News | 27 December 2018

Capital celebrates 40 years of Summer City

Wellington City Council’s iconic Summer City programme kicks-off its 40th year on New Year’s Eve, with more than 90 events happening over the next three months – and there’s something for everyone.

Summer City raft race circa 1985
Summer City raft race circa 1985

For 40 years, Summer City has been entertaining locals and visitors alike with a huge variety of events and activities, and its history is equally as entertaining.

In 1979, Wellington City Council first organised a series of outdoor music concerts and activities under the name Summer City.

It started as a way to employ musicians, artists, students and others to entertain residents over the warmer months. It quickly made a big impact on the Wellington way of life, and set the foundations for our arts and events scene to develop into New Zealand’s capital of culture.

Mayor Justin Lester says the longevity of Summer City is down to a number of factors. “Every year an amazing team works tirelessly to provide free events and activities that everyone can enjoy, they adapt the programme with the times, and deliver a calendar that represents our diverse and multi-cultural communities.”

Colin McLean, aka Pollyfilla, has been one of Summer City’s favourite performers for years, and is back for more in 2019 as MC for Gardens Magic.

“As Miss Pollyfilla I’ve hosted many Summer City events for nearly 20 years now. This was well before ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ made drag more mainstream. Most local governments didn't risk programming a drag queen for family oriented events – but Wellington City Council happily put their faith in me.”

“It let me spread my creative wings, provided income and opportunities for me and many diverse artists, and sent a very subtle message that being different was okay – even something to be celebrated!”

Michael Farrand of MJF Lighting says “Summer City’s been a constant highlight on our work calendar for over 20 years. From the very early days of small pop-up bands, rock barges on the harbour, picnics by the beach and Civic Square extravaganzas, to the long-time flagship event Gardens Magic. We’re especially excited to present a newly refreshed lighting design in 2019 for this three week season of music and light at the Soundshell.”

Over the past 40 years Summer City has showcased thousands of talented performers, become synonymous with the social scene of summer, and has grown to now feature more than 90 different and diverse events.

Some of the Summer City 2019 highlights include:

  • 31 December, New Year’s Eve, Whareipo Lagoon
  • 8 to 27 January, Gardens Magic, Soundshell, Botanic Garden
  • 19 January, Wellington Pasifika Festival, Odlin’s Plaza
  • 26 January, Kids' Magic In The Dell, Botanic Garden
  • 6 February, Te Rā o Waitangi, Waitangi Park

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