Local Focus: The Kiwi music festival in the middle of nowhere

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“Welcome to Nowhere” is a small underground music festival held on the rural outskirts of Whanganui every January.

Organised by a group of self-professed music geeks from Wellington, the audience comes from around the country to the venue which is quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s really easy these days with the internet to look anywhere and go anywhere,” organiser and curator, Joel Cosgrove said. “But this involves driving in for a couple of hours hoping that you’ve got it all right and not being able to rely on calling anyone, so there’s a bit of a jump into nature that we think should be celebrated a bit more often.”

This weekend is the festival’s fourth year and with a capacity crowd of 500 including performers, it’s a lot of organisation for a relatively small audience. But Whanganui District Council is keen to see it grow.

“We like to get behind things so events can realise their full potential,” Jonathan Sykes from Whanganui and Partners said. “That’s our interest in this, we know it’s pretty small at the moment but by getting behind it we can look at it being established on the event calendar for Whanganui.”

Whanganui and Partners are providing the festival with marketing support, having recognised its potential, along with other events, to attract people to the region.

“The idea of it being just out of Whanganui, that it’s in that rural setting, has definitely got some appeal,” Sykes said. “And [festivalgoers] are also drawn to coming in to Whanganui as well so I think it’s great.”

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“Year on year more people from around the country attend the festival,” organiser and curator Ben Jones says. “As our name gets out there and we grow the festival’s brand, we get people from Auckland, the East Coast, Christchurch, Dunedin.”

“We’ve got some great South Island bands that are going to be involved, so we’re really excited about that. The more people from all corners of the country the better.”

While there is plenty of support in Whanganui, it’s current site is at capacity and potential to grow may be limited, with most of the volunteers commuting, when possible, from Wellington.

“The biggest challenge of a festival is finding a great location, finding great local people to help and support the infrastructure to help put it on. That’s 95 per cent of the stress and the struggle involved in it,” Cosgrove said. “Once you’ve got that, everything is pretty smooth really.”

Whether “Welcome to Nowhere” gets bigger or not, the festival promises to remain one of New Zealand’s more intimate summer festivals.

“At a lot of festivals you’ve got the bands, they play, whereas for us it’s bringing together our friends, and friends of friends, and the various creativity that people bring to play,” Cosgrove said.

“It’s a chance to see people who are going to go places. We’ve had so many acts, bands, poets come through who have ended up really establishing themselves internationally and so it’s a great chance to see some really magic talent in an environment that’s really second to none.”



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