Tag Archives: wellington sevens

The Carnival Is


For the last week I’ve had a very persistent earworm; The Carnival Is Over by The Seekers. It’s because I’m working on the Wellington Sevens and the only story/topic of conversation is who killed the event and how dead is it? I’ve asked strangers, colleagues and rugby enthusiasts all week if they’re going and they either laugh or scornfully say no!

The party is over and no one’s keen to go to something so uncool.

Who killed it? An editorial in the DomPost said ‘don’t blame the fun police’. (I like the idea of fun police… better than un-fun police).

I could give a well-reasoned answer to what’s behind the demise, but as I work on the event my lips are contractually sealed (across all media). But I’m a writer so I must find wiggle room to engage.

This is my 10th event. That’s a lot of being at the centre of 30,000 people in full carnival mode. Dressing up, undressing, cross-dressing (but only males), full mask, partial mask, getting hammered/tweaked, singing, dancing (only females) with work colleagues, friends, family and strangers. I’ve seen it’s at its peak. It was wonderful, and awful.

February 2008 (my first Sevens) was a different world. I was in an empty house in a new city with a pregnant partner I had known for less than a year and the Global Financial Crisis was about to smash into us.

Whatever happens this weekend, as an on-field comms tech I shall continue to get paid to turn off very fit, hot sweaty men (and the occasional woman). I’m an okay de-fluffer. It’s better than having to turn them on, I suppose, but isn’t that the point of Carnival?

The train is passing the stadium. The conductor has just said ‘bing-bong bing-bong!’ on the intercom and welcomed us into Wellington. Everyone is in good humour. Game day is on.


Confessions of a De-Fluffer       Ghosts of Sevens Past

Ghosts of Sevens Past

I’ve just completed my second day setting up for New Zealand’s biggest dress-up party/bacchanal (which features a little rugby on the side).


Te News-style Billy T Jameses(s) 2010

I wrote it about last year it in my Confessions of a De-fluffer post (at least, I attempted to before the 35,000 revellers overloaded the cell-towers attempting to hook-up with each other, post selfies to InstaBook and hashtag ‘groupies’ to TinderSnap).


An interesting costume can provoke interaction 2009

So if you’re unfamiliar with what I do give that a look as this post is covering slightly different ground. It’s not an explanation of the Wellington Sevens or which team is ahead on the points table, it’s a look back at some of the photos I’ve snapped from the sideline over the last eight years as I marvelled at the bizarre sight of one of the least dressy-up societies in the world dressing up (as opposed to the usual down), albeit for a weekend.


Where I hang 2012

Essentially, my job is to turn referees off at the end of a game. Not hard given my advancing years (and the exposed flesh of the revellers). I’m paid well for it because if I get it wrong then the world ends (at least, in terms of live TV sport which, as everyone knows, is more important than brain surgery). Of course, I am belittling my skills, but that is the droll nature of those who work in sound.


Dress for all conditions 2010

But the crowd doesn’t really interest my TV/soundie mind, it’s the writer in me who is intrigued; the student of history and religion and drama (with a particular interest in festivals and display where the normal rules of society are inverted and people are given licence to behave in ways that cause scorn or incarceration on any other day of the year).


Always a pack of Smurfs in the house 2009


Things hot up in 2013


Year of the Black Swans 2011

After eight years standing on the sideline in rain and shine, it seems that there are basically only a handful of costume options. Like Carnival and Halloween there are the usual suspects of straight-out-of-the-box Superheroes and/or slutty fill-the-blanks (exposed flesh is important for both genders). There are also very straight men (in both senses of the term) taking the opportunity to cross-dress (while cross-dressing women seem rare). There are also large groups of people dressing en-masse, which can be quite effective visually (this option also gives the unconfident somewhere to hide).


How many Adam & Eves(s) does it take…? 2013

But what catches my eye are the lateral thinkers who create a visual pun or seize on a pop culture reference of the day.


