Festive times, festive places
Wellington

Oriental Parade Beach © Katie Rochow

Picnics with glow-worms, containers for live art, and a street party: Christmas is only the start of the festivities… 

The festive season in the southern hemisphere is probably my favourite time of the year. This is not so much because of the usual Christmas or New Year celebrations: what I really love are the picnics, barbeques, sunshine, beach-time, and the abundance of outdoor art and music festivals that take place in different locations around the city. 

Garden Gigs

Ads © Katie Rochow Hot on the heels of New Year are the Gardens Magic concerts, which take place in the Botanic Garden Soundshell Stage and feature a wide variety of local bands and performers. Right after the Christmas holidays, the Gardens concerts are a welcome distraction from the return to work routine. Surrounded by native ferns and trees, the flat lawn in front of the Soundshell provides the perfect environment for an early evening picnic and catch-up with friends and family over some live music. Whether government office job, freelance, hospitality, teaching or PhD-ing at university, my friends and I rush to the Gardens after work, squeezing in a quick pit-stop at the nearest supermarket or dairy to get some basic supplies – a bottle of wine or a beer and some nibbles. After a good two hours of snacking, relaxing, chatting and dancing we slowly make our way back home, passing the floating lights on the duck pond, disco balls and other shining objects hanging from giant palm trees, which transform the area around the Soundshell into a magical glowing wonderland. One day, when I was wandering home after a concert I actually saw some real glow-worms shimmering like large, illuminated raindrops through the trees. 

 THE GARDEN’S MAGIC GIG © Katie Rochow Container Art

In late February the waterfront in Wellington becomes home to shipping containers that are stacked and grouped together to create the Performance Arcade – a cluster of temporary stages for live music, installations, interactive media and culinary art. Often the participating artists invite you to join in, try out and explore different sights, sounds and smells. From blind-tasting different foods or posing for a nude photograph to being mimicked by a dance choreographer, there is usually something unexpected, exciting and entertaining to experience.

PERFORMANCE ARCADE1 © Katie Rochow

Dancing in the Streets

Best of all are the street festivals. This year Newtown Festival fell on my birthday. It was an unusually hot, sunny summer day so I took the opportunity to dress up in a burlesque costume and invite my friends over for champagne breakfast before we hiked up Mount Victoria towards Newtown. During the festival the main street of the little suburb is transformed into a two-kilometre-long vibrant performance stage lined with stalls selling crafts and food from around the world. 

LOS BANDIDOS AT NEWTOWN FESTIVAL © Katie Rochow Kids and adults dress up in fun costumes and wander from stage to stage, singing and dancing together – it’s an atmosphere that reminds me a bit of Fasnacht (carnival) in my hometown. Fasnacht takes place in February, so almost at the same time of the year but with the small difference that it is winter and therefore (mostly) freezing cold in the northern hemisphere. Instead of a short burlesque costume I usually wear multiple layers of clothing and I won’t leave the house without a scarf, gloves and a hot, rum-infused beverage in my hands. Clearly winter/summer festivities during this time of the year are fun in both parts of the world!

This short video created by the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre gives a good impression of the colourful, happy vibes on the streets during Newtown Festival