad.com/museum_audience_insight/2013/01/historical-cooties.html). I wonder whether at least some of the people of Adelaide were hoping for a little magical contagion of their own, via the seeds of the hallowed ground of the Oval? Magic seeds rather than magic beans.

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