Home-made Bucket fountain 2009


Passionate Susan Boyles 2009


Them Crazy Horses won them 7,000 bucks in 2011

Of course, there are also some people who go to watch rugby in a form that is so TV friendly it will debut at the Olympics in Rio next year, but they are a fast-dwindling minority. So much so that an event that up two years ago sold all 35,000 tickets in minutes, still has 14,000 tickets unsold the day before kick off.


Everyone loves the Kenyan team 2011

Why is this?


They know exactly what’s going on 2012

The media is full of theories but my 2 cents would be that it has fallen foul of its success. That is, like a lot of human endeavour, what made it strong has proven its greatest weakness. Because people go to dress up (and piss-up) many find it unappealing.


Fun for the whole family  (& the rarely spotted cross-dressing woman)  2012


You may meet a player 2013


Scored a Frenchie! 2013

Yes there are other factors, but from where I stand singing along to songs that nearly 40,000 voices know

Alice, Alice…who the fuck is Alice?

We found love in a hopeless place/ We found love in a hope-less place

All I can think is I’m glad they pay me to be there.


Not the sort of visual pun I meant 2012

Confessions of a De-Fluffer

I’m on the train to the Wellington Sevens, which is a 2-day carnival of dress-ups punctuated by watching a little bit of rugby (in its shortened form).
I’m not participating in the festive atmosphere but will be standing in the middle it, as I have done for the last 7 years, watching the 30,000 grown-ups act in way quite foreign to New Zealand at any other time.
This blog will be an attempt to say something about this event which none of the plethora of other blogs observe or say.
This may be my greatest writing challenge as all sports events tend to generate maximum cliche.
So, here we go, the train is pulling into Wellington. Let the sun & silliness begin!


2 hours until the first of the 24 games kicks off and it’s pretty quiet in the stadium. All of my equipment is checked and ready to go. Of course, if there are going to be problems, they will pop up close to kick-off when all electrical and RF equipment is running. It’s happened before and since rogue RF is hard to track down (it will usually come from an unaccredited TV crew sneaking in & switching on a mic, or a dodgy taxi parked outside) it results in a big panic as the 30 or so match officials listening to our system rush up to tell me the comms aren’t working.
You have to be an adrenaline junkie to thrive in such situations where hours of boredom are punctuated by minutes of sheer terror (to use a war analogy).
In such situations I go very calm, in fact, calmer than I am in any other social situation. It’s a skill that’s helped me in various guises; playing music, acting on stage, being a TV soundie & working in sports comms.
So, what exactly is a de-Fluffer? Well, since I’m also a writer I shall keep that detail unexplained until we are underway.


5 mins to kick off. All systems go. First up, Scotland vs. Canada, 2 underdogs close to my heart. I have Scots roots & my daughter has Canadian. Not sure who to support. Maybe Canada, as they are the biggest/smallest underdogs (and their motto is ‘Canadian Rugby…BeLeaf’).


Well, the rest of yesterday’s attempt to blog was a bit of a washout. It turns out that touch screens don’t cope that well with rain, light or heavy, both of which dampened my sideline possie.

And while I could get into the players tunnel for a bit of shelter at times, I soon churned through my battery and couldn’t find a place to recharge. That said, even if it had stayed fine and my phone was capable of the days of charge our phones used to easily achieve, by the evening the stone age cell-phone/internet coverage at the CakeTin was at capacity making it impossible to even send a text.

This is probably one of the reasons attendances have slumped. People expect to be able to text their mates to hook up or post photos of themselves at the venue. It’s so bad that an Australian crew I worked at this venue with last year had been warned by previous visitors.

But I’m not here to grumble.

With the burning summer sun of the morning & the heavy rain of the afternoon, and 10 hours of being PAed by the latest singalong hits, I was pretty shattered by the time I got home at midnight.

After 6 hours sleep I’m back, ready for another day of shirt-lifting and de-Fluffing.