Dec 192016
 

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Today is the birthday (1940) of Philip David “Phil” Ochs, a US protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Ochs is not remembered much these days and was never as important in the UK where I was living through most of the Vietnam War as he was in the US, where he was definitely a major voice for protest. People like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez captured (and continue to capture) more of the spotlight, but for my money Ochs was a more heartfelt voice of protest, and – on this day at least – he deserves not to be forgotten.

Ochs performed at many political events during the 1960s counterculture era, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot.

I’ll begin with, arguably, his best known protest song. That is, if it is remembered at all.

Where is this voice now?

Phil Ochs was born in El Paso, Texas, to Jacob “Jack” Ochs, a physician who was born in New York and Gertrude Phin Ochs, who was born in Scotland. Jack, drafted into the army, was sent overseas near the end of World War II, where he treated soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. His war experiences affected his mental health and he received an honorable medical discharge in November 1945. Suffering from bipolar disorder and depression on his return home, Jack was unable to establish a successful medical practice and instead worked at a series of hospitals around the country. As a result, the Ochs family moved frequently: to Far Rockaway, New York, when Ochs was a teenager; then to Perrysburg in western New York, where he first studied music; and then to Columbus, Ohio.

As a teenager, Ochs was recognized as a talented clarinet player; in an evaluation, one music instructor wrote: “You have exceptional musical feeling and the ability to transfer it on your instrument is abundant.” His musical skills led him to play clarinet with the orchestra at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he rose to the status of principal soloist before he was 16. Although Ochs played classical music, he was interested in all manner of styles from Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. He also developed an interest in movie rebels, including Marlon Brando and James Dean.

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From 1956 to 1958, Ochs was a student at the Staunton Military Academy in rural Virginia, and when he graduated he returned to Columbus and enrolled at Ohio State University. After his first quarter he took a leave of absence and went to Florida. While in Miami, Ochs was jailed for two weeks for sleeping on a park bench, an incident he would later recall:

Somewhere during the course of those fifteen days I decided to become a writer. My primary thought was journalism … so in a flash I decided — I’ll be a writer and a major in journalism.

Ochs returned to Ohio State to study journalism and developed an interest in politics, with a particular interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959. At Ohio State he met Jim Glover, a fellow student who was a devotee of what was called “folk” music. [Hint: Dylan, Baez, Seeger et al are not folk singers]. Glover introduced Ochs to the music of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. Glover taught Ochs how to play guitar, and they debated politics. Ochs began writing newspaper articles, often on radical themes. When the student paper refused to publish some of his more radical articles, he started his own underground newspaper called The Word. His two main interests, politics and music, soon merged, and Ochs began writing topical political songs. Ochs and Glover formed a duet called “The Singing Socialists,” later renamed “The Sundowners,” but the duo broke up before their first professional performance and Glover went to New York City to become solo singer.

Ochs started performing professionally at a local club called Farragher’s Back Room and was the opening act for a number of musicians in the summer of 1961, including the Smothers Brothers. Ochs continued at Ohio State into his senior year, but dropped out in his last quarter without graduating. Instead he followed Glover to New York.

Ochs arrived in New York City in 1962 and began performing in numerous small nightclubs, eventually becoming an integral part of the Greenwich Village music scene. He emerged as an unpolished but passionate vocalist who wrote pointed songs about current events: war, civil rights, labor struggles and other topics.

Ochs described himself as a “singing journalist” saying he built his songs from stories he read in Newsweek. By the summer of 1963 he was sufficiently well known in folk circles to be invited to sing at the Newport Folk Festival, where he performed “Too Many Martyrs” (co-written with Bob Gibson), “Talking Birmingham Jam”, and “Power and the Glory”—his patriotic Guthrie-esque anthem that brought the audience to its feet. Ochs’s return appearance at Newport in 1964, when he performed “Draft Dodger Rag” and other songs, was widely praised. But he was not invited to appear in 1965.

Ochs recorded his first three albums for Elektra Records: All the News That’s Fit to Sing (1964), I Ain’t Marching Anymore (1965), and Phil Ochs in Concert (1966). On these records, Ochs was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. The albums contain many of Ochs’s topical songs, such as “Too Many Martyrs”, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, and “Draft Dodger Rag”; and some musical reinterpretation of older poetry, such as “The Highwayman” (poem by Alfred Noyes) and “The Bells” (poem by Edgar Allan Poe). Phil Ochs in Concert includes some more introspective songs, such as “Changes” and “When I’m Gone.”

