Festival's success dimmed by theft

LIT UP: Old St Johns under lights. Thieves literally ripped off the LED illumination over the weekend.
LIT UP: Old St Johns under lights. Thieves literally ripped off the LED illumination over the weekend.

The theft of $1200 worth of lighting has left a sour taste for one of the lighting consultants involved in Light Nelson.

"It's such a downer. We are giving 40,000 people so much pleasure for free, then some selfish people are going around doing that. It leaves a really nasty taste in my mouth," Ben Clegg of RGB Event Lighting said.

Clegg had four LED light bricks he owned stolen from the outside of Hardy St Old St John's overnight on Saturday and Sunday.

The church is a key venue for the Nelson School of Music's Winter Festival.

The theft means the church will no longer be lit up for the festival.

Clegg has been involved in Light Nelson from the start. This year his re-creation of the Riwaka Resurgence with Grayham Forscutt was a highlight.

Last year Rainbow in the Dark, created by him and Enfys Bellamy on the Chinese bridge, wowed audiences. Clegg said he also provides lighting advice to artists involved.

Along with the four LED light bricks stolen from Old St John's, a further light brick was stolen from the Queen's Garden. He understands the Nelson City Council also had two light bricks stolen from the gardens.

Clegg said the first brick was stolen from the church overnight on Saturday and the thieves came back to steal the others on Sunday night. He had taken steps to make the bricks secure.

"They were screwed to the wooden frame. They literally ripped them off the building and damaged the frames of the building."

He said the theft, from a building only 100m from the police station, was brazen.

"It's really sad this town has got to this level. I would expect it in Britain, but I wouldn't expect it here. Times are changing."

Clegg said Light Nelson could not get insurance, as insurance companies, ironically, did not think it was a big enough event.

"It's bit of a disgrace, really, that insurance companies won't insure events with 40,000 people."

He hopes that he can somehow get some kind of reimbursement for the cost of his lights, but says Light Nelson as a free event does not have a big budget and he did not want to encroach on that.

He lit up the outside of Old St John's using lights from his stock out of his own generosity in the spirit of the festival.

The black LED bricks are rectangular, about 30cm by 15cm and contain 36 LED lights inside, 12 of each colour. They cost him about $350 each.

The school of music's manager and music festival director, Frances McElhinney, said the theft of the lights was very disappointing.

"It means we can't have it lit for the festival."

The Nelson Mail