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The Cuba Street Carnival

Nicola Kean



An exciting Wellington event in a season of exciting Wellington events, the Cuba Street Carnival is back from the brink this weekend and is set to be bigger, better, and more ‘mainstream’ than ever before.
After a six-year struggle to obtain resource consent to extend the Carnival to Courtenay Place, organisers will now be putting on a event that’s literally doubled in size from last year. “We need the extra space,” says artistic director and founder Chris Morley-Hall. “Over Carnival weekend, [Cuba Street] gets to critical mass really quickly.”
And the recent completion of construction of the inner city bypass hasn’t detracted from the atmosphere of the Carnival, Morley-Hall says.
In fact, he argues the bypass has assisted the organisation of the event, by directing heavy traffic away from the Carnival area. Instead of people attending having to cross State Highway One in two places, now Ghuznee Street can also be closed off.
“We’ve had a lot of issues because of that issue,” says Morley-Hall. “People crossing State Highway One have actually been hit in the past. So it’s been a big issue for us to maintaina good level of safety for people that attend.”
But Morley-Hall is quick to deny that the edgy, quirky atmosphere of the Carnival has become a victim of its own success. “The carnival started in Cuba Street and it will always have that feel, but it’s really a Wellington carnival now.”
There’s plenty of edginess and quirkiness to go around during the now two-day Carnival, with an array of music, street theatre, comedy acts and film – not to mention the markets and food stalls.
The main stage in Swan Lane carpark on Cuba Street boasts a number of excellent bands and other musical acts on Saturday night. Highlights include the Auckland rock band The Mint Chicks, the always lively eccentric local band So So Modern and old Carnival favourites The Phoenix Foundation. On the World Stage down Ghuznee Street, expect sing-along fun as the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra strum their way through the classics. Hopefully Bret Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame will have returned from overseas to give us girls something to perve at.
Those vixens in lycra and leg-warmers, The Real Hot Bitches, will be attempting to break the world-record for the largest synchronized dance on the stage outside Courtenay Place bar The Establishment from 6:30 on Saturday night. Dancing experience, or even an ability to move to a beat, is not necessary.
If fi lm is more up your alley, the outdoor fi lm fi esta is making a comeback this year. The feature presentation This is Spinal Tap – a mockumentary about an ageing rock band – will be screened on Friday night. A short claymation about sheep made by Flight of the Conchord’s Jemaine Clement will be played before the feature film.
Described as Morley-Hall as producing “cutting-edge music videos, animation, computer graphics”, onedotzero, the group behind Hexstatic’s live graphics, will be screening a specially-designed fi lm on Saturday night.
So while the Carnival has embraced the mainstream, it hasn’t sold out on its edgy roots. After problems forced it down to one day last year, this year it will be a two-day event. It looks to get only bigger and better next time around in 2009, when it will be expanded to three days.