The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]
The Noise of Battle
Recent Politicsal Activities at V.U.C.
"Let truth and falsehood grapple. Whoever knew truth worsted in a free and open encounter?"
"If he were to contribute to the world's store of knowledge, the student must be an irritant to the community in some way. That partly resulted in people getting the idea that the hue of the brickwork of the college was the colour of the staff and students."
E. K. Braybrooke, in an address to the Rotary Club, Evening Post, 1/4/54.
Ever Since its foundation in 1899 Victoria University College has been slightly suspect in the eyes of Wellington's respectability. Even before the institution had a home of its own, it had acquired a reputation for hullabaloos with a political flavour, and its whole subsequent history has been careering from one such hullabaloo to another.
The story has been well covered up to 1949 in past issues of Spike"—and our chief task here is to fill in the picture since the last big contribution on the topic by J. W. Winchester in the Jubilee number.
The most noticeable change has been the passing of the returned serviceman generation, with its strange mixture of idealism and toughness. The students who led the Socialist Club's street demonstrations against the Dutch attack on Indonesia (1947) and Conscription (1948 and 1949) were men well into their twenties, with unassailable records of war service"—Harry Evison, Ron Smith, Pip Piper, Peter Morris, Oscar Melling, Jack Ewen. . . . Some lingered on to take part in later battles, but they are only names to most students today.
When the younger students expressed themselves on political matters they were not taken so seriously. Their very youth led them to battle about issues so remote as to be unreal to the battlers and the victories of the starry-eyed were often rather quixotic.
In 1949 there was a storm over whether Salient's editor had been "guilty of conduct tending to bring discredit on the College" by publishing an editorial commenting page 41 unfavourably on current conditions at Weir House, and a book review which made unkind references to Sir Will Appleton and Lord Freyberg in their capacity as V.U.C. old boys.
The Professorial Board fined the editor £5, and this looked to some students like the incarceration of Galileo. A special Students' Association meeting protested"—successfully, it must be admitted. The fine was revoked at the price of a permanent arrangement which gave the Student's Association President power of censorship over the paper.
The Left's slogan at the time was "Down with academic isolationism," and with it they campaigned for V.U.C.'c participation in overseas conferences with a leftist tinge. In 1946 the Students' Association had affiliated with the World Federation of Democratic Youth (known popularly as Woofdee), and delegates"—usually graduates who chanced to be in Europe"—were sent regularly to its gatherings in East Europe. A running war for disaffiliation with this body began in 1949, but was not crowned with success until the fifth round in mid-1950.
We were also represented at congresses of the "Partisans of Peace," and from affirming support for this body a general meeting in 1949 went forward to pass its own "Manifesto for Peace" (in high Miltonic prose), which was sent to the press and to all M.P.s, and earned some mention (mainly slighting) in Parliament.
Opposition to the Left was provided at this time by the Charter Society"—the first manifestation of organised right-wing opinion at V.U.C. since the 1920's. Founded late in 1948, the Society aimed at supplying an antidote to the Socialist Club. But no organisation could exist entirely for such a negative purpose, and the Chartist Society gave itself a comprehensive Charter of what it considered to be basic human rights"—with emphasis on "economic freedoms," but heavily flavoured with Papal encyclicals.
Resenting the radical tone of Salient, the Charter Society ventured into the field of printed journalism with spasmodic issues of a paper called Charta, until, in 1951, the nemesis of history was given a helpful push by the Students' Association Executive"—the editor of Charta became the editor of Salient, and Charta died.
Conscription caused most of the noise of 1949. The Students' Association was committed to oppose the introduction of conscription by a well-attended general meeting in August, 1948, and two returned servicemen represented the Association on the Wellington Anti-Conscription Council up till the Referendum of August, 1949. Persistent attempts to reverse the Association's policy failed, and pro-Conscription activities at the College were eventually confined to the Charter Society. A meeting addressed by Sir Howard Kippenberger on this subject was the largest the society ever sponsored"—and it got completely out of hand ("dominated by the Socialist Club" according to the daily press) and passed a resolution endorsing the Students' Association policy of anti-Conscription. A Socialist Club procession the day before the Referendum was orderly and uneventful, except for a group of Charter Society boys who walked alongside it rending the air with cat-calls.
The big tumult of 1950 centred round the figure of the Dean of Canterbury (the Very Rev. Dr. Hewlett Johnson). He was at a Peace Congress at Melbourne in April, and when it was announced that he might be visiting Wellington, the Students' Association Executive decided to investigate the possibility of inviting him to speak at the College. Horrified, President Kevin O'Brien handed in his res- page 42 signation, which was accepted, and the Women's Vice-President Alison Pearce was elected in his stead. A motion of censure on the Executive emanating from the Charter Society was defeated heavily at a packed general meeting.
