I love Festival time because of the atmosphere it creates. Auckland feels like a real city, living and breathing, with a pulsing heart at Aotea Square.
This is a quote from Renee Liang from an article on performing arts in the arts festival at The Big Idea. I like her seemingly off-hand comment that Auckland feels like a ‘real city’. Often it doesn’t. Often Auckland feels more like a small town closed for the winter for all the human interaction it offers. However, the arts festivals are a wonderful illustration of what a great events programme can do for our experience of urban space. Renee goes on to describe:
People are pulled into the CBD, pumped around its theatres and galleries, given time to linger in the spaces and eating places. This year the clever people at the Festival have created a great central space with neon signs, plenty of information clearly visible, and a good programme of events, both pay and free, to draw people in. Even on the slightly cooler nights we’ve been having recently the streets seem busier. There seems to be a real democracy to who’s eating ice cream at Giapo or sitting on the stone steps at the square – everyone from dressed up opera goers to students looking for a cheap night out.
I had a great time hanging out in Aotea square next to the Garden Stage on Friday evening. I sat in the sun on the newly refurbished lawn to check out music by Chris O’Connor, Sean Donnelly and James Duncan. The space was both buzzing and welcoming with tables, a temporary bar, and a variety of relaxed or stylish seating. The rest of the evening was amiably filled chatting at outdoor tables, floating in and out the many entrances for food or phone calls, cruising over to the nearby outdoor screening of New Zealand short films, and finally a second enlightening dose of noise-beats and sound-scapes from the musicians on the lawn. It is this enticing opportunism of festival time that makes Auckland feel like a ‘real city’.
White Night on Saturday was a chance to wander between a huge variety of visual arts, with galleries large and small, art centres, and pop art stores all open late. My friend and I wandered K’ Road between Artstation and Queen Street following the trail of white balloons to experience a glowing white knitting party in UV black light, vertigo inducing video works, graphics with 3D glasses, live painting, delicate drawings, films of historic art performances, a zine stall and a wonderful offering of watermelon soup. The soup is an example of the level of human interaction that went along with all the art – refreshing, sweet and spicy. That night we were not alone on our touring quest for real-world inspiration, we were part of a continuous flow of people warming up the city’s brightly lit caverns and hollows. Free events like these show an Auckland that is generous with its talents and welcoming in its nature. This is an urban Auckland that waves as we walk past and invites us in for drinks.
Hopefully White Night will become an annual event, meanwhile, the festival garden continues for another week with free music every evening. Pop your nose in and say hi if you’re passing through town.