Editorial: Lights, camera - and promise of sparkle

So it is all about Sparkle, Sing and Smile. The theme for the TSB Bank Festival of Lights to start in nine days almost acknowledges the fact that many observers felt the last version lacked, in the words of events manager Melissa Devine-Collins, "that little bit of extra shine".

That was even though more lights had been used than for the festival 12 months earlier. Despite that, New Plymouth motelier Deborah Tawa told New Plymouth District councillors in May the last festival had lacked "sparkle" and suggested the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust, which runs Womad, the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular and Tropfest, should step in.

So when sponsors were given a look at the festival programme on Wednesday, via a typically polished video covering the musical acts and lights on offer, the effort to put the sparkle in was evident.

Organisers peering through the mist from the stage of the TSB Bowl of Brooklands will have hoped the downpour which followed the presentation was not an omen.

The festival relies on a fine spell of weather over a programme which has events penned in more days than not over a seven-week period.

This week's launch comes on the back of some negative publicity for the event following the New Plymouth District Council's decision to hire an out-of-town lighting company to turn on the sparkle in place of New Plymouth based Wells Instrument & Electrical, which had held the contract for nine years.

Wells' concentration on the fernery last year produced a spectacular result, but there was a feeling that many people missed it because it was not on the regular lights trail.

The council will have been aware of the mixed reviews from the last festival when it awarded MJF Lighting, of Tawa, the three-year deal to put the lights around Pukekura Park.

But an online poll indicated councillor Sherrill George's argument that the council should have stayed local had considerable support.

The "shop local" line sounds good, but it's worth remembering no business person would refuse to sell goods to someone on the basis they came from another town. Similarly, there are no complaints that some of the sponsors of this year's festival do not have their headquarters in town.

MJF's work is likely to come under heavy scrutiny, but there's a strong indication that the staff who have put the programme together think the results will impress.

The programme booklet, which has been delivered to letterboxes throughout the city, contains an impressive lineup of entertainment ranging from the traditional twilight movies in the park to boy band Titanium, who will perform at the bowl.

The 19th festival to be organised by the city council last year attracted about 120,000 people. It is ranked 77th on The AA Travel 101 Must-Do's for Kiwis, one of nine from Taranaki to make the cut.

Given that it is free, it probably deserves a higher rating. But the proof will be in the pudding this year . . . or more accurately, the turning on of the lights.

Taranaki Daily News