It is typical of V.U.C. tempests that the Dean ended up by not coming to New Zealand at all, so the invitation was never sent"—just as the celebrated Gottwald telegram was never sent. The controversies over which so much time, energy, and emotion were expended, were often based on utter abstractions, but were fought out furiously for the principles that seemed to underlie them.
The triumphs of C.M.T. and the National Party at the 1949 polls, the Korean outbreak and the general war scare, helped turn the tide at V.U.C. The 1950 annual meeting carried disaffiliation from Woofdee. A Peace Committee formed in June suffered from the gloomy atmosphere, and the elected convener handed over the membership list to the security police and disappeared to Australia. Some enthusiasts collected signatures around the College to the Stockholm appeal for the banning of atomic weapons; and the Students' Association, the Socialist Club and Salient were all represented at a very narrow and rather futile "Youth for Peace" conference in the Trades Hall.
A fortnight before the 1951 session opened the Great Waterfront Dispute had begun. The radical tone of the first issue of Salient soon died away when the editor of Charta took over. The Socialist Club was the sole repository of the tradition of protest, and when it held a meeting to hear representatives of the Watersiders' Union (officially banned from publicly stating their case by draconic Emergency Regulations), Students' Association officials tried to extract an undertaking from the club committee "that the law would not be infringed." One hundred and fifty students crowded into the Lower Gym to hear two Wellington wharfies speak on "The Background to the Emergency Regulations." The Students' Association President and Secretary (Kevin and Maurice O'Brien) were present, and later summoned the club committee before the Executive on the grounds that they had broken their undertaking"—and a controversy began which was never really concluded.
On May Day eve, the Socialist Club went further, and had an even bigger meeting addressed by the watersiders' national president Jock Barnes"—an event which was treated to a front page article in Freedom, who noted darkly that "professors were present." 1951 Extravaganza, Siderella, had a heavy red tinge, but was still acclaimed by quite conservative students (including the Charterist editor of Salient) as the most successful for some years. Members of the cast shouted seats and boxes to locked out and striking workers"—and the watersiders' Transport Worker printed a laudatory review complete with some of the more pointed lyrics.
The Student Labour Federation, to which the Socialist and Labour Clubs in the various University Colleges were then affiliated, had its executive in Wellington at that time, and its weekly cyclostyled bulletins had some influence in strengthening and consolidating the V.U.C. Left. Big meetings to hear Dean Chandler (returned from a Peace Congress in Berlin) and V.U.C.'s Rhodes Scholar John Platts-Mills (here for a rare visit) showed that the Peace Committee had gained new life.
On the other hand the Charter Society showed no signs of life the whole year.
The big controversies of 1952 both concerned overseas events"—alleged germ warfare in Korea, and representation al a conference to heal the East-West breach page 43 in the world student movement. A resolution calling for investigation of the Chinese charges about germ warfare was carried by one general meeting and withdrawn by another. At the same time a fight was waged over whether V.U.C. should send a Charter Society star or a liberal S.C.M.-er to the unity conference; and out of that arose a war as to whether decisions of a general meeting (reputedly inclined to the left) should be binding on the Executive"—as they are in every other organisation in the world. But the Left lost on both counts.
These 1952 campaigns were the last in which the Charter Society's face was seen at V.U.C."—and this was not because the body it existed to counter was declining disastrously. The Socialist Club lost many of its prominent members at the end of 1952, but its influence continued to be felt over the next few years"—especially through the Debating Society and a more liberal Salient.
In 1955 the sending of New Zealand troops to Malaya agitated students, and a Debating Society motion declaring opposition achieved some publicity outside the College. A general meeting of the Students' Association later in the year passed a resolution calling for the abolition of capital punishment. A Free Discussions Club formed in 1955 awakened memories of an earlier body of that name which held the radical bridgeheads at V.U.C. in the 1920's and '30's. For a time the revived idea succeeded"—it attracted many students to its discussions on serious subjects, many of them directly political such as "The Colour Question in Africa" and "Equal Pay for Equal Work." It offered what no other political club (except perhaps the very academic Pol. Sci. Society"—when it was alive) could offer"—a meeting ground for both Right and Left on the big issues of the time. But alas it seems to have gone the way of many other clubs.
The main hue and cry of 1956 was among the staff and College Council, over the question of granting leave to two senior staff members to join a delegation to China. Salient came out (surprisingly, for its editor had earlier announced his intention of blackballing politics) in favour of their going. Battle raged, and while there was disappointment that Prof. Buchanan was not allowed to go, there was satisfaction that at least Mr. Bertram got away.
