Tragedy struck last Thursday when Stuart Johnson, a first year Commerce student, was killed in the ball pit erected on the Front Lawns for the 2013 Verge Festival. Johnson’s friends recalled that he had spent his first year of university perched wistfully on the sidelines, too crippled by self-consciousness to fully engage with student life. A few days before the incident, however, he had declared that he was ready to “dive right in to life on campus.” He was true to his word and after plunging head first into the festival attraction, he suffered a fatal head injury.
The Verge Directors were unavailable for comment at the time, but it wasn’t long before they had scheduled an event for the following day called, “Verge Presents: Stu’s FUNeral feat. the Preatures”. The event’s description invited students to “Help us UNLEASH Stu’s soul into the cosmos before the Preatures knock you off your feet with their catchy electro-pop.”
While the funeral/concert became one of the festival’s most successful events with tickets selling out in hours, many are concerned that the murderous ball pit was only the latest instalment in the growing infantilisation of student culture. With ponies at the Humanitarian Fair and Christian-eating lions at Interfaith Week, it is felt it was only a matter of time before the trend turned deadly. USU administration have responded by pushing for a return to the more adult-focused events of the Verge Festival’s early years such as the “Managing Mortgages in Manning” workshop in 2002 or the Impotence and Incontinence” exhibition of 2005. The USU’s end of semester party “Waiting in Line Outside a Licensed Venue” is widely believed to be the first product of this new ethos but its first major test will be “O-Week 2014: Inevitable Disillusionment.”