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During the early period of his career, Ochs and Bob Dylan had a friendly rivalry. Dylan said of Ochs, “I just can’t keep up with Phil. And he just keeps getting better and better and better.” On another occasion, when Ochs criticized “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” Dylan threw him out of his limousine, saying, “You’re not a folksinger. You’re a journalist.”

Ochs deeply admired President John F. Kennedy, even though he disagreed with the president on issues such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the growing involvement of the United States in the Vietnamese civil war. When Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Ochs told his wife that he thought he was going to die that night.

In 1967, Ochs left Elektra for A&M Records and moved to Los Angeles. He recorded four studio albums for A&M: Pleasures of the Harbor (1967), Tape from California (1968), Rehearsals for Retirement (1969), and the ironically titled Greatest Hits (1970) (which actually consisted of all new material). For his A&M albums, Ochs moved away from simply produced solo acoustic guitar performances and experimented with ensemble and even orchestral instrumentation, “baroque-folk,” in the hopes of producing a pop-folk hybrid that would be a hit.

None of Ochs’s songs became hits, although “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” received a good deal of airplay. It reached #119 on Billboard’s national “Hot Prospect” listing before being pulled from some radio stations because of its lyrics, which sarcastically suggested that “smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer.” It was the closest Ochs ever came to the Top 40. Joan Baez, however, did have a Top Ten hit in the U.K. in August 1965, reaching #8 with her cover of Ochs’s song “There but for Fortune” which was also nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Folk Recording”. In the U.S. it peaked at #50 on the Billboard charts—a good showing, but not a hit.

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A lifelong movie fan, Ochs worked the narratives of justice and rebellion that he had seen in films into his music, describing some of his songs as “cinematic.” He was disappointed and bitter when his onetime hero John Wayne embraced the Vietnam War with what Ochs saw as the blind patriotism of Wayne’s 1968 film, The Green Berets:

Here we have John Wayne, who was a major artistic and psychological figure on the American scene, … who at one point used to make movies of soldiers who had a certain validity, … a certain sense of honor [about] what the soldier was doing…. Even if it was a cavalry movie doing a historically dishonorable thing to the Indians, even as there was a feeling of what it meant to be a man, what it meant to have some sense of duty…. Now today we have the same actor making his new war movie in a war so hopelessly corrupt that, without seeing the movie, I’m sure it is perfectly safe to say that it will be an almost technically-robot-view of soldiery, just by definition of how the whole country has deteriorated. And I think it would make a very interesting double feature to show a good old Wayne movie like, say, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with The Green Berets. Because that would make a very striking comment on what has happened to America in general.

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Ochs was involved in the creation of the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies, along with Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Stew Albert, and Paul Krassner. At the same time, Ochs actively supported Eugene McCarthy’s more mainstream bid for the 1968 Democratic nomination for President, a position at odds with the more radical Yippie point of view. Still, Ochs helped plan the Yippies’ “Festival of Life” which was to take place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention along with demonstrations by other anti-war groups including the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Despite warnings that there might be trouble, Ochs went to Chicago both as a guest of the McCarthy campaign and to participate in the demonstrations. He performed in Lincoln Park, Grant Park, and at the Chicago Coliseum, witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Chicago police against the protesters, and was himself arrested at one point.

The events of 1968—the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the police riot in Chicago, and the election of Richard Nixon—left Ochs feeling disillusioned and depressed. The cover of his 1969 album Rehearsals for Retirement eerily portrays his tombstone.

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At the trial of the Chicago Seven in December 1969, Ochs testified for the defense. His testimony included his recitation of the lyrics to his song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”. On his way out of the courthouse, Ochs sang the song for the press corps; to Ochs’s amusement, his singing was broadcast that evening by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.

