Amanda Wright loves a good party – and she’s an expert at organising them. And what better time and place, she says, for Kiwis to gather as a community and celebrate great music, arts and food than a coastal park on the Hauraki Gulf at the height of summer.
As festival director and founder of Splore, Amanda Wright is the driving force behind the three-day music and arts festival that attracts thousands every two years to Tapapakanga Regional Park, an hour south-east of Auckland.
Her passion for promoting visual and performing arts has seen Splore secure Creative NZ funding for the many art projects that have become a highlight of the festival.
Such is Splore’s success that festival fans have already signed up from around New Zealand and overseas for the tenth gathering next February 2014.
“Once they’ve been to Splore, people can’t seem to get enough of it. They get really excited by all the festival content and the whole experience. The biggest complaint we get is that we don’t have a Festival every year.”
Entertainment is split into multizones with something for everyone – electro, dance, beats, dub, soul and reggae, cabaret, theatre, and a family zone that has a full programme for ages 2 – 12 years.
With people converging on the site with full camping facilities, Tapapakanga Regional Park is transformed into a community playground. “The awesome location creates this relaxed environment where you can really immerse yourself for a few days with your friends among great music, performance and art installations,” she says. “We find people come to Splore and reunite with friends from all over the country and the globe.”
Splore’s unique attractions have evolved as the festival has grown from its humble origins in 1998. Amanda’s sheer drive and determination has seen it not only survive but thrive. In 2004 she took the event to the next level with the backing and business expertise of former magazine publisher and Splore enthusiast John Minty. The Splore Trust was also set up as a creative think tank. “It’s a real team event – we couldn’t do it without our highly skilled management and production team, fantastic supporters and volunteers,” Amanda says.
It’s also thrived thanks to Amanda’s extensive background in event management and personal experience of festivals overseas. She spent most of the ’90s working as a DJ in the Indian state of Goa – party central – and commuting to Europe to DJ at outdoor festivals in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. She’s also a veteran of the world-famous Burning Man festival in Nevada, which now attracts a community of 50,000 festival goers every year.
Amanda says she’s also a “total greenie” – probably thanks to her dairy farming father Brian, an active conservationist who would take her along as a child to protests to save native forests. At the core of Splore’s ethos is sustainability, driven by Amanda’s vision for the planet. “An event of this nature has the potential to leave a nasty carbon footprint from transport, energy and waste,” she says. “We’ve worked hard to establish sustainable processes, from our office practices and the festival site, to our sponsors and suppliers. We also work closely with the local community and businesses.”
“Splore is a life-changing experience,” says Amanda. “The early festival goers keep coming back, some of them with their children. It’s a completely different experience from the big one-day concerts where you’re crowded into a stadium and there’s nowhere to go and relax and take time out.”