Chch concert organiser eyes world record

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 03/11/2012
richard till
HELPING HANDS: Celebrity chef Richard Till assigns All Blacks captain Richie McCaw to pumpkin-cutting duty.

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A Christchurch volunteer concert chasing a world-record crowd could have crashed and burned, its co-founder has revealed.

About 10,000 people are today expected at Addington's AMI Stadium for The Concert, an eight-hour music and entertainment festival for which ticketholders had to complete four hours of volunteer work.

Volunteer Army Foundation co-founder Sam Johnson said yesterday that a crowd of more than 11,000 could set a world record for the largest exclusive volunteer concert. The record is held by Rock Corps at London's Wembley Arena.

About 7000 tickets had been sent, but Johnson hoped the pre-pledge initiative, which allowed people to attend the concert and commit to a volunteer project within the next six months, would encourage a strong walk-up crowd.

He said the project had been a steep learning curve. It began as a small project but got a lot bigger, leading to financial strife.

His Student Volunteer Army had grown from an unorganised "guerrilla" organisation - "a bunch of us in our flat" - into a charitable trust.

"I was critically worried at one point. I was thinking, ‘Are we going to have enough money to pay for this?' "

Some of the anticipated funding never materialised and the cost of staging the event at AMI Stadium was not known.

Numbers had been "plucked out of the air", Johnson said,

"It's the first time a music event has ever been [at AMI Stadium], and unlike any event ever, you'd normally have a bit of revenue from ticket sales," he said.

"It's hard enough organising an event of this scale in the time frame that we chose - it's a massive logistical nightmare - let alone doing it for zero budget."

The generosity of more than 120 donors and suppliers ensured The Concert was close to its funding target, he said.

"It's almost a $1 million show for much, much less cash," he said.

"That just shows the generosity around the table to make it happen. I've rung 350 to 400 people asking for something for free, if they can do it at cost or make a donation."

Johnson hoped The Concert's success would create a legacy, especially if the record was achieved.

"If we get more than [Rock Corps], that's an awesome record to set. It's all about showing what Christchurch can do and how incredible the people are who got off their a.... and went out and did something," he said.

Five of the best The Concert volunteer projects:

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1. Waimairi Beach cleanup: Shirley Boys' High pupils Tayler Reed and Fraser Smith proved teenagers can have an altruistic streak by encouraging about 50 people to pick up rubbish at Waimairi Beach.

2. Great Christchurch Spring Clean: Rain dashed hopes up to 1000 helpers taking part in a cleanup around the earthquake-hit eastern suburbs, but about 125 still braved the freezing conditions.

3. New Brighton Pop-up precinct: About 70 volunteers spent four transforming an empty space in New Brighton into an open-air cinema, twilight market, gallery and art studio.

4. Healthy Christchurch initiative: Celebrity chef Richard Till used his culinary talents to cook lunches for elderly Christchurch residents. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw donned an apron as well, but was relegated to pumpkin-cutting duty.

5. Art installations: Several projects were aimed at beautifying the city, including fence art, graffiti, murals and flower plantings. The BMX track, life-size board game and foam-block playground lifted spirits also.

- The Press

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