In August 1971, Ochs went to Chile, where Marxist Salvador Allende had been democratically elected in the 1970 election. There he met Chilean folksinger Víctor Jara, an Allende supporter, and the two became friends. In October, Ochs left Chile to visit Argentina. Later that month, after singing at a political rally in Uruguay, he and his American traveling companion David Ifshin were arrested and detained overnight. When the two returned to Argentina, they were arrested as they got off the plane. After a brief stay in an Argentine prison, Ochs and Ifshin were sent to Bolivia via a commercial airliner where authorities were to detain them. Ifshin had previously been warned by Argentine leftist friends that when the authorities sent dissidents to Bolivia, they would disappear forever. When the airliner arrived in Bolivia, the American captain of the Braniff International Airways aircraft allowed Ochs and Ifshin to stay on the aircraft, and barred Bolivian authorities from entering. The aircraft then flew to Peru where the two disembarked and they were not detained. Fearful that Peruvian authorities might arrest him, Ochs returned to the United States a few days later.

Ochs was personally invited by John Lennon to sing at a large benefit at the University of Michigan in December 1971 on behalf of John Sinclair, an activist poet who had been arrested on minor drug charges and given a severe sentence. Ochs performed at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally along with Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg, David Peel, Abbie Hoffman and many others. The rally culminated with Lennon and Yoko Ono, who were making their first public performance in the United States since the breakup of The Beatles.

Although the 1968 election had left him deeply disillusioned, Ochs continued to work for the election campaigns of anti-war candidates, such as George McGovern’s unsuccessful Presidential bid in 1972. In mid-1972, he went to Australia and New Zealand. He traveled to Africa in 1973, where he visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. One night, Ochs was attacked and strangled by robbers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which damaged his vocal cords, causing a loss of the top three notes in his vocal range. The attack also exacerbated his growing mental problems, and he became increasingly paranoid. Ochs believed the attack may have been arranged by government agents—perhaps the CIA. Still, he continued his trip, even recording a single in Kenya, “Bwatue.”

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The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. Ochs planned a final “War Is Over” rally, which was held in New York’s Central Park on May 11. More than 100,000 people came to hear Ochs, joined by Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Pete Seeger and others. Ochs and Joan Baez sang a duet of “There but for Fortune” and he closed with his song “The War Is Over.”

Ochs became increasingly erratic. In mid-1975, Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train. He told people that Train had murdered Ochs, and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him. Train was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon at all times: a hammer, a knife, or a lead pipe. Unable to pay his rent, he began living on the streets. After several months, the Train persona faded and Ochs returned, but he continued drinking heavily and talking of suicide.

In January 1976, Ochs moved to Far Rockaway, New York, to live with his sister Sonny. He was lethargic; his only activities were watching television and playing cards with his nephews. Ochs saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed his bipolar disorder. He was prescribed medication, and he told his sister he was taking it. On April 9, 1976, Ochs committed suicide by hanging himself in his sister’s home.

Years after his death, it was revealed that the FBI had a file of nearly 500 pages on Ochs. Much of the information in those files relates to his association with counterculture figures, protest organizers, musicians, and other people described by the FBI as “subversive.” The FBI was often sloppy in collecting information on Ochs: his name was frequently misspelled “Oakes” in their files, and they continued to consider him “potentially dangerous” after his death.

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Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D. New York), an outspoken anti-war activist herself who had appeared at the 1975 “War is Over” rally, entered this statement into the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

While his tragic action was undoubtedly motivated by terrible personal despair, his death is a political as well as an artistic tragedy. I believe it is indicative of the despair many of the activists of the 1960s are experiencing as they perceive a government which continues the distortion of national priorities that is exemplified in the military budget we have before us.

Phil Ochs’ poetic pronouncements were part of a larger effort to galvanize his generation into taking action to prevent war, racism, and poverty. He left us a legacy of important songs that continue to be relevant in 1976—even though “the war is over”.

Just one year ago—during this week of the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War—Phil recruited entertainers to appear at the “War is Over” celebration in Central Park, at which I spoke.

 It seems particularly appropriate that this week we should commemorate the contributions of this extraordinary young man.

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When I think of Ochs these days I think of the 60s. I think of his humanism, dedication, and faith along with his wit and sarcasm. In tribute I present this classic taste of the 1960s with my own hint of irony – Lipton Onion Soup dip. This was a perennial favorite at parties because it was easy to make and generally enjoyed – I guess. No need for more than the most rudimentary of recipes. You’ll need 1 envelope of Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix and 16 ounces of sour cream. Whip the two together and refrigerate for an hour or so. Serve with your favorite chips or raw vegetables.

