News | 28 December 2018

Wellington ready for a spell of Gardens Magic

Gardens Magic is ready to weave a spell over the capital with three weeks of the iconic free concert series returning to the Wellington Botanic Garden Soundshell to showcase the sounds of Aotearoa’s best and brightest.

Miho's Jazz Orchestra

There will be something for everyone from classical, jazz, indie, rock, pop, to reggae, ska, world music, te reo Māori, and so much more. Get there early to grab a good picnic spot, and as the sun sets, watch the gardens transform with a magical light display by MJF Lighting and a special art installation by Kaynemaile.

Mayor Justin Lester loves the annual event as it’s a great opportunity for family and friends to get together and support local artists in a beautiful setting.

“Annually, thousands of Wellingtonians turn out to share this experience with each other, and every year the team delivers original, entertaining, and diverse content.

“Every year is a highlight, but I have fantastic memories of The Phoenix Foundation, Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, and Julia Deans. It might sound nerdy, but I also remember watching a security guard moving people on for smoking, and realising the city’s smoke-free policy was starting to take effect!

“It’s also a very special Gardens Magic season with Summer City turning 40 and Wellington Botanic Garden turning 150 – so there’ll be extra activities and fun on offer as part of the celebrations,” adds the Mayor.      

On opening night (8 January) we turn the clock back 40 years – so get your best 80s outfit on to win fabulous prizes. There’ll be birthday cake for the first 150 people, and special performances by the Tarrant Dancers, to celebrate local dance industry legend Deirdre Tarrant who helped kick it all off 40 years ago.

Other special heritage nights include the Royal New Zealand Air Force Jazz Orchestra on 18 January – swing dance the night away to jazz classics, and celebrate the RNZAF band’s 80 years of making music in Wellington.

Another long standing local group is showcased on 25 January when a star ensemble from Orchestra Wellington plays a sunny mix of modern and traditional chamber music.

Overall, it’s the tenth Gardens Magic season run by Delia Shanly, City Events Creative Producer. She says this Summer City flagship event has always been popular, but with a few facelifts over the years it keeps getting better, and more diverse.

Delia says “Hundreds of performers applied for Gardens Magic 2019, which allowed us to create a high quality programme which will appeal to so many types and tastes. We have a wealth of talent in Wellington, so most acts are local but it also aligned with some out of town artists passing through. We’re lucky to present Jane Siberry (12 Jan), a very poetic Canadian musical icon, and top New Zealand talents like Reb Fountain (17 Jan) and Miho’s Jazz Orchestra (27 Jan).”

“Gardens Magic has been going so long we’re now seeing a second, even third generation of Wellingtonians – performers, technicians and audiences – participating, and it’s a recognised highlight on everyone’s summer calendar.”

“One of the special art installations this year is by artist Aaron Frater, whose father Peter Frater helped run the event for many years. We’re also lucky to have a few long term performers back like Sam Manzanza and Deirdre Tarrant, whose dancers will tread the boards once again.”

Deirdre says “This event has been a magic way to celebrate Wellington, and Tarrant Dancers have been there from the very start. In sizzling sunshine and summer showers, Summer City has been a real part of developing and experiencing the musical, dance and community talents of our cultural capital.”

Michael Farrand from MJF Lighting has been involved in Gardens Magic since the late 90s, and his son is now becoming part of the team creating a magical wonderland to delight both young and old alike. From bubble machines, mirror balls, moving coloured lights and UV glow zones.

Michael says “From what originally started out as a small intimate series of night time concerts and lights, growth was fast, and we now are proud to reflect on what is such an iconic and successful Garden Magic series that forms a key part of Summer City each year.”

Wellingtonians can share their memories of 40 years on Summer City by posting their photos on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #summercity40 – a $100 New World voucher is up for grabs.

For daily updates, check the Council’s Facebook page and for more information visit

Tue 8-Sun 27 Jan | Botanic Garden Soundshell

Free concerts: 8pm-9.30pm

Light display: 9pm-10.30pm