Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973
Past Arts Festivals
Past Arts Festivals
The original idea of Arts Festivals seems to have been inter-university cultural competition (up till five years ago it was part of Winter Tournament). Each university sent a play or two, bridge teams, chess teams, debating teams, and festival-goers were given rock concerts, folk concerts, debates, forums, art and photo exhibitions, films, dances and the like to choose from. The thing was mainly a large number of small groups putting on presentations for a vast non-participant audience — in short, a gargantuan ready-cooked feast spoon-fed to you. Though "Participation!!" was often the catch word in the past, there was in fact little; more than enough entertainment and spectacle was laid on, leaving festival-goers small opportunity to actually participate in anything.
There was a sharp division between performers, who were often subsidised by their home university, and mere spectators, who paid their way entirely. Performers might see little of the rest of the Arts Festival: for instance, someone involved in drama production might spend two days moving in and rehearsing, two days playing, and then find he didn't have much of the week left.
Arts Festival grew steadily larger and more awkward; not only from the point of view of the festival-goer who might have to travel miles between one venue and the next, but also from the organisers' point of view. The whole enterprise was becoming too vast, cumbersome and costly, and registration fees were consequently force dup, partly because of inflation, partly because more activities existed to be subsidised.
The multitude of activities and the distance between venues meant that there was far too much for one person to see even what he wanted to see. And here lies the principle of the Arts Festival as opposed to a festival of a particular art: not only to enable communication and exchange of ideas in each field, but also to broaden people's cultural horizons, and promote inter change and cross-fertilisation between the different arts. At Auckland in 1972, for example, a drama freak could spend almost all of his time at plays, to the exclusion of the rest of the Festival. Thus people remained with their own narrow cliques and interests, and the unity and intercommunication of the festival was lost.