Join us for Newtown Festival 2021!
You are invited to celebrate with one of Wellington’s most exciting, diverse, and vibrant communities. Discover the unique Newtown community through a series of events and performances in February and March.
A World of Food & Music
The highlight of Newtown’s Festival extravaganza is the Newtown Festival Street Fair – Sunday 7th March. Free to all – a family-oriented public celebration in the heart of Newtown – this is Newtown’s community party to which all of Wellington is invited.
Who is behind the Festival?
Up until 2017 the Newtown Festival was run by the Newtown Residents’ Association. During 2017, with pro bono help from the legal firm Chapman Tripp, the Association established a Charitable Trust, the Newtown Festival Trust, to support this wonderful annual event while the existing, experienced Newtown Festival Committee continue to be responsible for the Festival’s day-to-day organisation. The Trust is now fully operational, and there is an impressive group of Trustees. Anna Kemble Welch and James Coyle were the Foundation Trustees, and they have been joined by Ian McKinnon (Regional Councillor and former Deputy Mayor), Deirdre Tarrant (Tarrant Dance Studio and founder of Footnote Dance) and Andy Nicholls (managing partner of Chapman Tripp).
The aim is to celebrate Newtown by bringing our community together out into the public realm, helping to shape and reflect the spirit, identity and local character beyond much more than the actual event. For the Festival to happen requires hundreds of people becoming involved in their community.
Please contact us if you would like to be involved.
A Brief History
In 1997, the Carrara Park Carnival moved to Riddiford Street as a public celebration of the then new City Council tree planting and street improvements. The Newtown Street Fair was so popular that members of the Residents’ Association continued to organise an annual celebration. The same core people have been at the heart of the planning and many other local volunteers have contributed to the work of making the Newtown’s Street Fair a success and a phenomenon on the Wellington summer calendar for the last 24 years.
The 2017 Street Fair required an operational crew of 349 people, had over 1500 active participants and attracted a crowd of well over 80,000 people.
Reclaim The Streets
On Festival Street Fair Day eleven blocks of central Riddiford Street and the adjoining Constable, Rintoul, and eleven side streets are all closed to vehicles and opened up to 80,000 people. The heart of Newtown is transformed by a smorgasbord of 12 music stages, a busking pitch, 3 fairground sites, and over 420 stalls.
Stages, stalls and people pack the main street and all the adjoining side streets. Newtown’s cafes and bars move outdoors into the road, accompanied by a fantastic range of tastes from many other food stalls.
Newtown’s shops and businesses are joined by local craftspeople, community groups, and visiting stall holders selling an enormous range of goods, reflecting the diversity of the people who come together for this event.
A performance-based street fair with live music, colourful costumes where dance and all day entertainment for all ages is provided by community groups, local musicians, and Wellington bands. The depth of talent in wider Wellington comes to the Newtown community for this once-a-year street party.
Being more important than cars, able to walk freely in the middle of the streets and experiencing Newtown from a different perspective is a large part of the crowd enjoyment.
Not For Profit
This is a not for profit public celebration. The point of the fair isn’t for someone to make money from organising it or as a fundraiser for the community. It’s a pure celebration of how fantastic Newtown is.
All the money raised is spent on staging & promoting the event. It is convened by volunteers with only a token koha paid to those who are most involved to cover some of their expenses. In the spirit of the event many southern suburbs performers who have gone on to become famous generously make themselves available at a reduced rate if their schedule allows.
The perfect opportunity for local groups, businesses & performers to showcase themselves to the public & for everyone to celebrate Newtown, the Street Fair has another, almost more significant, role. The weeks and months of organising & coordinating the event puts groups, organisations, individuals & neighbours, retailers & local businesses as well as residents in contact who might have no other reason to talk to each other.
The small group who convene the Newtown Festival believe in investing their personal time and energy to build social capital for the community.
Thinking globally and acting locally – putting an enormous amount of effort into ensuring the Festival is such a success year after year is their way of contributing to making the world a better place. It is their experience that the collegiality of the Festival does enhance the wellbeing and health of the community, creates a cohesive identity and promotes peace and goodwill.
They continue to stage this event because they believe that “community” only exists if people are willing to be active participants, to share a vision of the bigger picture beyond their own wants and needs. “We invest energy in our community to help ensure Newtown continues to attract people who are friendly and generous spirited.”
If you ask a young person in Wellington now about Newtown, the Newtown Fair Day will be one of the main things they identify with as to why Newtown is such a cool place. The Festival has really enhanced the sense of place and community and created a very positive image and vibe for our suburb.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Newtown Festival Trust, please go to our Give A Little page.
Putting The Unity Back Into Community
The vibrancy and sense of celebration on the day is the motivation & reward that encourages people, groups and businesses to contribute together constructively to our Street Fair. Newtown is a diverse, tolerant, eventful place – an atmosphere that the Street Fair is both a symptom & a cause of.
Newtown residents and business people are from a diverse range of cultures and ethnicities. The celebration of the multi cultural nature of the community is part of the Fair Day that helps build understanding and tolerance. The effect of the Newtown Street Fair runs for much longer than one Sunday in March!