The party is over, the clean up is done and now it’s time to look back on a brilliant winter spectacle - what worked well, what needs to be done to cope with the numbers wanting to attend this event and how we see Light Nelson developing in the future.
To say having more than 40,000 people attend the event over two nights exceeded all expectations is an understatement. Our ‘best guess’ planning was for double last year’s attendance, which would have been 10,000 each night.
10,000 people attended on Saturday and we coped well, but 30,000 on Sunday was too much for the size of the venue. This was six times last year’s best night attendance. We apologise to anyone who felt they didn’t have a good experience at Light Nelson due to this huge surge in numbers.
As regards safety, the width of the pathways and the suggestion that foot traffic should be one way: we hadn’t planned to concentrate people on the pathways, but rather leave them free to roam as we did last year, and could have done this year with a crowd of 10,000 per night. However the pathways were roped off and turf protection laid on Saturday after the wet weather, to protect the grass, to leave Queens Gardens and Albion Square in good condition and especially to protect the public from slipping on the wet, muddy grass.
We are certainly taking on board the suggestions as to how the event can be improved, and we will be working on fast tracking our ten year plan, which was always to extend the event beyond Queen’s Gardens and its surrounds.
Imagine a future Light Nelson that incorporates the Cathedral, continues across the NMIT campus, takes you through Albion Square and into Queen’s Gardens and then onto a riverside promenade along the Maitai, into the city where Trafalgar Street would be lit up, and maybe one day down to the port and even out to Tahunanui. With the huge crowd we had over last weekend we need to now begin work towards this vision.
We are thrilled to hear of the trade that the weekend’s arts events brought to shops and cafes. By joining forces with Art Expo Nelson, the Winter Music Festival, NMIT’s Creative Industries and with the marketing support of Tourism Nelson Tasman, visitor numbers will surely continue to grow.
A bigger and more extensive Light Nelson will give us even more of an attraction to draw visitors to Nelson. More importantly it will ensure that people have a quality experience, can take their time and get a good view, or become involved with the works that represent so much effort from our artists.
The support we had over the weekend gives us a strong case to take back to our sponsors to grow Light Nelson into a major showcase for Nelson. Light Nelson positions this region exactly as we want it to be known – a place with creative people who are working at the innovative forefront of the arts.
What is more important for those of us who live here is that Light Nelson emphasises Nelson as a place with a huge sense of community, where people will give their time willingly for a special and accessible arts event that is free to everyone.
This cannot happen without huge support and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Nelson City Council, Canterbury Community Trust, Nelson Mail and all our other sponsors, my team who have worked hard all year to bring this together and the artists who gave their time and skills to create the installations.
Thanks to you, the people of Nelson, for the positive feedback that we have had, and for coming out to experience something very special that we have created here in our city.