Wendy Everingham

Wendy EveringhamAn interview with Wendy Everingham about the 2007 Lyttelton Festival of Lights

Wendy Everingham is community facilitator for Project Port Lyttelton, and the “conductor” of the orchestra that is tuning up for the Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights.

Some would say it’s a hard road putting on an outdoor event in the middle of winter, but Wendy is unerringly positive about the challenge of lighting up Lyttelton during the year’s darkest nights.

“People need an excuse to get out being in the middle of winter not much stuff happens like that in Christchurch so it’s a novelty still, and people feel like they’re in Europe. They are sort of dreamed into another place.”

The Festival of Lights was born in 2005 as part of the Lions rugby tour a cruise boat carrying around 3000 passengers and crew moored in Lyttelton and it was decided that something needed to be done to cater for that number of visitors to the port.

It wasn’t easy. “Six weeks out we had nothing planned,” she said. Despite its last-minute nature, the festival was a huge success, and has gone from strength to strength since.

“Each year the festival gets a little bigger, a little more sophisticated, but the core thing is that it honours the people that live in Lyttelton. It’s all about Lyttelton showing itself off to the world.

It’s a great chance for performers and artists to get more recognition, and to be known by their local population…for this festival we have a big art exhibition it’s well and truly over-subscribed. Every time we ask for musicians, there’s way too many.

Lindon Puffin, performerSo this year we’ve got Helen Greenfield her band the LEDs they’re first up, Lindon Puffin, Lava with Tony Paine from the Arts Centre, and Shane Bollingford and Ben Smith are Disfunk which Wendy describes as a band that “speaks to electronic music with fantastic audiovisuals to go with it that will be running on an big screen.”

“In conjunction with Heritage Week the city council are projecting these fantastic images up onto the Harbourlight, and then with all the businesses lighting up and the households it’s going to be quite something.”

Wendy came to Lyttelton four years ago and was involved with Project Port Lyttelton initially it was focused just on history. “They did up the torpedo museum and some work in the town centre.” Later a refreshed visioning statement was developed: “Portal to Canterbury’s historic past a vibrant, sustainable community, creating a living future.”

“As a result of that, a whole lot of projects started happening in Lyttelton. The first one that I got involved with was the walking maps project, but then there was a real desire for festivals to start. The festivals grew out of that desire for the community to connect.”
The festival is a ground-up community effort. “The design for the flyer, the website, the art gallery and performance stuff were all organised by local people. I’m the conductor,” she laughs. As the event is for the local community everyone involved wants to make sure it runs smoothly. “They really want to make it good and they all try hard - that is the advantage of Lyttelton over a bigger place.”

Wendy says there are real pockets of creativity and innovation among artists that live in Lyttelton. Lucette Hindin’s live theatre piece, Mythology of Soup is one of the most interesting.

“It runs in her house. She brings people in, and you get the feel of her place, and its quite intimate, there’s only 15 or so people per session. I think the music and film thing at her place will be quite a stand out - something different, very quirky. And they’re serving soup with that as well.”

Other performers and producers have all pitched in.

“The Loons Club (on Canterbury Street) now that that’s started up as a venue, they’re pulling out all stops and they’ve got four shows happening. For our event they’re doing a bingo extravaganza and karaoke with Elvis and a few fun bits and pieces. The whole thing is trying to pull the whole harbour together She Café and Massive have helped us all the way through.”

She Café is presenting a night of sultry jazz and blues with Jennine Bailey and friends combined with a three-course meal. Massive are running an all night Winter Soulstice outdoor party on Godley Head on Saturday, June 23.

Partying isn’t the only item on the agenda the festival is set up to provide entertainment for families as well as the chance to discover more about Canterbury’s heritage.

“Torch-light walks gives people the chance to go around and see the lights and the old buildings in the middle of winter.”

Masks at the parade“And Coffee Culture are giving free hot chocolates for kids between 6pm to 7:30 during the festival. There’s lots of kid’s stuff especially the Street Party, with the fireworks and the parade with the masks kids love all of that. We’ve got (classes at) Lyttelton West and Lyttelton Main Schools who’ve made masks this year so they’ll all go in the mask parade.”

People can bring along their own masks, or buy one at the event Wendy says, and a special feature of the parade will be heritage masks.

The festival is a tremendous chance to show Lyttelton and the harbour to Christchurch, and the opening of Heritage Week at the Harbourlight theatre means that several city councillors will make the trip through the tunnel to attend on a bus.

“I’m not sure how often they (councillors) come to Lyttelton or what they think about the place they’ll certainly get a feel for its eclectic character… the people who are coming to the Heritage Week Party at the Harbourlight they’re all coming by bus from Christchurch.

(We had a) conversation with the people organising it and they realised how important it was to us and they went and did it.

In terms of getting to the festival we really push coming by bus. On the night of the Street Party buses will run at double their normal frequency so that more people can get there without having to use their cars. So we really try to raise consciousness.”

Lyttelton does have a special character, Wendy says.

“You feel like you're on holiday in Lyttelton. I feel privileged to live there really. There’s not many places in the world with such fantastic views and great scenery and then that eclectic mix of people.”

“I think the port, you know the ships coming and going is like the people there’s sort of a constant flow of ideas and people coming into Lyttelton. That makes it special too…”

Months worth of planning has gone into the event, but Wendy says that businesses in Lyttelton have taken a lot of responsibility for the festival. The event has grown and grown, and local churches have joined the festivities this year.

“I think every part of the community feels like there’s something they can do.”
“The library has been great we use it for the performers every festival. They get right behind it they’re going to the effort of putting lights on the building. I think it’s good too, for the council to be out there now as well.” (The council have opened a service centre on London Street).

“Our sustainability philosophy helps too … The festival is a zero waste event aiming to minimise any impact on the environment from the traditional hangovers of big events bottles, cans and other waste materials… Many people in Lyttelton want to do the right thing by the environment, so we figure we can use our festivals as an education process in terms of waste reduction.”

Although part of the focus of the festival is Heritage Week, people will also have the chance to see history in the making with the arrival of HMNZS Canterbury. The Royal New Zealand Navy’s new multi-purpose vessel will be in port at No. 2 wharf from June 28 at midday and will remain in port until July 2.

The ship’s first public viewing will take place on Sunday, July 1.