Relations with Asia in general have coloured V.U.C. politics as much as anything else since the war. The various vagaries of the Left"—the demonstration about Indonesia, opposition to C.M.T."—have been mainly motivated by disapproval of a foreign policy which bore all the hallmarks of "colonialism," and put military barriers between ourselves and the people of the Asian mainland. The decision to found a chair of Asian studies, the presence among us of students from several Asian countries under the Colombo Plan, are welcome signs that the barriers are being overcome. For there is no doubt that New Zealand's future is bound up with her relationship with these people with whom we share the Pacific. That this belief has been constantly brought forward at V.U.C. is one of the positive contributions of the Left.
The constant right-wing charge against the Socialist Club of "Communist domination" was lent some colour by a feud which arose late in 1955 within the club, and which led, early in 1956, to the formation of the Social Democrat Society. It began over the question of whether the club should protest against Society foreign policy in the Middle East, where certain members believed it to be playing a reactionary role. It rapidly broadened into a fight of Communists and those who page 44 believed in the possibility of co-operation with Communists against those who did not.
It is no news that the only continuous political influence at V.U.C. for something like two decades has been the University Branch of the Communist Party. Never organically connected with the College, it consisted of graduates and undergraduates, and led a twilight life between open and underground activity. Its members"—and many passed through it ranks who would not like to be reminded of the fact"—usually publicly acknowledged their party membership, and many filled leading positions in the Students' Association and affiliated clubs. They included the late Gordon Watson, Ronald L. Meek. Harry Evison . . . all of whom wielded a strong influence at the College in successive periods.
From its foundation late in 1946 the Socialist Club has been the main vehicle through which the University Branches influence has been felt at V.U.C., and in it Communists have often won from Socialists of a paler hue affectionate regard for themselves and respect for their views. There has never been any question of Communist policy being foisted on to the club"—club policy was always the highest common factor of the varying opinions of its members"—most of whom have been ideologically closer to Nash than to Stalin. The 1955-56 split originated, there is little doubt, with the personal disenchantment of one ex-University Branch member who had suffered directly at the hands of an East European police state. His campaign was made easier by Krushchev's revelations of February, 1956, which resulted, in combination with Hungary, with the virtual disintegration of the branch.
By the end of the first term of 1956 the Social Democrat Society was a going concern, with a Constitution aiming at the exclusion of Communists"—though its members voted unanimously for close relations with the Socialist Club, and most retained dual membership.
But experience has shown that V.U.C. cannot support more than one flourishing left-wing club at a time. It looks as if the Socialist Club may have outlived its day, and may be going to give way to something new"—probably not the Social Democrat Society, but to some sort of combination of the two which will have room for all shades of radical opinion and a programme suited to the needs of the times.
The Social Democrats, like the Free Discussions Club, failed to rally a quorum for their 1957 A.G.M.
Organised right-wing activity has faded away"—it only ever showed its head when left-wing activity was vigorous. We seem to be in a period of political doldrums. But it is possible with Salient back on a radical tack, general meetings being called to discuss H-bomb tests, and a general election and a referendum on capital punishment approaching, noises on the left will summon up a few echoes on the right, and V.U.C. will again reverberate to the feverish noise of battle, which is a healthy noise in a university.
C. V. Bollinger
Malgrée le Contrat Social,
On avait l'impression
D'une réevolution plus radicale
Dans les Confessions.
Sport in the University Community
Elsewhere in The Spike you will be able to read of the progress or otherwise of your favourite sports club over the past three years. Here I propose to examine three aspects of sport in the university community: first, the University Tournament; second, the participation by Victoria in that tournament; and third, problems arising out of the growth of Rugby football as a university sport.
The University Tournament
Since the University Tournament sytsem began in 1902 it has expanded so greatly that the time has come for a reappraisal of the functions of the two tournaments now in existence. It can truly be said that there is no activity controlled by the New Zealand University Students' Association which so directly affects the average student as the Easter and Winter Tournaments. But what began purely and simply as a festival for sports actively participated in by students from all Colleges has now developed into a grand get-together for all and as many students who can get to the tournament centre. Such sports as Drama, Debating and Oratory have become appended to the Tournament programme, and Law students are at present agitating to have their moots accepted as a further sport. Nor is this the end of the problem. Not only Law students, but also yachtsmen, women's rowers and women's golfers are after full Tournament status. Who knows but that next year there may be weightlifters, cyclists, women's wrestlers and darters clamouring at the door. These points must add weight to my argument that we have to reconsider the present set-up.
