A crowd of first-year students and sophs sit on University College Hill under a lilac and orange sunset as they wait for One Love to start — an event known for its ability to foster bonding between students. Although many performances throughout the night were entertaining and insightful, in the end it fell flat. 

In comparison to last year's host, Jessi Cruickshank, One Love host Nova Browning Rutherford was subpar. Unlike Cruickshank, she didn't go into depth discussing personal experiences, which made the event seem more hollow than in previous years. Additionally, Browning Rutherford didn't say much after each act, which made the transitions awkward. 

Further, while couple Kim and Tiq Milan delved into important topics such as allyship (building relationships based on trust and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups), bystander intervention and equality versus equity, their dialogue contained many platitudes. Although their intentions were good, the messages were unoriginal, offering nothing new to common messages of inclusivity. Their presentation also involved the use of non-interactive, information-heavy slides — unlike other performances — which did little to energize the crowd. 

That said, even though some aspects of the event were mediocre compared to past events, the important messages of One Love still hit home.

When Shane Koyczan, Canadian poet and past One Love performer took to the stage, the crowd was energized while listening to his emotionally evocative poetry. 

"Don't you dare listen to anyone who tells you to turn off your light to make room for theirs: this isn't musical chairs. If the music stops, keep going," Koyczan said, encouraging students to disregard judgments from others when taking chances.  

Harjot Athwal, first-year medical sciences student, said Koyczan's performance impacted her the most because of its powerful and relevant content. She thought Koycan's poetry demonstrated the capacity for words to influence others.

Farrah Khan, a public speaker and educator on violence against women, addressed consent, sexual pleasure and sexual assault. Khan effortlessly intertwined the notions of consent and pleasure, offering new perspectives of human sexuality.

Khan said pleasure was a significant component of human sexuality and that respectful partners should be able to communicate and explore their desires together.  

At the end of the night, the diminished crowd gathered around the stage to sing along to John Lennon's Imagine. Purple lights illuminated the crowd and students embraced each other while swaying to the music.

John Chen, a first-year computer science student, said he thought the messages taught at One Love were incredibly welcoming. Despite the cool temperatures, Chen said he felt "a little warm because of [his] blanket, and a little warm in the heart."

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Vivian Cheng is a third year medical sciences student and Culture Editor for Volume 111. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her curating another playlist or thinking about puppies. You can contact her at vivian.cheng@westerngazette.ca.

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