Feb 062014
 

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Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, named after the northern coastal site, Waitangi, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – a significant day in the history of New Zealand. It is a public holiday held each year on 6th February to celebrate the signing of the treaty, New Zealand’s founding document, on that date in 1840. The treaty of Waitangi was signed in a marquee on the grounds of James Busby’s house (now known as the Treaty house) at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. The treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Maori rights to their land and gave Maori the rights of British subjects. There are differences between the English version and the Maori translation of the treaty, and since 1840 this has led to debate over exactly what was agreed to at Waitangi. Maori have generally seen the treaty as a sacred pact, while for many years Pakeha (the Maori word for New Zealanders of predominantly European ancestry) ignored it. By the early twentieth century, however, some Pakeha were beginning to see the treaty as their nation’s founding document and a symbol of British humanitarianism. Unlike Maori, Pakeha have generally not seen the treaty as a document with binding power over the country and its inhabitants. In 1877 Chief Justice James Prendergast declared it to be a “legal nullity,” a position that was held until the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, when it regained significant legal standing.

Prior to 1934, most celebrations of New Zealand’s founding as a colony were held on 29 January, the date on which William Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands. In 1932, Governor-General Lord Bledisloe and his wife purchased and presented to the nation the run-down house of James Busby, where the treaty was signed. The Treaty House and grounds were made a public reserve, which was dedicated on 6th February 1934. This event is considered by some to be the first Waitangi Day, although celebrations were not yet held annually. At the time, it was the most representative meeting of Maori ever held. Attendees included the Maori king and thousands of Pakeha.

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In 1940, another major event was held at the grounds, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the treaty signing. This was less well attended, partially because of the outbreak of World War II and partially because the government had recently offended the Maori king. However the event was still a success and helped raise the profile of the treaty.

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Annual commemorations of the treaty signing began in 1947. The 1947 event was a Royal New Zealand Navy ceremony centering on a flagpole which the Navy had paid to have erected in the grounds. The ceremony was brief and featured no Maori. The following year, a Maori speaker was added to the line-up, and subsequent additions to the ceremony were made nearly every year. From 1952, the Governor General attended, and from 1958 the Prime Minister also attended, although not every year. From the mid-1950s, a Maori cultural performance was usually given as part of the ceremony. Many of these early features remain a part of Waitangi Day ceremonies, including a naval salute, the Maori cultural performance (now usually a ceremonial welcome), and speeches from a range of Maori and Pkeha dignitaries.

Waitangi Day was proposed as a public holiday by the New Zealand Labour Party in their 1957 party manifesto. After Labour won the election they were reluctant to create a new public holiday, so the Waitangi Day Act was passed in 1960 making it possible for a locality to substitute Waitangi Day as an alternative to an existing public holiday. In 1963, after a change in government, Waitangi Day was substituted for Auckland Anniversary Day as the provincial holiday in Northland. In 2013 it was decreed that the Waitangi Day public holiday would be shifted to Monday if it fell on the weekend.

In 1971 the Labour shadow minister of Maori Affairs, Matiu Rata, introduced a private member’s bill to make Waitangi Day a national holiday, to be called New Zealand Day. This was not passed into law. After the 1972 election of the third Labour government under Norman Kirk, it was announced that from 1974 Waitangi Day would be a national holiday known as New Zealand Day. The New Zealand Day Act 1973 was passed in 1973.

For Norman Kirk, the change was simply an acceptance that New Zealand was ready to move towards a broader concept of nationhood. Diplomatic posts had for some years marked the day, and it seemed timely in view of the country’s increasing role on the international stage that the national day be known as New Zealand Day. At the 1974 celebrations, the Flag of New Zealand was flown for the first time at the top of the flagstaff at Waitangi, rather than the Union Flag, and a replica of the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand was also flown.

The election of the third National government in 1975 led to the day being renamed Waitangi Day because the new Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, did not like the name “New Zealand Day” and many Maori felt the new name debased the Treaty of Waitangi. Another Waitangi Day Act was passed in 1976 to change the name of the day back to Waitangi Day.

