A Banksy stencil depicting a piece of graffiti reading ‘Follow Your Dreams’ plastered with a cancelled sign has had an online resurgence recently. Gavin Fantastic, [Chairperson at New Brighton Charitable Trust] can most definitely relate to the sentiment. Fantastic started working on the idea of an outdoor art festival in New Brighton a year ago. Just weeks before it was due to be staged, doubts about its form amidst the Covid-19 pandemic began to crystallise. Just days before it would have come to life it was postponed indefinitely.
Of course, this is an isolated occurrence. Almost every event which would have attracted a public audience was impacted by the response to the virus and ultimately doomed by the enforced lockdown. Fantastic, an urban art champion and a resident of the seaside village, conceived of the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival as a way to support an artistic community and to rejuvenate the suburb’s walls. He had gathered a small team to develop the programme, including local graffiti legend Ikarus, and secured support from the Christchurch City Council’s Enliven Places fund along with various sponsorships. The official festival was scheduled for March 28th with artists painting numerous village walls, live music, guided tours of the new and existing art in New Brighton, interventions such as yarn-bombings and a stencil workshop all planned.
The festival did technically get underway. Three weeks prior to the main event the Fiksate crew produced a massive ‘Welcome to Ōrua Paeroa’ mural with the help of the local community on a prominent wall visible on the way into the village intended as a very public announcement of what was to come. A week before the festival was to take place, an exhibition of work by participating artists, including Dcypher, Jacob Yikes, Vesil, Jenna Lyn Ingram, Meep One, and Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson was hung in the New Brighton community gallery. It was open for one day.
With the rapidly evolving situation, Fantastic re-imagined the festival as a ‘closed door’ event, mask and glove wearing artists painting without the public attendance. Fantastic even spent his weekend painting several huge walls grey in preparation. However, it was soon apparent that even this approach was not possible, the country heading into lockdown. While personally disappointed, he recognises the need to act responsibly in the face of the current situation. Fantastic has been assured that the Enliven Places funding will be available to stage the festival in some form and he remains optimistic that it will occur in the future. For now, New Brighton has a vibrant new welcome sign and Fantastic is determined to see more large-scale additions realised in the near future.
- The Welcome to Orua Paeroa mural produced by the Fiksate crew with help from members of the community as part of the NBOAF. Photo credit - Gavin Fantastic