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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 6. May 28, 1958

Arts Festival — Fancy Into Fact

Arts Festival

Fancy Into Fact

At the Easter Council meeting, N.Z.U.S.A. passed a motion approving in principle a plan for an Arts Festival to be held in Wellington in 1959, at an estimated outlay of about £750 and with a programme that will involve Victoria in a very large and detailed piece of organisation.

This motion is the latest link in a chain that has been long, hesitant and confused. The idea of an Arts Festival was put forward sometime last winter. It first crystallized at the Winter Tournament, where a preliminary report was presented, and Victoria issued a rather precipitate invitation to a festival to be held in Wellington this May. Progress was accelerated when from a shortage of billets, Drama and Debating were discarded from future Winter Tournaments, and obliged to find themselves a new shelter. But almost at once it became clear that there was little hope of organising an adequate festival without about eighteen months' notice, and, moreover, that such questions as the date, financing, and scope of the festival would have to be considered in much more detail. An interim committee set up at Vic. during the third term recommended to Exec. that it withdraw its invitation while it still could, and set up a further committee to prepare as detailed and factual report as possible to go before N.Z.U.S.A. the following Easter. This report was presented to Exec. last month; it is the report on which N.Z.U.S.A.'s decision was based.

The festival it recommends is rather different from the type of festival that was first envisaged. The first suggestions were to group together the one-act plays and the debating with one or two other homeless activities, to make up a programme which could run, perhaps, over a long weekend. Such a programme would not involve Exec. in any great financial risk, but the festival would be in danger of collapsing through lack of substance. The alternative seemed to be a festival large enough to obtain outside support; the Committee therefore approached the Principal and one or two other people (from the N.Z. Drama Council, the Community Arts Service, etc.) to sound out their reactions. The somewhat unexpected result emerged that there seemed to be at least as much interest and enthusiasm for our holding a festival from outside the student group as there was from inside it.

The C.A.S., who tour plays, exhibitions, etc., through the country towns, and form a valuable but under-publicized part of the University's work, would welcome the opportunity to take part in a festival since it would enable them to present their work in the city. There seemed every chance that we could expect a grant from Internal Affairs. We might also find sponsors from among the industrial and commercial firms—The English University Drama Festival, for example, is entirely sponsored by the "Sunday Times". Finally, Dr. Williams thought that, if the Festival was run as a "University Week", with the University on display to the public, we might obtain Council support up to several hundred pounds. For at that time (mid '59) the Student Union Building should be started, its campaign for funds under full swing, so that a successful festival could give it and the University the best possible publicity.

These ideas changed our perspective. Whatever might be the prospects of an Arts Festival in general, it looked as if there were particular reasons why Victoria should hold a festival in 1959, on a scale that perhaps could not be repeated in subsequent years, but which could give a large boost to public relations in a city where the University has never been enthusiastically accepted, and at a time when it could be particularly valuable. For one week at least, Wellington could be a University City, with its own University on display to the public, and the other Universities represented in the galleries, on the stage, and on the concert platform.

With the possibility of Council support, the scope and value of the work that could be included in the festival is considerably increased. To our own Little Theatre and Music Room, and the new Lecture Theatre in the Science Block, the Concert Chamber and even the Town Hall become suitable alternatives. The Jazz Club suggested booking the Town Hall one night for a jazz concert—a lucrative and acceptable idea. The Drama Societies would hold a season of three-act plays, with the chance of obtaining such producers as Ngaio Marsh, Dick Campion, and Professor Musgrove. To the best of my knowledge, this would be the first full-play festival ever to be held in New Zealand—an event of significance outside University circles. In fact, suggestions for the programme came in thick and fast; the problem will not lie in collecting items, but in selecting them.

It was this type of festival that the report recommended. It would involve a team of about 50 from each of the major Universities, which, with our own team, and perhaps the C.A.S., would mean the active participation of from two to three hundred people. Excluding fares (whose cost would be borne by competitors, subsidized, we hope, to the extent of 50% by their respective Universities) the total expenditure involved would be about £750; the major items are £300 for publicity, £150 for hiring the Town Hall and Concert Chamber, £100 for freight, and etc., etc., With subsidies of, say, £100 from Internal Affairs, £125 from our own Exec., and a covering grant from the Council, to be added to the income from door sales, the budget looks very sound. More details of the figures, of suggestions for the programme, and of the interviews, are listed in the report (although one or two of the items in it have since been revised).

But "fact" was an optimistic word to use. Even now, the whole plan is in imminent danger of foundering over a single vital detail—the date. And even if this is settled, the real battle—its organization—has not yet begun. The situation is still confused, progress is still hesitant, and there may still be many links to go. Nevertheless, one conclusion seems to emerge: the more detail in which the idea is considered, the more valuable and worthwhile it appears.