Behind the scenes at Auckland Diwali Festival
Auckland Diwali Festival organisers are determined that the event delivers as much behind the scenes as it does to festival-goers.
About 55,000 people gather in the heart of Auckland every year for the colourful, joyous celebration of Auckland’s Indian cultures and communities.
New Zealand’s international city, Auckland is home to more than 220 ethnicities, with nearly 10 per cent of its multicultural population identifying as ethnically Indian.
Auckland Diwali Festival is New Zealand’s largest pan-Indian festival, inspired by and timed to coincide with the Hindu celebration of Deepavali.
While the religious festival is a Hindu festival, Diwali is celebrated by non-Hindu Indian communities throughout India and the world. For example, it is a national holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Aucklanders and visitors of all backgrounds flocks to the annual free, family-friendly event, coming to enjoy the best of traditional and contemporary Indian culture, including live performance and music from local and international acts, street food, craft, art and fireworks. Hundreds of local performers, artists and artisans take part.
Now in its 17th year, the festival is delivered by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), on behalf of Auckland Council, in conjunction with founding partner Asia New Zealand Foundation. ATEED produces Auckland’s major cultural festivals as part of a portfolio of events that generate social and economic benefits for the region.
ATEED’s Head of Major Events Stuart Turner says it is widely accepted that large-scale cultural festivals create a sense of community, inclusion and pride for citizens. They also help show a region’s diversity and vibrancy.
“We also want to make sure that behind the scenes, the festival is delivering the best it can for Auckland and its people, including our organisation’s ultimate purpose of supporting quality jobs for all Aucklanders.”
Backstage at Auckland Diwali Festival, ATEED is focused on building skills and sharing best events management practice.
“We want to build capability in our local events industry. This year we are running an observer programme for the first time, which allows student and young event professionals with a proven interest in Indian culture to get a first-hand look at the delivery of a major cultural festival. It complements the intern and volunteer programmes we run, and the mentoring work our programming team does with local performers.
“We work with public health agencies to run healthy menu and food safety programmes with our festival food stallholders. The team looks at healthy traditional cooking ingredients and techniques to ensure festival-goers have healthy options, including traditional festival treats.
The festival team also work closely with stallholders to ensure all food packaging is recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, and all waste generated at the festival is sorted live on site to divert as much as possible from landfill.
“Diwali Festival is a significant date on Auckland’s calendar, not just for our performers, stallholders and festival goers. It’s also part of the working year for many other Aucklanders, a wide range of local Auckland suppliers for everything from portable toilet and fencing rental to electricians and lighting technicians.”
“For some community groups, a stall at the festival is a key fundraiser for the year or the chance to promote what they do to a large, diverse group of people. Our commercial sponsors, whose support is a vital part of producing events of this scale and quality, are increasingly embracing the spirit of the festival with their activities on site, often collaborating with local artists or even dance schools.”
The 2018 Auckland Diwali Festival takes place at Aotea Square and Queen Street, from 12 noon to 9pm on Saturday, 20 and Sunday, 21 October. For more information, go to www.aucklandnz.com/diwali