Council won't back La De Da festival

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014

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An ambitious proposal to bring the La De Da music festival to Wellington at New Year will not be bankrolled by the Wellington City Council.

The prospect of bringing the Wairarapa-based festival to the capital over three sites and three days was one of several ideas the council was considering as it looked to revamp its offerings over Christmas and the New Year period, after criticism about a lack of events last year.

But Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester said the proposal was too risky, and a due diligence report had found that the event was unlikely to generate the $5 million return the council would require on its previously mooted $250,000 investment.

He said the council could still support the festival by freeing up venues and resource consents if its organisers were still keen on a move from Martinborough, where its future appears uncertain.

La De Da executive producer Joff Rae, who is behind the proposal, has a registration of interest to buy the troubled brand from its original owners.

He said he understood why the council was wary but, despite the festival's financial problems in the past, including a trail of unpaid debts, the brand was still "really strong".

The plan to shift to Wellington would include staging the event in different areas to appeal to a wider demographic, including families, than the current festival.

Rae has not let the council's financial rebuff dampen his vision for a multimedia "artistic public engagement" spanning the waterfront, Mt Victoria and the Botanic Gardens soundshell that would eventually be filmed and broadcast globally as viewers looked to New Zealand as the first country to usher in the new year.

He said the team was prepared to wait another year, with the goal of giving the festival programme longevity.

He wanted the rebooted festival to become a magnet for expat Kiwi musicians and artists who had become successful overseas, such as jazz musician Nathan Haines and Pitch Black's Mike Hodgson.

A production team had already been assembled, and Rae said the event would work towards filming a 90-second clip to be shot over New Year in 2017, which falls on a weekend. It would be aired on international news channels and help create revenue.

"It would show Wellington as a dynamic city with the beauty of the gardens, the Mt Vic lookout and the downtown scene."

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- The Dominion Post

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