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Ten Summertime Events That'll Help You Beat the Back-to-Work Blues

The summer break may be over, but there are heaps of fun things to do before winter arrives.
By Concrete Playground
January 19, 2021
By Concrete Playground
January 19, 2021


The summer break may be over, but there are heaps of fun things to do before winter arrives.

We made it through 2020. We're in the throes of a new year, with two months of summer still ahead of us. The holidays are done and dusted, and as we get back into the swing of work it can be easy to get swept up in all the chaos and miss out on the good stuff — like fried chicken festivals, street parties and .

It's time to make the most of the summertime events you probably meant to check out in 2020 but didn't. New year, new you. And that means getting outside and embracing the best of Wellington life. Here are ten things to do this summer and autumn to help lift your mood. Get out there and enjoy it.

  • 10

    The spirit fondly referred to as mother’s ruin is getting another day in the sun as single-site gin festival Gindulgence makes its return to the capital.

    This time, the celebration of the country’s supreme gin will be spread across two days — 30 and 31 January, 2021 — at Frank Kitts Park. Fourteen top distillers are already signed up to serve their own signature G&Ts and gin-based cocktails, including Wellington’s own Denzien Urban Distillery, plus Dancing Sands, Curiosity Gin, Little Biddy, Lighthouse Gin, Blush Gin and Juno Gin.

    Ticket holders will also have the opportunity to meet the makers and attend gin, cocktail and tonic masterclasses in the on-site gin theatre. Food will be available for purchase from some of Wellington’s favourite food vendors.

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  • 9

    Award-winning shipping container arts festival The Performance Arcade will present a free city-wide program of art and performance across the capital from 5 February to 28 March, 2021. WHAT IF THE CITY WAS A THEATRE? marks ten years of the Wellington festival and the first collaboration of this kind between various sectors of the capital’s creative community.

    The initiative encourages audiences to rethink the limits of public space. The program presents an invitation to take to the streets and experience free arts performance in the places you least expect it. Collaborators for this program include award-winning Wellington drag performer Hugo Grrl, former World of Wearable Arts Director and choreographer Malia Johnston, independent theatre company Barbarian Productions and digital producers Storybox, among many others.

    For two months, the capital will be transformed into a wonderland of creative encounters. You’re invited to join in and make a discovery at every corner. The full program of events will be announced in January 2021.

    Image: The Performance Arcade.

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  • 8

    Clucking great news — the capital is getting its first celebration dedicated to delicious, succulent, crispy fried chicken. From the event management company behind Beers at the Basin, Wellington Wine and Food Festival and Go Green Expo comes the inaugural Wellington Fried Chicken Festival.

    Hosted across two sessions next February 27 at Frank Kitts Park, the event will see Wellington’s finest food trucks and restaurants present their best chicken-inspired dishes. Whether it’s deep-fried, basted, grilled, or baked — you’ll find it here. Pair that with beer, wine, cider and more from the top breweries and wineries in the area.

    The vendor and live music lineup will be announced shortly.

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  • 7

    The capital’s biggest openair party, Newtown Festival, managed to beat the national lock and go ahead with its 2020 event. On Sunday, 7 March, 2021 the free to all, family-friendly event is back to mark the end of summer, and will see eleven blocks of central Riddiford Street and adjoining side streets closed to vehicles.

    The heart of Newtown will be transformed by 15 music stages, seven activity zones, a busking pitch, three fairground sites and over 420 stalls with food from across the globe, arts, crafts and hand-crafted treasures.

    A stacked lineup of entertainment will kick off from 9.30am, and attendees can expect to walk or dance between progressive indie rock group The Phoenix Foundation, captivating pop songwriter Estére, Dunedin electronic producer Vanessa Worm, stoner rock band Earth Tongue, cosmic future jazz act Clear Path Ensemble, plus loads more.

    Also on the bill: traditional Bulgarian dance, inclusive community choirs, high-energy circus shows, taiko drumming groups and freestyle street dance.

    Image: Newtown Festival.

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  • 6

    After being canned — and then resurfacing as a virtual event — following the COVID-19 outbreak, Wellington’s favourite street festival, CubaDupa, will return to the pavement in 2021.

    A turnout of 100,000 is expected to hit the Cuba Street precinct during the last weekend in summer to soak up nearly 20 hours of entertainment across 20 stages and creative zones. That’s 470 free performances and 20 parades with over 1700 artists from all over Aotearoa.

    The first entertainment lineup has now been announced, including a live music program spotlighting several different genres. Some highlights include ​Bay of Islands roots artist and 2020 Taite Music Prize winner Troy Kingi, ten-piece​ brass ensemble ​Richter City Rebels, Christchurch indie rock band T​here’s a Tuesday, and local act ​Hans Pucket with a full horn section.

    ​Cubasonic​ is a mass musical event conceived by composer ​John Psathas. The experience will ​see over 300 musicians — including ​Orchestra Wellington​, ​Royal New Zealand Air Force Band​​ and nearly 100​ Batucada drummers — line the street and take their lead from 12 conductors positioned above the crowd.

    The ​RadioActive​ ​Upper Cuba SoundSphere​ will feature an abundance of dance music, street theatre and art activations between Abel Smith and Upper Cuba Streets. Visitors can join a table tennis championship rave, stage their own faux funeral, or host an 80s, gothic or Bowie-themed wedding at the Cuba Chapel.

    A new visual art installation from artists ​Miriama Grace-Smith, Xoë Hall ​and​ Gina Kiel will take over the ​Wellington Airport Swan Stage, while an all-female lineup is being scheduled for the ​Garage Project Wild Workshop Stage​.

