The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Thank god that’s over

by Tom on February 9, 2009 in Waterfront

I can’t claim to speak for all the Wellingtonista, but I have to say it: Sevens weekend is horrible. There’s a lot of gushy talk in the main media outlets about how colourful and vibrant and alive the city becomes, but one could say the same about a nasty fungal rash. Many of us who live in the central city can attest to how colourful and vibrant and alive the city is most of the time, and in an appealing, organic and independent way, but we found the CBD close to unbearable during the weekend.

What is it that appals us so much about this spectacle?

Let’s start with the aspects we don’t mind. The tournament itself is fine: we’re not necessarily against rugby, and it’s good to have a big international event in the city. It would be a bit rich for most of us to complain about the drinking, and we can all enjoy a bit of boisterous carousing. Debauchery, even. Most of us enjoy dressing up, some of us rather often. And I for one am not complaining about groups of well-put-together young ladies in skimpy outfits.

But it’s all just so very … naff. There’s a strong whiff of corporate teambuilding about it, of David Brent’s "MC Hammer shit" and the project-managed jollity of the office Xmas do. This is Carnival for people who think that Steinlager is a premium beer and are genuinely looking forward to a new Feelers album; who are happy to ditch the Rodd & Gunn for two days of wearing a hi-lar-ious $2-shop tutu but would shout "whaddarya?!" to anyone who dared to dress unconventionally in public any other day of the year.

True, there are some truly imaginative costumes every year, but why do many people still seem so amused by hordes of Flintstones and T-shirts that read "FBI (Free Breast Inspections)", after so many years? I think Robyn got it just right on one point: it’s the uniformity of the costumes that is so unheimlich; the "group costume [that] lets you dress up but not stand out". Safety in numbers, and the great Kiwi tradition of being "a team player", outweigh any chance of true expression.

Underneath that, there’s an undercurrent of aggression that is quite disturbing, a mix of frat-boy hazing and building-site catcalls that gets worse as the vomit and broken glass piles up. Mediaeval carnivals were undoubtedly heady events, and far from pretty, but the there are times when the Sevens is more Bosch than Breughel. I know that Denis Welch has brought out the Bacchic precedent, and while I’m not going to get all Bakhtin on you, I have to say that this is neither an overturning of established hierarchies (as in the northern European tradition) nor a lustily Latin celebration of the good life.

Which brings us to the Cuba Street Carnival, which is upon us in less than a fortnight. I’m looking forward to it, and hoping that my friends get into the spirit by dressing up for the party. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? Is it alright when hipsters and bohemians get dressed up and drunk, but not builders and accountants? Isn’t there more than a touch of intellectual snobbery in that?

Well, perhaps. I’m certainly more of a Cuba Street person than a Courtenay Place denizen, and the Sevens is Courtenay Place writ large, so of course my taste is more likely to run to the Carnival. And I’d dearly love to see Wellington celebrate music, art and dance at least as wildly as it does sport and bad beer. But I think there’s something more fundamental than that; something to do with the way that celebration and joy are or are not woven into the fabric of our lives.

If we don’t have a touch of creativity and sensuality in our daily existence, then squeezing it all into a couple of days will just create a forced and sorry mess. If, however, you seek out new tastes, rhythms, colours, friendships and adventures just a little bit every day, then on those special occasions when you collaborate to celebrate that together in the streets of your city, the results are going to be a hell of a lot sexier than a job-lot of slutty cowgirls and drooling oafs.

Tom Beard

On the Venn diagram of life, Tom lives in the vanishingly small intersection between data science, urban design, modular synthesis, writing, gastronomy and meteorology.

Joanna February 13, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Perhaps more of the spirit should have entered you?

noizyboy February 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I must admit I did not.


Perhaps I should have entered into the spirit of things a bit more.

noizyboy February 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I think that was the problem, yes.

captain snootty pants February 12, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Story title should read “Snooty wellington elites proclaim ‘we are too cool for the sevens'”. Y’know its waaay to corporate and mainstream. We bloggers are too busy listening to bands you haven’t heard of that play deliberately unmusical music at camp a low hum to go near something that has mass appeal.

clovenhoof February 13, 2009 at 10:53 am

But did you wee on the street in the middle of day?

noizyboy February 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

Could I point out at this point that I (Wellingtonista editor) not only attended the Sevens, but built the mobile website for it as well? 

Joanna February 13, 2009 at 9:59 am

Shoosh, you’re ruining our intellectual snobbery pants.


Kaz February 13, 2009 at 10:27 am

I’m comforted by the fact that ALL THE BLACK SEEDS MUSIC SOUNDS THE SAME… well done boys for producing yet another jam-packed album of up-strums… yawn… what do you have to say about that Mr Captain Snootty Pants…?!

Robyn February 12, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Yeah, Take That are so unpopular that they had a UK number one single only 10 weeks ago.

Should I be listening to Lady GaGa? Would that be acceptable?

captain snooty pants February 12, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Sorry Robyn. Should have said either listening to bands no one has heard of or bands that used to be top 40s a couple of years ago but now they aren’t popular anymore its ok to listen to them 🙂

kathy February 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Aces Robyn! Take That is the hotness.

stephen clover February 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm


ps. I went to One Love, but only to see Little Bushman, and also to diss on Black Seeds as loud and often as possible.

Robyn February 12, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Also for the record, I just spent the last hour or so listening to Take That videos on YouTube because I am so elitist and non-mainstream, etc.

Kaz February 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I love you. This is perfect. I am a snob. And I am looking forward to the Cuba St Carnival… and the Films by Starlight… and Monet and the Impressionists… and the Fringe Festival… and the Common Ground exhibition… and the Love and Guts exhibition… bliss…

Joanna February 12, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Ha, snap! And you should be listening to Lady GaGa, since I read an interview with her recently when she said that she doesn’t wear pants cos that way her grandma – who can only see light colours – can see her. And don’t even think of suggesting that  she wear light-coloured pants, cos everyone knows those are skanky,  

Robyn February 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

For the record, none of the Wellingtonista attended Camp A Low Hum (we feared our thighs would look huge in comparison to boys in Supre stovepipes) or One Love (we feared we’d get lost in a cloud of smoke and not be able to make our way back through the Mt Vic Tunnel).

Joanna February 12, 2009 at 11:19 pm

or bands that used to be top 40s a couple of years ago but now they aren’t popular anymore its ok to listen to them 🙂

Um, weren’t Take That one of the top-selling bands in the UK last year?  I mea, if we’re going to get all nit-picky up all in it.     

Robyn February 12, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Did you yell out "Where’s Brett?"?

Elizabeth Goodwin February 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

Our wise council has decided we’re the events city. We have to have huge parties full of drunk people to keep the wheels of commerce turning. The people of Wellington are irrelevant unless they run a bar. The sevens shows the world what a terrific place Wellington is – the bars, the costumes, the .. oh that’s all.

Phil February 12, 2009 at 11:23 am

We’ll meet in a bar called O’malleys and plan our escape.

(but surely the Irish 7’s supporters will be there already?!)

Marc February 11, 2009 at 8:39 pm

“…and getting caught in the rain…”

Johnny Boyo October 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

get fucked all of you cunts… the sevens is fun…whats wrong with having fun. so alot of people get silly pissed, but alot of people just have fun in the atmosphere of the whole place. No event in NZ like it

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