Council digs deep to restore carnival

Cuba St festival revival on the cards

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Cuba carnival
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
PARTY TIME: News that a festival is returning to Cuba St prompted artistic director Drew James and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to climb the street's bucket fountain yesterday. The Wellington City Council is putting $250,000 towards the festival.
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The Cuba St Carnival is back - but not as you know it.

Five years after funding woes ended the carnival, a new festival will be launched as one of two new events designed to bolster the capital's events calendar.

As well as putting $250,000 towards a new Cuba St festival next year, the Wellington City Council is planning a New Year's Eve celebration.

The announcement of the two events comes on the back of criticism that the council was not putting enough focus on boosting the city's economy.

The last Cuba St Carnival was held in 2009, but the loss of council funding and spiralling costs saw the event canned in 2010. The Creative Capital Arts Trust was set up in 2011, with rejuvenating the event a key purpose.

Yesterday, the trust and the council confirmed a new festival would launch next year. The basic premise of an event celebrating Cuba St would stay the same, but the event would be different, trust chairman Tim Brown said.

The new annual event - called the Cuba St Festival for now - will run for two days in late March or early April.

The old carnival had become too big in both size and budget, Mr Brown said. The new event would cost about $500,000 for the first year. Details of exactly what it would involve were being developed, but he hoped dressing up would be a part of it, and a lot of audience participation.

Womad and Taranaki Arts Festival artistic director Drew James will head the festival development.

The event would bring the focus back to the Cuba precinct, with a family atmosphere in the daytime feeding into something "really spectacular" at night.

The timing would help mark the end of summer. "What I really want to do is focus back on Cuba St and what that means in regards to a place."

Plum Cafe owner David Fenwick welcomed a new festival. It was important to have events around the city - not just at Westpac Stadium or the waterfront: "It enables a wider range of people to showcase what they offer."

The council has committed $250,000 a year for five years to the project, with funding coming from an economic initiatives fund.

Former Cuba St Carnival organiser Chris Morley-Hall was pleased to hear a festival was returning - and that it had secure funding, which was "extraordinary" and vital to its success.

"I hope that those were lessons that were learned from the past."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the festival, along with a New Year's Eve event, were part of a policy to build on Wellington's reputation as the events capital by creating new iconic events.

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It was too early to say how much would be spent on a New Year's Eve event, she said.

The announcement comes after Kirkcaldie & Stains managing director John Milford's criticism of the council last week for failing to help boost retail activity.

Mr Milford welcomed news of the two events yesterday, saying it was exactly what was needed to help bring vibrancy to the city.

Ms Wade-Brown said the carnival development began before Christmas and was "not in response to recent comments".

- © Fairfax NZ News

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