The visit to Blackball by the Waitati Brigade was a community ’happening’. The script was simple: Blackball had stolen their teapot which contained precious secrets and they had come to claim it back. This required the formation of a Blackball Brigade, with uniforms, chants, haka, speeches and weaponry (flour bombs, paper swords, a catapult, a cardboard tank) for the mock battle. Strategy had to be devised as well.
Thursday night and Saturday morning were times of preparation. Waitati had arrived by then and were able to assist with techniques for sword making and the like. They belittled our sausages, we belittled their politics. This was mana for the kids of course. And the dogs were not disinterested.
The battle duly proceeded and a scripted finale of two Blackball hostages being taken by alien supporters of Waitati resulted in their victory and the reclaiming of their teapot.
The whole thing was great fun and reminded me of the work of the UK group, Welfare State, who were active from the 1960s through to the 1980s. They traveled the world facilitating this sort of community event; sometimes there was a political edge, when, for example, they devised a show for a town that relied for its economy on building Trident submarines. Welfare State specialised in giant puppets made from newspaper, carpet glue, bamboo and gaffer tape. Dependent on grants, like most community-based work, they were booted out by neo-liberalism, for their work (and there were other similar companies) was an attempt to take back community culture from the money people, from the event companies, from the commodifiers of everything.
Saturday’s event was raw, hands on carnival, and there were no stalls, nothing to sell or buy, no sausage sizzles, no car boot sales, there was no money changing hands – a wonderful relief.
Afterward I wandered home dusting the flour off of my medieval cloak, feeling content.
It had been a moment’s break from the hegemony of capital.
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