As stated above, I believe that the Tournaments were originally devised to allow for the participation in inter-university competition of men and women who played sports that were actively supported in all the major colleges. It has been argued that the proper function of a Tournament is merely to allow as many students as possible to meet and take part, and, therefore, as a corollary of this, new sports should be allowed into the programme to encourage those people keen enough to interest themselves in widening the sporting facilities available to students. Worthwhile as this may be, surely the proper place for such encouragement is at the local college level. When it has been shown that the sport is receiving some reasonable measure of support from all the colleges, then, and then only, should the sport be allowed into Tournament. Further, even forgetting the principle involved, which I consider to be a strong enough argument by itself, there are the practical problems involved which have to be faced by every host college. Foremost of these is that of billeting. We can presume that in the past, because of the pressure on them, successive Billetting Controllers have made exhaustive enquiries into every possible source of billets, and therefore proposals to search for further sources appear over-hopeful and rather useless. The problem to be faced at the present time is not one of extending Tournaments, but of restricting them. It must be page 46 realised that sooner or later sports at present in the maturing stage will become strong enough to demand full Tournament status. When that happens they will have to be admitted, so let us now look for ways in which we can prepare for the future.
One positive proposal to clear the way for the entry of new sports is to discard those cultural activities which do not rightly belong in a University sporting festival. This year V.U.C. put before the New Zealand University Students' Association a proposal to investigate the possibility of holding a separate Arts Festival. This festival could be built around the nucleus of Drama, Debating, Oratory and possibly Law Moots, and it could be developed by allowing for the inclusion of other cultural activities"—literary, musical, etc. Such a festival, held annually (possibly in the May vacation) at a different college from those who are to be Tournament hosts for the year, would furthermore allow the Drama Clubs to stage more ambitious productions than has been possible with a necessarily limited Tournament cast, and thus answer a long-felt grievance of the drama followers in our universities.
Once this festival has been established on a firm footing it would then be possible to consider with a more kindly eye the entry of new sports into the Tournaments. While the practical difficulties of staging a separate festival may appear insurmountable, it is believed that the experienced organisation now existing in every college to deal with the present Tournaments is fully capable of dealing with the extra work involved if this idea was put into practice. The time for the consideration of such a proposal as this is now"—we cannot afford to let the present problems increase until one college finally finds itself unable to cope with the ever-growing burden that comes from being the host college to the University Tournament.
V.U.C. and Tournament
V.U.C. Tournament teams have remained for many years an enigma to their supporters. They have, to misquote Ken Phillips (Spike, 1954), scaled their Everests in one year and explored their Mindanao deeps in the next. But never, as far as can be ascertained, has any team descended so low as that which represented Victoria at the 1957 Easter Tournament. Our team scored six points (made up as follows: Cricket, 3 1/2; tennis and boxing, 1; rowing, 1/2) compared to the 44 1/2 points gained by the winners, Otago University.
We have quite a record at winning the wooden spoon at Easter, and, no doubt, there are many apologists who have defended their home team against the verbal onslaughts of fellow students from other colleges and other days. I trust that I may be excused if I use this space to reiterate two of the arguments offered in the past by our Easter Tournament teams and examine their validity.
Probably the favourite is "it's just the bottom point of a cycle, next year will see us at the top." It must be obvious by now that this procrastinating argument has never, and will never, bear any fruit. Can supporters of this theory explain away, without reference to Toynbee, a cycle that has continually brought Victoria to the bottom? The second popular excuse is "lack of adequate facilities""—one which is an old favourite of the Athletic Club. No one would doubt that this College has been singularly unfortunate in not having a training ground of its own, but will the new Te Aro Park prove to be the panacea of all their ills? We cannot say page 47 at this stage what measure of success may be attained by our athletes in the future"—but I believe that something more is necessary in all our sports clubs if they are to climb up out of the depths into which many of them have foundered in the past"—and not only climb out, but slay out.
It is probably a truism to state that no sports club, or for that matter any organised body at all, can operate successfully unless it can satisfactorily comply with two main necessities"—support from club members and a leavening of that indescribable element, club spirit. The question may well be asked, how many sports clubs at Victoria have either of these in any large measure? Some have the first but not the second and others vice versa, but in practically every case it is from a small bunch of club stalwarts that the support and spirit comes. Club support is founded, to a large degree, on the numerical strength of the club and on the extent to which every individual is encouraged to give his best to the club, both in performance and in a co-operative capacity. Every club must first set out on an active plan of recruitment. Does your club publicise its activities so as to bring them to the notice of new students? Do you make personal contacts with intending students, informing them of the opportunities that exist inside your club and the university sporting community in general? Have you made any concrete arrangements in the past for specialised training by reputable and recognised coaches? These are all important points; having members is obviously the first requirement for having a club; having many members, all sharing in the activity of the club, would then be the lead to a greater corporate life. Linked very closely with the numerical strength of the club must be the feeling of belonging held by every member. In at least one major sports club in this College there is evidence that there is some kind of social distinction between senior and junior players. The elders drink and mix together while the newer and younger members are forced to make their own social life. How can any club achieve the important elements of a corporate existence, feelings of mutual support and a vibrant club spirit while such conditions prevail? I would urge that all officers give greater care to the organisation of social activities in which all club members can participate.
