Every year at MGCI, students celebrate the school’s unique ethnic diversity with the International Show. Although the show has long been a part of Garneau, few know of its history. How did the International Show come to be?
The International Show has taken place at Garneau for as long as the school itself has existed. The Social Sciences Club, with help from teacher Bill MacDonald, first started the event in 1973. In that year, Overlea Secondary School (present-day MGCI) had just opened. The club recognized the diversity of the students at their school and wished to celebrate it; however, the event they envisioned and planned was very different from the show MGCI knows today. International Show was merely a portion of the event then referred to as “International Night.” Unlike the talent show-esque format of recent years, the past event more closely resembled a school-wide party.
The night would begin with the “Parade of Nations,” the predecessor to today’s Flag Parade. Students of over sixty different ethnic backgrounds wore their cultural clothing to kick off the event. There would also be bagpipes playing, a candle-lighting ceremony, and the singing of “O Canada.”
Throughout International Night, the school bustled with activity. In the gym, students set up booths for each culture. Each booth served their respective traditional foods and displayed native artifacts. There would also be a centre stage on which bands, martial artists, and dancers performed. Some artifacts were incredibly valuable and had to be insured as well as accompanied by security guards. Community groups and clubs also had their own booths in the galleria. Popular booths included those by the Biology Club, which had a variety of greenhouse plants and animals from the animal room, a room where various animals like gerbils were kept, and the Art Department, which showcased various student artwork. In the cafeteria, there were multicultural acts with singing and dancing, much like today’s International Show. Also similar to today, a Fashion Show was part of the night, displaying clothing from a great variety of ethnic backgrounds. In addition, a nursery for young children, a fish pond, and a games room were organized in classrooms on the first floor.
The night did not just end there. After the show in the cafeteria finished at 9 pm, a dance would start, sometimes with a twenty-four piece steel band featuring various steel drums. Students would dance through the night until 12 am.
The event was extremely popular not only amongst students, but also with staff and the community. Around fifteen hundred people attended each year, raising thousands of dollars. Tickets were fairly inexpensive, with an adult ticket priced at five dollars and free admission for children under twelve. In addition, a lot of money was gathered through food sales and game participation fees, which were used to fund SAC’s activities the following year.
Unfortunately, the extreme popularity of the event caused some problems. In 1989, outsiders brought alcohol and started a brawl in the French Café, one of the food booths. After that incident, the school decided to hold the Fashion Show and International Night on alternate years. Because of the alternation, students who organized International Night graduated, organization details were lost over time, and the event became less elaborate than it was originally. A few years later, International Night and Fashion Show were both halted after clothes from the Fashion Show were stolen, costing SAC a lot of money to replace them. Eventually in 2011, with the condition of police presence, the school allowed for all the attractions of the previous event (Fashion Show, Flag Parade, and International Night) to be combined into one big evening event: International Show.
International Show has undergone many changes since 1973. Even in comparison to last year, this year’s International Show will have several changes. The International Show Committee’s main focus is securing a greater variety of activities and performances to keep the audience captivated. The committee plans to present fewer acts and minimize the scale of the Flag Parade and Fashion Show, so as to place more emphasis on the performers’ hard work. There will also be more games and interactive activities to get the audience involved.
Acting on feedback from previous years, the committee has also decided to increase the cultural diversity of the acts and remove the intermission. In previous years, the show was largely a showcase of South Asian culture, but this year there will be a greater variety of acts, food, and decorations. Past International Shows also had issues with security and rowdy audiences; by eliminating the intermission, the committee hopes to resolve this problem.
The International Show Committee is working tirelessly to prepare for the event. To increase efficiency, the committee has been divided into three subgroups: decorations, performances, and food. Ideas drawn up by each subgroup are sent to the president of the committee, Special Events Convenor Isha Sarfraz, for approval.
With the show fast approaching on 27 April, the audition process has been completed and rehearsals have begun. Isha said the auditions were “smoother than anticipated.” The process involved creating audition slips, advertising, and contacting students to schedule times for their auditions. Approximately fifteen individuals and groups auditioned in early March, with most of them successfully securing a performance spot at the show.
One of the main reasons for her detailed organization and planning of this year’s show is its personal significance to Isha. It relates to her childhood and the values her parents taught her: “I love to see the school as one and I believe [the International Show] brings the school together to celebrate who we are.”
Participants also agreed that the show is a significant part of Garneau’s culture. Lumuat Nusaiba, a performer in this year’s show said, “I think that International Show is an awesome way to represent your heritage in such a diverse school and it’s always amazing to see what culture means to other people. So to me, it’s a way for me to show what my culture means to me.”
When asked why people should come to International Show, another participant, Zainab Bokhari, said, “International Show is a prime example of spirit at our school. It allows for the unification of the many diverse students at Garneau.”
After over forty years since it first began, the International Show still lives on. Since 1973, the show has undergone many transformations, but its purpose has remained the same: to showcase the amazing diversity of the students at MGCI.