Exclusive or just excessive? When it came to entertaining in The Birdcage during Melbourne’s famed horse racing season, less was once more. Then the corporates arrived – and in going upscale, it all went downhill.
Oh yes oh yes oh yes, that season is upon us once more. Of air-kisses and evil eyes and side-eyes and side-boob. Of the fragrance from those famous Flemington roses wafting up gin-blossom noses, of celebrity chefs cooking artisanal morsels and bearded bartenders mixing fizzy cocktails for those in top hats and tails.
Of the bourgeoisie mixing with the cashed-up bogans, and of marvellous millinery atop fine frockery. Of tents with Moulin Rouge dancers, Arabian dancers and Schuhplattler slap-dancers, of dance music and hot DJs but (by contractual agreement) not David Jones. Of sponsorship spats and door bitches and thinkfluencers and – depending on the weather – either designer-suit sweat stains and melting make-up, or muddied heels and blinging in the rain. And, of course, the main point but perhaps a little beside the point, the greatest – and richest – two-mile handicap in the world of thoroughbred racing!
And the place to be – to see this decadent scene while being seen – is The Birdcage, a premium enclosure for luxurious sponsored marquees, which sits just next to Flemington Racecourse’s Parade Ring and not far from the on-course helipad.
Through November, for the Victorian Racing Club’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, this little patch of private land, measuring 17,000 square metres, is reached by one of three security checkpoints – before additional iPad (née clipboard) entry into one of 28 purpose-built parties. An enticing vehicle for corporate promotion and self-promotion, for confection and celebration, The Birdcage has become part of the fabric of our spring – but this latest and lavish incarnation is a relatively modern phenomenon. It was not always this way…
Home page photo by Chris Hopkins