I would never claim that the points made above will win the Tournament for Victoria next year or in any year. But the ingredients of personal ability and experience, hard training and fitness, good coaching and wise personal discipline, added to the firm basis of numerical strength and a club spirit, would produce a far more palatable mixture than the burnt offerings of the past.
Rugby in the University
It was not unnatural that eventually the New Zealand University Rugby Football Council would become so powerful a body that it would dictate to the New Zealand University Students' Association terms on which N.Z.U. Blues would be awarded to N.Z.U. Rugby players and on the eligibility of its teams for both national and international matches. Rugby, being as it is the national pastime of the majority of New Zealand males and therefore financially rewarding to the bodies which control the sport, is big business. When last year the N.Z.U. team played the Springboks it was believed that the acme of high places had been reached. When, however, they succeeded in defeating this formidable touring side nothing more could be said to praise the brilliance of the players and the foresight of their administrators in arranging this match.page 48
The result of this rise to power was to make N.Z.U.R.F.C. laugh in the face of a request by N.Z.U.S.A., officially the controlling body of university sport in this country, that the eligibility of N.Z.U. Rugby touring sides should be the same as for Winter Tournament. This year, in view of the proposed N.Z.U. Rugby tour of Australia, the question is of more than academic importance. The basic question to be answered is this"—are N.Z.U. Rugby players to be treated in any way differently from the rest of the University sportsmen in this country?
Action must be taken by N.Z.U.S.A. to prohibit the sending away of an N.Z.U. Rugby touring team which includes players who are not at present studying at a university or university college. The New Zealand Rugby Union, following questioning on this matter from Mr. T. Pearce of the Auckland Rugby Union, met with the executive of the N.Z.U.R.F.C. We don't know what the results were of this meeting, but we can conjecture that the Rugby Union members have been convinced that N.Z.U.R.F.C. were in the right. A letter from N.Z.U.S.A. informing the New Zealand Rugby Union that it does not consider a team which inclures non-students as a bona fide representative team would be in order at this stage.
In spite of their financial position and their national support, the New Zealand University Rugby Football Council must not be allowed to run rings round N.Z.U.S.A. That body has a duty to its other members to take action on this matter.
E. A. Woodfield
It Is Significant that the most popular and most widely remembered lyric from the 1954 Extravaganza is the neatly ironic number "Botanical Garden Rakes." Old Extrav. diehards may have been a little puzzled at the success of this number; but for the fresher, just new to the chorus line, it fitted smoothly into what he thought was probably the only pattern of Extravaganza presentation. The music for the "Botanical Garden Rakes" was taken from a new American musical comedy Guys and Dolls; its theme was not political but more broadly satirical. What is more, its presentation was by two performers who were at all times sober and, more significantly, the polish of its production gave some hint that Extravaganza over the next few years was not going to be like the "good old days."
The years 1955 to 1957, the period of our summary, have shown the ascendancy of production over script, and for Extravaganza's sake perhaps this has been a good thing. Taking as our standard the clever writing of the late 1930's, the modern Extravaganza script writer has more and more displayed the tendencies of limited talent. We have replaced satire with burlesque, ignored allegory for the easier occasional pieces of wit in a roughly localised scene. What has been sacrificed has been the sharp light of the spirit of Aristophanes. Now, when we want to strike out at public affairs or public themes we do so only occasionally, and then only after we have prepared the way by giving the audience a colourful background such as page 49 the Taj Mahal or a Western saloon, with jokes and chorus to match. The purist may have something when he complains that the modern Extravaganza lacks form; and perhaps those responsible should not ignore his suggestions that we split our talent and present a revue instead of the present mixture of colour, burlesque, variety acts and occasional satire.
To change the present form of Extravaganza would take a lot of courage. Most of us are content to see it remain as it is because, of course, we have always the Oxford Dictionary definition to fall back on"—"Extravaganza"—a fantastic composition." It might be that we should extend our limited talents to the old idea of brainy topical satire, interspersed with first class humorous ballets. But even if we could, would the box office (and the Executive) allow us to? The intellectual climate of Gilbert has disappeared; the spirit of Aristophanes is a little chilly for the newly upholstered opera house. The warm bond that the audience and the present-day cast of Extravaganza seem to enjoy, comes only from the mutual recognition of the "humour in your lap" spirit that musical comedy, the wireless with Take it from Here and The Goon Show has made so easy for us. It is only because the Extravangaza cast is a little less lazy and complacent than the audience that the battle of the footlights has been won by the students and for the last four years the evenings have been "V.U.C.'s".
