Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Town comes to gown for the anniversary picnic

Tuesday 19 February 2019 4:19pm

Thousands gathered in front of the Clocktower on Friday evening for the 150th anniversary picnic. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The sun shone and town definitely came to gown on Friday, when Dunedin residents and their families set up picnics, played games and listened to the music on the Clocktower Lawn for the public launch of the University’s 150th anniversary.

Stilt walkers wearing oversized mortar boards, actors in historic costumes and bubble blowers mingled with the crowd, which was estimated to be between 2,000 to 3,000 people.

Amadeo Enriquez-Ballestero, from the Otago Museum, performed a variety of impressive science experiments and explosions in front of the Clocktower Building.

Science communicator Amadeo Enriquez-Ballestero livened up proceedings.

Members of the Highlanders rugby team and Otago Volts cricket team put children through their paces, Unipol organised games and a miniature merry-go-round was in high demand.

While waiting patiently for Miggles the balloonologist, Dunedin resident Ruth, who was with her daughter Ciara, said the picnic was “awesome”.

“I’d love it if they had it every year, it’s such a beautiful location, and residents don’t tend to come [to the campus].”

Another resident, Sonia van de Klundert, agreed and said events like the picnic made the University “more approachable” for families, while Sa Maylanie Alai loved the family atmosphere of the event.

A miniature merry-go-round was popular with families. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

During the evening, the University’s Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville QC, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson and the President of the Otago University Students’ Association James Heath gathered at the newly-returned historic bell to welcome everyone and ring the bell to launch the year of festivities.

Professor Hayne revealed that the bell will be part of a new tradition for Otago – when PhD students submit their theses they will get to ring the bell. Staff member Glenn Wadsworth made the recycled rimu mallet and donated it to the University.

Both Dr Somerville and Professor Hayne said it was great to see so many children on campus. The event was livestreamed on Facebook and to Otago’s Auckland Centre, where they were also holding a barbeque.

Celebrations throughout the year

The year of celebrations continues with the launch of Dr Alison Clarke’s book Otago, 150 years of New Zealand’s First University on 15 March. The following day a lively street parade of students and staff will march from the Dental School to the Octagon.

“Colours” is the theme of the parade, chosen to celebrate the diversity and cultures of the University. Joined by pipers, drums and brass, all professional and academic staff and students are encouraged to take part, wearing their academic colours, cultural dress or outfits of their clubs, colleges or something they’ve organised with work colleagues.

The weekend of 12 to 14 April features both the Science Teller festival and the Tally Ho! 3 concert.

The Science Teller Festival keynote guests are bestselling author Mary Roach and science writer Michael Shermer, who will discuss the festival’s theme Science and the Afterlife.

Speakers and panel discussions look into what happens after we die, covering topics as diverse as immortality, the fear of ghosts, how modern children learn about death and the invention of hell.

A debate between Michael Shermer and Professor Justin Barrett from the Fuller Theological Seminary tackles the question: Is there life after death? Registrations are now open at

Tally Ho! 3 will be a celebration of the soundtrack of many people’s lives through the 1980s and 1990s - the Dunedin bands they may have heard in the Union Hall at Orientation will be rendered more sumptuous by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and world-famous singer/composers including Martin Phillipps and Shayne Carter, along with more recent stars Nadia Reid and Anthonie Tonnon, and special guest soprano Anna Leese.

The official Queen’s Birthday Weekend Anniversary Celebrations start on Friday 31 May with the opening of the 150th University of Otago Exhibition at the Otago Museum. The exhibition will showcase the University’s people, research and creative work from all the Divisions, and their benefits and influence on the global stage. Work will be presented from across the 150 years, from staff, research students and graduates.

On Saturday 1 June, the Academic Procession leaves from the Dental School at 1.30pm, marching to the Dunedin Town Hall, where a special-format Convocation Ceremony begins at 2:30pm. The ceremony is an historic event which last took place on the University’s centennial. It includes musical items, speeches and the awarding of honorary doctorates. At 6:30pm there will be fireworks in the Octagon, followed by the Anniversary Dinner at the town hall at 7pm.

Sunday’s 150th Celebratory Church Service at Knox Church at 10:30am includes a Māori welcome, readings, a massed choir, a Pacific Islands Choir, and concludes with a release of doves from the Knox Church garden.

Residential college lunches follow and in the evening A Celebration of the University in Words and Music will be held at the Dunedin Town Hall. The gala concert offers a feast of music with connections to the University, from the early days of the Department of Music right up to the present, and promises to be one-of-a-kind – a mix of old and new, nostalgia and innovation, with some surprises in store.

The music will be interspersed with readings of prose and poetry on Dunedin themes, some by Burns Fellows. These will be read by well-known Dunedin actors Peter Hayden and Lisa Warrington. Many of Otago’s most illustrious musical alumni are coming back to Dunedin to take part, including Professor Karen Grylls, Joel Amosa (winner of last year’s Lexus Song Quest), Kawiti Waetford and Anna Leese.

New compositions to be premiered at the concert are a fanfare entitled Otago Flourishes by Dr Peter Adams, and a special piece by Professor Anthony Ritchie entitled Owheo, with words by former Burns fellow Sue Wooten.

On the Monday, the Cameron Shield Rugby Match between Knox and Selwyn Colleges will be held at the University Oval at 2pm. In the evening, a Pacific Student Koneseti will be held at the Dunedin Town Hall at 7pm. Organised by the Pacific Island Centre, it showcases Pacific students and their vision for the next 150 years of Pacific at Otago.

Events later in the year include a nationwide Winter Symposium series from June to August, and the Anniversary Gold Ball at the Dunedin Town Hall on 10 August.

In September, the University hosts the UNESCO Play Festival from 13 to 20 September, showcasing new plays, covering a wide range of themes, from various UNESCO Cities of Literature and elsewhere in New Zealand. The programme will also feature workshops, panel discussions, and a series of forums on aspects of 21st century dramaturgy and playwriting.

The Heritage Festival hosted by Otago at the end of September will be a chance to celebrate the architectural heritage of the University. The festival runs alongside the Australasian Victorian Studies Association conference 1869.

The conference, held in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture will reflect on the various approaches to knowledge creation and production during the 1860s and beyond, and across disciplines as well as cultures in all areas of human endeavour.

In early October, the Otago University Rowing Club is hosting an international universities rowing regatta to celebrate the anniversary. Universities from all over the globe will join OURC for a three-day series of high-quality racing, including crews from Russia, Japan, China and Canada. In conjunction with this event, OURC will be celebrating its 90th anniversary and will host an Alumni Reunion for all past rowers.

Throughout the year celebrations continue with a wide range of academic conferences and reunions, including the 50th Reunion of University College on 22 to 24 November. Events around the country include a Parliamentary reception in Wellington on 6 March and cocktail events in Auckland on 3 May and Christchurch on 1 August. Alumni events held in regional New Zealand, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, the UK and North America during the year will also take the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary.

You can register for the Queen’s Birthday Weekend events at: Many of the events during the year are free, although some, such as the Convocation Ceremony at Queen’s Birthday still need to be booked.

More photos from the Picnic taken by Sharron Bennett: