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Smallest School hosts Largest Festival

Smallest School hosts Largest Festival

The 2008 ASB Polyfest, which takes place at the Manukau Sports Bowl from 12 – 15 March, sees the smallest host school in the 32 year history of the event, host the largest festival ever staged. With 360 students, Wesley College is the 2008 host school for a festival that will involve 9000 performances and crowds of 80,000 people during its four day duration.

The upcoming festival is the largest ASB Polyfest staged, with 200 cultural groups entered for the first time, from 66 secondary schools across the Auckland region.

In looking at the challenge ahead, the principal of Wesley College, Ian Faulkner said “we are the smallest school to ever attempt to host this huge event. We current have 360 students (318 boys and 42 girls) including two on exchange to us from Kamehameha High School in Hawaii”

The role of Wesley College as the festival host school is a varied one, and in the words of Ian Faulkner includes – “being the host to the organising committee (komiti whakahaere), confirming budget decisions, liaise with the event managers regarding decisions such as the theme for the festival, responsibility for the powhiri, and all matters to do with the Maori stage. We will greet and host the Governor General at this Polyfest – a significant and welcome visit to this huge celebration of Maori & Pacific Culture.”

The ASB Polyfest features traditional music, dance, costume and speech and is now recognised as an important showcase of New Zealand’s diverse cultures, celebrating youth performance.

In describing the importance of the festival to secondary school students, Ian Faulkner said – “the ASB Polyfest is the biggest and most celebrated opportunity for young people to identify with and display their cultural taonga.”

“The competitive nature of the event raises the passion and energy of the performers to the extent that the very best quality of speeches, songs and dances are brought forward for the public to appreciate and for the individuals and groups involved to gain huge pride in who they are and where they’ve come from.”

“The discipline involved in learning the various routines and in conforming to expected patterns of behaviour helps young people to realise the need for commitment and perseverance in order to reach the standard required to become a winner in this festival and in life”.

In looking at the importance of the festival to Wesley College, Faulkner said – “Our school is about 95% Polynesian, so the ASB Polyfest plays a very significant role in programming the first term. The commitment shown by our students and the tutoring staff has been immense but the spin-off has been to enable aspiring leaders to emerge and talent’s to be identified that would otherwise be missed in a ‘normal’ school day.”

“The night prior to the festival opening we have a Fiafia Night at which all groups in the school contribute to an amazing spectacle of song, dance, haka and waiata to which we get upwards of 500 spectators. Our recreation centre becomes our huge performance auditorium in which to celebrate the efforts of all our cultures, even if they have not entered in the ASB Polyfest.”

In looking at the preparation that the cultural groups from Wesley College put into the ASB Polyfest, Ian Faulkner said that - “From about four weeks out from the festival the college campus echoes to the sounds of drums, hakas and songs late into the evening, almost every night. Weekend ‘live in’s’ at our whare have enabled the close bonding of our Maori performers with those from Waiuku College, who we are doing a combined Maori performance with this year. The woodwork shop buzzes to the sound of saws and sanders, creating the ‘bats’ for the Tongan performers, and groups can be seen plaiting or weaving the Tongan skirts or manafu. The art department has much cutting, gluing and painting going on to produce the Tongan hats for the Kailao. So the festival pretty much absorbs the whole school into its preparation and performance.”

The public can experience the 2008 ASB Polyfest for the admission of only $3, at the Manukau Sports Bowl from 12 – 15 March.

The first major role for host school Wesley College will be at the Powhiri on Wednesday, 12 March. They will be involved with the flag raising at 7am, and then the school will perform a large kapa haka for the Powhiri which starts at 9am.


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