The cast and talent available since 1954 has never been so strong, and perhaps never so embarrassing for a producer. Whether continuity is sacrificed or not, he has felt that each gifted player must be given a "spot""—thus the presence of a loosely-knitted ship's concert or a series of screen tests. Not that the available needed any testing: the studied nonchalance of Hutchison and Crowe, the "immortal brass" of Rosemary Lovegrove, the petite 1930 quality of Sylvienne Cockburn, the music hall accent of Homewood and Ferrers, the freakish versatility of Ted Schroder. All these threads of talent have been held together by the straight solidity of baritone Dennis Brown and the increasingly polished work of larger choruses and male ballets. Nor have there been so many blemishes caused by alcohol stains, a fact which has no doubt strengthened the audience enjoyment of a show, even if the cast's has been lessened. Some may complain that Extravaganzas are now too pat, too predictable and lacking in any real capping procession spirit. But it is far more satisfying to know that, in the constant warfare between players and audience, the member of the modern Extravaganza cast has a clearer view of the target and a steadier aim. He may not always hit the bull's eye, but at least he himself is not half shot before he begins to fire.
Whatever is said of the Extravaganza cast of the middle fifties must be linked with the most significant part of our summary"—the raised standard of production. And our remarks on this aspect must begin with one name"—Bill Sheat. Bill came on to the producer's platform when Extravaganza was definitely in the doldrums. His first step was to make rehearsing conditions happier: we moved from the Upper Gym to the Little Theatre and on Sundays "took our tea" in the Students' Association cafeteria. His second step was to convince everyone that no cast"—however competent"—could be just thrown on the stage and be expected to make a show. The producer of Extravaganza also became its director. Dialogue, chorus movements, smooth scene changes, lighting, sound effects and the set received more attention than they had during the previous years. The student could not altogether dispense with the super intelligence praised by a past producer, Dave Cohen, but at least he page 50 went on stage secure in the knowledge that it would take more than the frequent Extravaganza explosion or ad lib to put him off his stride. Bill also introduced tunes from little-known modern musical comedies. This impressed the audience with a new sophistication and gave Extravaganza a fresh and brilliant"—original"—musical air. Front of house changed a little"—dinner suits, no haka party, no interval show. Only the traditional pointed darts which sail from the gallery to the proscenium curtain unsettled the staid atmosphere.
Statisically speaking, during 1955, 1956 and 1957 there have been surprisingly enough three Extravaganzas. '55 saw The Happy Squanderers, produced by Bill Sheat (from a script by Jim Hutchison, Gavin Loe, and others). The production was not as strong as '54's but the script was wittier and made full use of the meaty, topical events of the period"—especially the Compton case. Features of this show were the Extravaganza debut of Sylvienne Cockburn, the Taj Mahal set, the Carmen Jones operetta, and the House of Representatives scene. In '56 came The Seven Year Switch produced by Ian Rich from a script and lyrics by Ian Rich and others. The writing for this show was a little stale and aimed perhaps too much towards the non-intellectuals in the gallery. Even after the many irrevelancies were forgotten, the plot was not always clear, and too full of private and nauseating symbolism. What gave this show its financial profit was the talented cast and, in all humbleness, the production which at times attained a certain pace and brightness. 1957 brought a maturer script from an old Extravaganza hand, Frank Curtin. His work was afterwards named Up the Poll, and adapted and produced by Bill Sheat and Ian Rich. The beauty"—could we be highbrow and say "formal beauty""—of this year's show was that it had a plot that was reasonably clear and coherent"—a double blessing as the cast was not brilliant enough to maintain a loosely-knit and spasmodic one. The production was greatly helped by Derek Homewood as Cecil Candy who brightened the first half, which was slow to warm up.
1955 and 1957 revived the habit of taking Extravaganza on tour"—this time to Hastings. Both shows made money for a local charity, which arranged billets for the cast, football matches and visits to the local hospital. To take a show on tour is a large undertaking and a venture rarely thought of by other University Colleges. V.U.C.'s Extravaganza does it without a qualm; and the reason for this is its smiling quality of showmanship. This may sound a little pretentious, but who else would gaily open its show at an ill-equipped theatre like the Lower Hutt Town Hall, proceed to Wellington and then announce to a dumbfounded public that "because of public demand" the show will have a 5 o'clock matinee before its last evening's performance? What producer of any other capping concert would arrange an elaborate curtain call for the author who has travelled all the way down from Hamilton? And what other author opens and closes his show with extravagant praise for his own brain-child?
