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Three-day dance odyssey begins

Summer may have come to a close, but the party has only just begun in Wairarapa.

Up to 5000 revellers are expected to attend the 121 Festival over the weekend at the Tauherenikau Racecourse near Featherston.

Festival director Olly De Salis said 121 focussed on music, art, wellness, food, markets, and camping.

“It’s a sort of an all-encompassing vibe,” he said.

“Our slogan is a ‘three-day dance odyssey’, so that’s kind of a welcome to an adventure into a fairy tale land to dance and drink and celebrate life over three days.”

De Salis said the venue was “phenomenal”, comprising old grandstands, ballrooms, and 2000-year-old kahikatea trees.

“Also there’s no festival like this, of this scale, in the south of the North Island and the Wellington region. So we thought we’d fill that gap.”

The 121 festival started in 2015 as a network of creatives hosting “epic” house parties in Wellington.

As the parties grew in popularity, 121 nightclub opened on Cambridge Terrace and became a popular dance venue.

The 121 nightclub changed hands in December 2022, which allowed the organisational team to focus their attention on hosting “three-day dance odysseys”.

The line-up lists 40 international DJs and 40 local artists, bands and DJs.

“We also have a big focus on stage design and sound systems, making sure that the experience is really good for customers.”

The festival will also host dedicated welfare zones and wellness spaces, with yoga, laughter, and holistic workshops.

“We really want our community welcomed and to feel safe in our environments,” De Salis said.

Covid restrictions postponed this weekend’s event by three years.

De Salis said it’s a tough time for the events industry.

“It’s been an interesting summer with lots of weather, and with portaloos and infrastructure going up to Hawke’s Bay – you have to have room in a team to have flexibility and be able to move the parameters sometimes. So everyone goes through it.”

The festival boasts a range of music, although house and techno dominate the line-up.

“We make 121 stand out by sort of bringing an essence of Europe and the South Americas and beyond, and bringing it to New Zealand on a large scale,” De Salis said.

“Some of my personal favourites I think will be Interplanetary Criminal and Main Phase, who’ll be playing in the Dance Tunnel. That’s going to be really amazing.

“We’ve got two Berghain residents – Tama Sumo and Lakuti – coming over. Obviously Christopher Tubbs will be flying his tunes in there as well, but I think everybody is going to be phenomenal.”

The weather forecast for the weekend is sunny and dry all three days, so dancers will need sunblock and sun hats instead of gumboots.

And De Salis’ top tips for festival goers?

“Make sure you drink water, make sure you bring lots of snacks, eat food, put on sunblock, and just be friendly to everyone.”

For more information, visit www.121festival.co.nz

Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. She regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional pup.

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