    Returning for 2021 is the ​The Mammoth​ circus tent on Ghuznee Street where you’ll find energetic performances and workshops by day, and saucy cabaret shows by night. The ​Street Feast ​also returns to CubaDupa, with over 100 food stalls and local vendors hawking the goods.

    Image: Oliver Crawford.

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  • 5

    Wellington Wine & Food Festival is back to toast summer.

    The capital’s finest wine, food and craft beer will all be on show at this one-day culinary celebration next Saturday, 13 February. A selection of Wellington’s top restaurants are set to deliver exquisite dishes in the (hopefully) sunny grounds of Waitangi Park, while the wine, cider and craft beer beverages will flow from both local and international brands.

    The festival is big on affordability, with all food items limited to a maximum price of $12. Live music is provided by some of the country’s top musicians to keep the festival alive — this year’s lineup includes Anna Coddington, Delaney Davidson, Miles Calder, The Relatives and Sofia Machray.

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  • 4

    Wellington City Council has you sorted this Waitangi Day, with two free whānau-friendly events in commemoration of Aotearoa’s national day.

    Pack a picnic dinner for the Whānau Film Night on Friday, 5 February. Māoriland Film Festival will present a selection of short films, followed by the iconic Poi E, from 6pm in the Waitangi Park. Māoriland is the largest indigenous film festival in the southern hemisphere with a year-round program of events.

    Free annual event Te Rā o Waitangi also returns for 2021. From noon to 7.30pm on Saturday, 6 February, Waitangi Park will host an award-winning lineup of Māori performers, food and culture. A delicious hāngi will be available from midday, but you’ll need to be quick — there are only 500 servings.

    You can also dig into a cafe version of the classic Karaka Café hāngi — available at the café from 10.30am to midday. The full program is set to be revealed soon. Previous years have seen weaving demonstrations, waka rides and massages.

    Image: Mikel Taylor.

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  • 3

    From humble beginnings in 2002, Wellington’s Chinese New Year Festival has become an important part of the local events calendar, providing a platform for local community groups to showcase their talents and inspire the wider community to experience and engage with a vibrant and diverse culture.

    The 20th annual festival is taking place from 13–14 February, 2021. Celebrations kick off on Saturday, 13 with an evening of performances from groups that have participated in the festival over the last 20 years. From there, the evening will round off with a spectacular fireworks display over Wellington’s harbour.

    Sunday, 14 February is Festival Day and a chance to experience the finest Chinese cuisine, crafts and more cultural entertainment at TSB Arena. The Festival Street Parade will also make its return, filling Wellington’s CBD with more fabulous colour, music and joy.

    An exhibition of art work by Stan Chan and Kerry Ann Lee, inspired by photographic images drawn from 20 years of Wellington Chinese New Year, will be popping up in the light boxes on Courtenay Place from 1 February. The exhibition also forms one of the sites of the Chinese New Year Zodiac Art Trail, a public art trail, featuring the 12 animals that make up the Chinese Zodiac, created by Wellington and internationally-based artists around Wellington’s CBD and waterfront.

    Image: Jun Yamog.

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  • 2

    After wowing audiences during a sell-out run on Wellington’s waterfront earlier in 2020, one of the world’s most visited multi-sensory experiences is heading back to New Zealand for a three-part encore season.

    This time, Van Gogh Alive will see more than 3000 of the Dutch master’s works head indoors for experiences in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. The large-scale projection experience, which allows visitors to marvel at the genius of the poster boy for post-impressionism, opens in Wellington at TSB Arena on January 12, before heading to Christchurch on February 18, and then Auckland’s Spark Arena from Wednesday, 14 April.

    The project is the brainchild of Melbourne-based Grande Exhibitions, which, for the past 15 years, has hosted immersive exhibitions and gallery experiences in over 140 cities across the world. The company also owns and operates Rome’s Museo Leonardo da Vinci.

    The 45-minute family-friendly experience creates the sensation of walking right into Van Gogh’s paintings. Famous works including The Starry Night and Sunflowers are presented in fine detail using Grande Exhibitions’ state-of-the-art technology combining 40 high-definition projectors, while a classical musical score accompanies the vibrant colours in cinema-quality surround sound.

    The exhibition has wowed audiences at indoor venues throughout the northern hemisphere and parts of South America. Wellington was the first city to host the experience under the stars.

    Image: Rebecca McMillan Photography.

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  • 1

    Garage funk, psychedelic dream pop and a choral tribute to Elton John make up the lineup for this year’s Gardens Magic event series.

    Wellington City Council’s annual open-air concert series returns to the Soundshell for three weeks next January (12–31). Every year thousands of Wellingtonians head along to the series for an evening of free entertainment. The 2021 season will be no different with over 100 performers expected to take the stage as the Botanic Garden is transformed with stunning light and art installations and disco balls.

    Garage funk band Odessa kicks off Gardens Magic on Tuesday, 12 January with their first live performance in over 11 years. Audience members will need to warm up their vocal cords for Sunday, 31 January as more than 50 members of the Supertonic choir close the season with an epic tribute to Elton John.

    Also on the bill: psychedelic dream pop band Glass Vaults, Māori electronica group Wai, sizzling hot salsa band C-12, Kiwi blues legend Darren Watson, plus the Wellington Brass Band and New Zealand Opera for performances under the stars.

    MJF Lighting will once again bring a kaleidoscopic spectacle to the gardens. This year the company is working with local company Tungsten Projects to refresh the lighting display, including a stunning UV bamboo grove and an artistic tribute to native birds.

    Further, an outdoor gallery of temporary public art will showcase works by Wellington sculptors Jonathan Campbell and Campbell Maud, and the Wellington City Libraries team will be giving away pre-loved books and magazines each night before the concert starts.

    Image: Pete Monk.

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Top image: Oliver Crawford

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