Despite heavy criticism, Fusion remains the most successful charity event on campus. Venetia Rainey finds out where it all began.
“It’s just a bit pretentious isn’t it? Mind you I wouldn’t mind being in it next year, it does look like quite a lot of fun…” This is largely the attitude that greets me when I ask someone what they think about Fusion. A bit ridiculous, probably with its fair share of arrogant and vain idiots, but still something that, if they were honest, they would quite enjoy being in. The other reaction I seem to get is a superior smirk followed by a judgmental raising of the eyebrow, “Fusion? Oh I see, I didn’t realise you were that kind of person…”
But what is “that” kind of person? Why does Fusion seem to have such a stigma attached to it, and how much truth actually lies behind it? Some will have read the muck raked about by “York’s Most Hated Man”, Adam Thorne, calling Fusion “a group of snotty spoilt brats…power crazed little tykes”. He went on to inaccurately call it a “modeling [sic.] show” and “a return to the laws of the playground. [Where] the beautiful people are king. They run the show, get to have all the fun and take the piss out of those who aren’t included.” Ouch.
Bitterness aside, Thorne’s comments would have you believe that his is the widely accepted opinion. However lets put a few things straight first. Fusion is an annual fashion and dance show, aimed at raising money for charity through socials and the main event. Created four years ago by Mariam Ahmed, then a 3rd year studying Linguistics at the York, it was supposed to be an urban event, set up to fill a niche in a time when Toffs didn’t run R’n’B nights and hip-hop culture was unheard of in York. In much the same way that groups such as Herbal Mafia and Idioteque do now, it was an attempt to provide something different for students in York to get involved with and enjoy.
Today we take for granted York’s range of societies and the fact that there is something catering for most interests, but years ago York was a very different place. “I found York University extremely cliquey when I arrived as an undergraduate in 2003.” recalls Mariam, “Regarding societies it seemed that you could only be a part of their main events if you knew people on the committees and I wanted to change that. I wanted to create a society that held the largest and most anticipated event of the year by involving a variety of student and local talent.” Fusion retains this ethos in 2008. With Pole Soc, Japanese Soc, Juggle Soc and Afro-Caribbean Soc (amongst others) performing in the upcoming show, and 8 student designers’ clothes and accessories being modelled, Amy Browne, President of Fusion, is keen to stress that, “it’s so inclusive actually. There’s not a type of Fusion person, if you look at the cast everyone looks completely different, and there are so many different races and cultures involved.”
Perhaps it’s the auditions that people object to, all those ‘jumped up little prats’ deciding who can be involved and who can’t. Sadly, it’s a fact of life that competition exists, and as Fusion ultimately aims to put on a performance for which people are charged to see, it seems unfair to suggest that they shouldn’t hold auditions in the same way that Drama Soc or the musicals do. Of course there is a slight difference in that there is no obvious talent involved in modelling, but the committee are insistent that at no point were people being judged on their looks. Rennie Hoare, who sat in on all the auditions, commented that, “the most important thing was confidence and whether people could walk properly in front of us. If they didn’t have that in front of nine people, how could that be scaled up and done in front of thousands? The criteria we were doing it on was: ‘Can they perform in front of us?’” This is especially true when you take into account that all the modelling scenes are heavily choreographed. Speaking to girls in the rehearsals, they tell me that the routines require them to pay close attention to the music, using counts of eight as their cues for often quite complicated, dance-based moves. There is a lot more to take into account than a simple walk down a catwalk. Any suggestions about a bias towards a certain body size in the models were firmly refuted by several member of the committee, with Browne adding that, “there were a couple of people who we didn’t want to let in because they looked like they were anorexic… we don’t want to be associated with anything like that.”
So why does Fusion seem to attract so much judgement and scepticism? Most of the people in Fusion are just looking to meet new people, get involved with something a bit different, and have a good time, whether dancing, modelling, getting clothes or helping out on the night. If you can’t do that at university, then where can you? Hannah Martin, last year’s Fusion president, added, “I think the people in Fusion are the type of people who want to get the most out of university. I don’t think people should take it quite as seriously as they do sometimes… It’s just a group of students getting together and having a laugh at the end of the day.”
The thing that gives weight to all of this is the fact that Fusion is primarily a charity event. The driving force behind all that fashion, music, dancing and socialising is the goal to raise a whopping £10,000 for its chosen two charities, Snappy, a local charity that runs a range of activities for special needs children in the York area, and Cancer Research UK. “I don’t know why the charity aspect doesn’t get emphasised more,” Browne ponders. “It is first and foremost the biggest charity event on campus. There is so much work that goes into it and I don’t think people realise that either.”
Fusion is taking place in Central Hall February 29 and March 1. Tickets are on sale in www.yusu.org/tickets and in Your:shop.