James Griffin

James Griffin writes The Final Word column in canvas magazine

Final word: In celebration of infrastucture

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Canvas columnist, James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell
Canvas columnist, James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell

In Auckland, we're in the middle of an Arts Festival. All over town there are actors, musicians, dancers and pornographic puppets doing their artistic business at myriad venues. We are embracing art in all its many and varied forms, which is, obviously, the point of an Arts Festival.

On top of that, as we hit festival overload here in festive Auckland, this week is the Pasifika Festival, where we celebrate our Pacific Island neighbours and peoples. This weekend, Auckland's fickle weather permitting, thousands upon thousands of Palagis and Polynesians will descend upon Western Springs to bathe in the cultures of many countries and eat icecream out of a coconut.

All of which leads me to wonder what you have to be to earn the right to have your own festival. Given that the word "festival" is most commonly associated with words and phrases like "music", "wine and food", "film", "readers and writers", "religious" and, in this case, "arts", it would seem that a festival generally celebrates the finer, more ethereal, more spiritual things in life.

But who say this has to be the rule? How come we don't have, for example, the Auckland Accounting Festival? Why can't we have a week (or probably only a weekend, given how notoriously efficient accountants are) where we, as a community, celebrate the joys of book-keeping? Just because something is inherently boring to normal people doesn't mean it shouldn't be celebrated festively. And, if the accountants I know are anything to go by, if you turned it into a Wine and Accounting Festival then it would truly go off - and would also, undoubtedly, come in on budget.

And what would be wrong with the Auckland Festival of Earthmoving? We could fill Aotea Square with, well, earth, then people could come along and watch them move it. Sure it'd track mud all through the inner city and lead to noise complaints from the surrounding locals, but little boys of all ages would totally get off on all that digger activity in the heart of the city, especially if they did that cool synchronised digger dancing. Sure, the underground carpark underneath Aotea Square would probably collapse under all this but, in a way, that would only add to the sense of occasion.

The Holy Festival of Pizza Delivery; the Auckland Key-cutters, Shoe Repairers and Lotto Outlets Festival; Poo-fest, a celebration of all things sewage; the possibilities for festive events that celebrate the things that are generally regarded as less-than-festive are endless. Instead of celebrating artistic talent, physical prowess, culinary skill and cultural identity, what is so wrong with the idea that we celebrate the things that make up most of the waking hours of the many and varied - and uncelebrated - heroes of day-to-day life? And I know for a fact there are thousands of small boys out there for whom Poo-fest would be their idea of a good day out.

And just as one last crazy idea, instead of an election this year, how about we hold a Festival of Politics? Instead of weeks of campaigning and rhetoric and all the bollocks that goes along with electioneering, how about we pack the whole thing into Saturday, November 26?

All over the country, in every town, in every electorate, any group wanting to be government would set up a stall in the nearest town square or primary school or church grounds. And at their stalls, as well as trying to sell their brand of politics, each party would also sell barbecued sausages, tasty baked treats and homemade craft items (thus paying their own campaign costs, instead of having to dip into the public purse).

The public will come to the Festival of Politics and will wander the grounds, eating the sausages-in-bread and nibble baked goods, buying strange crap they don't need. And then, on their way out of the festival, the public (at least, the registered voters of the public) will stop in at the polling stations, handily placed near the exits, where they will vote - based on who had the best stall, the best food and the best craft tat. Boom, bang, the entire election campaign over and done with in one family outing, plus the vote is based on real and tangible things (lamington quality; whether there are onions to go with the sausages; if there is cool stuff for sale rather than just the usual wooden toys and dream-catchers), rather than weeks of lies and false promises.

Thus, what was once suffering instead becomes a celebration. We so need more festivals in our lives - and some more public holidays (like Digger Day or Poo Day) on which to celebrate them would be good too.

- NZ Herald

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