Showmanship is linked with self-confidence; and with this aspect in mind we must ask ourselves "whither Extravaganza?" This year's tour to Hastings was a little disappointing in that the performances of the show were not up to scratch. There was a general air of smugness and both cast and technicians were guilty of dangerous complacency. It seems that at the moment we are riding on the crest of a wave, but the results will be catastrophic for 1958 if the swell changes unnoticed to a crippling backwash. Old hands of course are always retiring; but will next year's company be imbued with the necessary spirit of hard work? One of the page 51 easiest ways of insuring the continuity of a tradition is strong and competent administration. But this year's has shown signs of breaking down"—in quite simple matters too. For example, on the way back to Wellington it was noticed that the large advertising banner still fluttered across the main street of Hastings. This state of affairs was quickly dealt with"—until it was discovered that all previous efforts were foiled because the administration had failed to arrange for a pair of wire cutters. Everyone embarked and the buses accelerated towards Wellington. The proud banner proclaiming Extravaganza 1957 was left behind"—in an untidy heap at the foot of a telegraph pole.
Is there something symbolic in this?
G. I. Rich
If You Look at one, you can't mistake it for anything else. It can be defined, it's a phenomenon you can put your finger on. Webster calls it "Any march or parade, especially formal." The Pocket Oxford, on the other hand, suggests, "An array of persons going along a fixed route, on foot or otherwise, in religious rites, celebrations, political demonstrations, etc." Full marks to the Pocket Oxford, written by University men, for Procesh has been all of these.
Let us, then, take our finger off the phenomenon and see what we can find in the phenomena for 1955, 1956 and 1957.
Procesh for '55 was cancelled early on the morning of Capping Day"—all there was to show for it was a pile of bills and a heap of washed-out wreckage on the tennis courts. Oh"—and one other thing, an elephant, hastily mocked up by the Zoo. Department, last seen trying to force its scrim and supplejack bulk in at the backstage entrance of the Opera House. This writer believes that its harmless intention was to take Ark from the high winds and soaking rain. So much for 1955; some maintain we made up for it in other ways.
In 1956, the first year of "Pressure-build," fifteen floats took the road, along with some walking exhibits, especially a giant sexopus snatched from the stygian shades of Cook Strait by Doctor Rikadi whose work on the declining birth rate in Scotland is well known in concentric circles and the Zoo. Department. There were no fewer than two bands in attendance, the Weir Herelanders with pipe and drum, and a mixed bax of unwholesome instrumentalists from the Society for the Perpetuation of the Education Department.
Which reminds me ... Training College people have shown considerable enterprise in the last two years, and have never failed to take their place among the small, but redoubtable band that rallies round, albeit at the last minute, to make Some Thing of Procesh.
The traditional ten minutes was observed up at Girls' College, the pimpled daughters of our race screaming and thrashing at us as we passed, the Junior Mistresses ("Wan victims of unattempted rape") standing in the doorways, never page 52 quite knowing whether or not one of our nubile young men would suddenly vault off the tray, and leaping up the College steps, make an example of them all.
There were the Royal New Zealand Mounted (Bicycle) Police; there were letters to the paper, an infallible guide to the success of any venture"—I believe Procesh for 1956 was a success despite whatever the editors of "Salient" had to say about it.
This year there were again fifteen floats, but no bands, and a slightly higher standard of float construction. Big crowds turned out in spite of the cold snap, and we welcomed the addition of several City Corporation Transport machines that elbowed their way in.
The float builder, during the last three years, has been an improvisor at all times, and for this reason there is always a welter of invention and fancy, coupled with a complete lack of shape and form in joyous, unpremeditated result. Only if "Pressure-building" is scrapped and each group begins work a week before the Day can this lack of cohesion be resolved. The Zoo. Department has an enviable organisation that other groups would do well to study. Better use could be made of the types who can use a paint brush. A good deal could be gained if there were fewer bodies on the floats.
I'm happy to report, however, that Procesh has lost most of its "mobile pornographic broadsheet" flavour, and that privy humour has decreased considerably. There has been no need for censorship in the last few years.
It's been suggested that a Procesh Committee should be formed to inject more vigour into our organisation, but it remains up to the small groups to make any real improvement in standards. After all, where would the producers of Extrav. Be if it weren't for the people who come round year after year and give Extrav. The excellent backing it has. Anyway, that's how it seems to this pair of eyes.
Exhume the bones where he lies dead,
And thereby have Causation;
Unless it prove that in his stead
There lies a poor relation.
