Festivals of New Zealand

August 24, 2018
Popular winter festivals of

Tickets. Check. Booze. Check. Tent and camp stove. Check. Reliable vehicle. Check. Carload of mates. Check. Illicit substances. Optional. It had all the makings of a typical summer beach holiday except these travellers were headed for a small valley between Paeroa and Waihi. They were some of the more than 65, 000 young people in transit to Nambassa: A Three Day Festival of Music, Crafts and Alternatives in late January 1979. At the end of a dull, fragmented decade musically and culturally, young New Zealanders were finally coming together at a successful multi-day event they had organised themselves. It was the first mass gathering of New Zealand’s sub-cultural other.

Nambassa 79 took everyone by surprise. Organised by a hippie collective led by Peter Terry, the three-day festival set a template for all future rock festivals. It was held in high summer, had a distinctive identity, and was headlined by a few overseas acts backed up by a strong Kiwi contingent of groups and performers. It emphasised alternative community and politics, and had a relaxed attitude to deportment. It also lived in a cycle of popularity dependent on the fickle currents of pop culture.

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