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Although this is New Zealand’s national day, the commemoration has often been the focus of protest by Maori activists and is often embroiled in controversy. From 1971, Waitangi and Waitangi Day became a focus of protest concerning treaty injustices, with Nga Tamatoa leading early protests. Activists initially called for greater recognition of the treaty, but by the early 1980s, protest groups were also arguing that the treaty was a fraud with which Pakeha had cheated Maori out of their land. Attempts were made by groups including the Waitangi Action Committee to halt the celebrations. This led to major confrontations between police and protesters, sometimes resulting in dozens of arrests. When the treaty gained greater official recognition in the mid-1980s, emphasis switched back to calls to honor the treaty, and protesters generally returned to the aim of raising awareness of the treaty and what they saw as its neglect by the state.

Some New Zealand politicians and commentators, such as Paul Holmes, have felt that Waitangi Day is too controversial to be a national day and have sought to replace it with Anzac Day (April 25th commemorating military campaigns). Others, for example the United Future Party’s Peter Dunne, have suggested that the name of the day be changed back to New Zealand Day.

Several hundred protesters often gather at Waitangi to reflect the long-standing frustrations Maori have held since the treaty’s signing. Although not part of the Government celebrations, Maori sovereignty activists often fly the Tino Rangatiratanga flag from the flagstaff. Attempts at vandalism of the flagstaff are often an objective of these protests, carrying on a tradition that dates from the 19th century when Hone Heke chopped down the British flagstaff in nearby Russell. In 2004, protesters succeeded in flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag above the other flags on the flagstaff by flying it from the top of a nearby tree.

Because of the level of protest and threats that had previously occurred at Waitangi, the previous Prime Minister Helen Clark did not attend in 2000. The official celebrations were shifted from Waitangi to Wellington in 2001. Some Maori felt that this was an insult to them and to the treaty. In 2003 and 2004, the anniversary was again officially commemorated at the Treaty House at Waitangi. In 2004 Leader of the Opposition Don Brash was hit with mud as he entered the marae (sacred meeting place).

On 5 February 2009, the day before Waitangi Day, as current Prime Minister John Key was being escorted onto a marae, he was challenged by Wikitana and John Junior Popata, nephews of then Maori Party MP Hone Harawira. Both admitted to assault and were sentenced to 100 hours of community service. In 2011 Wikitana and John again heckled Key as he entered the marae. A wet t-shirt thrown at Queen Elizabeth II and other attacks on various Prime Ministers at Waitangi on 6 February have resulted in a large police presence as well as the large contingent of the armed forces.

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Celebrations at Waitangi often commence the previous day, 5 February, at the Ngapuhi Te Tii marae, where political dignitaries are welcomed on to the marae and hear speeches from the local iwi (clan). These speeches often deal with the issues of the day, and vigorous and robust debate occurs. At dawn on Waitangi Day, the Royal New Zealand Navy raises the New Zealand Flag, Union Flag and White Ensign on the flagstaff in the treaty grounds. The ceremonies during the day generally include a church service and cultural displays such as dance and song. Several waka (canoes) and a navy ship also re-enact the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the treaty. The day closes with the flags being lowered by the Navy in a traditional ceremony.

In recent years, communities throughout New Zealand have been celebrating Waitangi Day in a variety of ways. These often take the form of public concerts and festivals. Some marae use the day as an open day and an educational experience for their local communities, giving them the opportunity to experience Maori culture and protocol. Other marae use the day as an opportunity to explain where they see Maori are and the way forward for Maori in New Zealand. Another popular way of celebrating the day is at concerts held around the country. Since the day is also Bob Marley’s birthday, reggae music is especially popular. Wellington has a long running “One Love” festival that celebrates peace and unity. Another such event is “Groove in the Park,” held in the Auckland Domain before 2007 and at Western Springs subsequently. Celebrations are largely muted in comparison to those seen on the national days of most countries. There are no mass parades, nor truly widespread celebrations. As the day is a public holiday, and happens during the warmest part of the New Zealand summer, most people take the opportunity to spend the day at the beach.

In London, UK, which has one of the largest New Zealand expatriate populations, the occasion is celebrated by the Waitangi Day Ball, held by the New Zealand Society UK. The focus of the event is a celebration of New Zealand’s unity and diversity as a nation. The Ball also hosts the annual UK New Zealander of the Year awards, cultural entertainment from London based Maori group Ngati Ranana and fine wine and cuisine from New Zealand.