But if he lives, why then assume
No necessary link
Between the immortal Mr Hume
And that which caused him not to think.
Weir House is unique in Wellington in being the only male residential hostel for university students catering in full for their needs. For most of the four years I spent in Weir House things ran smoothly, except of course for such incidents as complaints about the food which may arise in any hostel. But the internal organisation as well as the external organisation, i.e., the Management Committee, a subcommittee of the Victoria College Council, all worked fairly well as far as we knew, although John Marchant, President of the House Association in 1954, did say that his few meetings with the Management Committee left him just short of frustration.
In 1956 residents began complaining about the whole economy of the House and decided at one stage to stop paying board on the event of an increase of the weekly rate, the second in three years. It was considered unjustified to increase the fees without being provided with better conditions in return. There is a fallacy in this argument, however, if, as the Management Committee explained, the rise in fees was to maintain the then state of economy. An increase could not therefore justifiably be expected to provide better conditions than were before offered if the rise was to offset increased costs and to keep what we were already getting.
The proportions that the argument reached were such as to goad the Selection Committee into carrying out a drastic revision of the tenure of residence by each student. At a later stage in that year a number of fourth year students were confidently looking forward to returning to the House for the 1957 session, but as applications from senior students began to be turned down, it appeared that "purgative" measures were being taken as a result of the so-called "revolt" which received publicity in the city newspapers. The policy was now to admit more freshers in the new session at the expense of senior students. Now the House supports a large number of first year students, a considerable number of second year and a handful of third year students. It is understood that next year it is proposed to eliminate third year residents.
It had once been fervently hoped that the number of senior residents would be increased and that eventually a full-time warden and perhaps resident tutors would be installed, and so make Weir approximate to overseas students hostels. Now, under the present system, there will no longer be a graduate in the House, and the responsible President of the Weir House Association will be a resident who has had at the most one year's residence, similarly his committee. The manifold affairs of the House in past years have absorbed a great deal of energy from senior students.
It is not easy to tabulate the reasons for having a good proportion of senior students residing in Weir House, nor is it easy to estimate tangible and material results of their stay in the House. It is easy to say that "fresher" students will have the guidance and example of older students to follow"—if they will, and if such guidance and example is worthy. The value of the association indicated lies more, I think, in communication"—interchange of ideas, interests, hopes and experiences"—and in the subsequent development of tolerance and friendly approach to other individuals. Students with the opportunity to stay in the House for four years or page 54 more would be more likely to develop such qualities, in their adjustments to an influx of new students at the beginning of each year and varying degrees of acquaintance and friendship with students nearer their own age group. Such a system is also advantageous for the continuity of administration in student affairs which is a desirable feature in any organisation. Those students who, on the other hand, know that their stay will be only one or two years, or more, would be inclined to regard Weir as a half-way house.
It may of course be fairly maintained that those who have had up to two years in the security of the House will be able to find new accommodation after a period in the city, and that the more students to be given this break in Weir House, before being turned out into the city to make their own way, the better. Such a policy may be of benefit to a number of students but it will be of no benefit to the fostering of a communal academic life to enable some of the best students to develop desirable qualities provided for by such association in Weir House. There are also reasons, as we have seen, of keeping the House free from older students who may have the opportunity of interfering with the preserves of the management of the House after some good experience of it, particularly, I might mention, advanced accountancy students. ...
The accommodation problem in Wellington is not an easily solved one. As far as the building of another hostel is concerned, the task is one for the Government because of the astronomical costs involved"—who today is likely to leave as much as did our benefactor Mr. William Weir for the erection of a student hostel? Weir House itself however can be enlarged"—there is the ground and there are, presumably, the original plans which were for a more extensive building than that which was actually built There is also a substantial amount of capital left after the original purpose was in part achieved.
There is so much to be done for the university all at once in the way of building. At the present time there is a new block in progress costing half a million pounds, but which will still not solve the building programme of the college, and there is the subsidy promised for the Student Union building. At the same time surety more living accommodation is required from students for outer areas, and there appears to be no immediate provision made for this urgent need. Victoria College, with its roll of something like 2,500 students, provides expensive accommodation for only 95 male students; girls' hostels run independently cater for a smaller number of women students.
But for Weir House itself the question is whether it should be a half-way house with a rapid turnover for as many students as possible for only a one-year or two-year period of residence, or a residential hostel providing for students selected mainly for their academic ability, and designed to give them the best opportunity to make the most of their talents. I prefer the latter answer, but the result will depened, in the last resort, on the direction in which the University is looking.
D. G. Jamieson
The Middle Ages placed great reliance
On Aristotle, the Father of Science"—
Unfortunately, contemporary sages
Place small reliance on the Middles Ages.