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Another tradition has arisen in recent years to celebrate Waitangi Day. On the closest Saturday to 6 February, New Zealanders participate in a pub crawl using the London Underground’s Circle Line (the inner circle in yellow on the map). Although the stated aim is to have one drink at each of the 27 stops, most participants stop after a handful of stations, usually beginning at Paddington and moving anti-clockwise towards Temple. At 4 pm, a large-scale haka (traditional dance) is performed in Parliament Square as Big Ben marks the hour. Participants wear costumes and sing songs such as “God Defend New Zealand,” all of which is in stark contrast to the much more subdued observance of the day in New Zealand itself. Police estimate the number of ex-pats taking part in the pub crawl these days at between 10,000 and 12,000, causing major overcrowding on the underground, and the need to close roads around key gathering spots such as Parliament Square.

For Waitangi Day 2007, Air New Zealand commissioned a number of New Zealanders living in Los Angeles and Southern California to create a sand sculpture of a silver fern on the Santa Monica Beach.

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At the Kingston Butter Factory in Kingston, Queensland, Australia, Te Korowai Aroha (Cloak of Love) Association have been holding Waitangi Day Celebrations since 2002, with an excess of 10,000 expats, Logan City Council representatives and indigenous Australians coming together to commemorate in a peaceful alcohol and drug free occasion.

On the Gold Coast, in Australia, where there is a large New Zealand expatriate population, Waitangi Day is celebrated by around 10,000 people at Carrara Stadium. It is called the “Waitangi Day and Pacific Islands Festival.” It not only embraces Waitangi day, but Pacific Islander culture. In 2009, iconic New Zealand bands Herbs and Ardijah featured, as well as local singers and performers.

New Zealand cuisine is largely driven by local ingredients and seasonal variations with ingredients from land and sea. The cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse, British-based cuisine, like that of Australia, with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences. Historical influences came from Maori culture. Contemporary North American cuisine, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and South Asian culinary traditions have become popular since the 1970s.

Present day Maori cuisine is a mixture of Maori tradition, old-fashioned English cookery, and contemporary dishes. Most large Maori gatherings feature a hangi, which is likely to contain foods brought to New Zealand by Maori and by Pakeha. Hangi is a traditional New Zealand Maori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven still used for special occasions, as throughout Polynesia. To “lay a hangi” or “put down a hangi” involves digging a pit in the ground, heating stones in the pit with a large fire, placing baskets of food on top of the stones, and covering everything with earth for several hours before uncovering (or lifting) the h?ngi. There are many variations and details that can be altered. Hangi experts have developed and improved methods that often, like the stones themselves, have been handed down for generations.

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Two dishes regarded as distinctively Maori are the “boil-up” of pork, potatoes, assorted vegetables, and suet dumplings, and “pork and puha” (sow thistle) both of which combine introduced and indigenous foods. Both dishes owe much to nineteenth century British cooking methods. A simple method of cooking, a boil-up is literally the boiling of different ingredients in a large pot (usually a stockpot) together to create a cross between a soup and a stew. Traditional ingredients are pork bones, Sonchus (indigenous greens, usually the sow thistle), potato, pumpkin, watercress, and suet dumplings.  The cooking method is basic for any experienced cook – that is, simmer a good quantity of meaty pork bones in water or light stock for 2 hours, or until the broth is rich and the pork very tender.  Remove the meat from the bones (optional), return the meat to the pot with the vegetables of your choice and simmer for another 30 to 40 minutes.  In the last 20 minutes add the dumplings. The dumplings are simplicity itself, but I adore them in soups and stews and have done since I was a small boy. You can easily alter quantities depending on the number of guests.  They are a 2:1 ratio of self-raising flour to shredded suet.

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Suet Dumplings

Ingredients:

8 oz/200g self raising flour
4 oz/50g shredded suet
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Combine the flour, suet, plus salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl, and mix thoroughly.  Hands work best, like making pastry.

Add 6 tablespoons of cold water a little at a time until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough.

Using floured hands shape the dough into balls.  Size is cook’s choice.  I make them about the size of a golf ball but I have also had them tennis ball sized.  Just remember that the bigger they are the longer they will take to cook.  Best to err on the side of overcooking than having a raw center. In fact, it is quite hard to really overcook them.  Golf ball size take about 20 minutes (with the pot covered).