LIGHT AND SOUND IN SUMMER

In recent years, during January, the Garden has run a Light and Sound Festival.

Early in January, for that  month, the Main Garden area is floodlit with a range of lighting effects.  Changing each year, the free spectacular show attracts many visitors, and is well worth visiting.


In addition during the same period, a Music Festival is run.  Performances are staged in the open air on the Sound Shell Lawn, and involve a range of performers, so most tastes are catered for.  Again, this is a free show.  Bring a rug and cushion,  and many bring a picnic meal, which can make a  most enjoyable evening.

LIGHT FANTASTIC

Mike Farrand's job is to make the Wellington Botanic Gardens magical for the Summer City performances

This article, written by Diana Dekker, was published in The Dominion Post Indulgence 19 Jamuary 2008, and is fully acknowledged

Picture Kent Blechynden Dompost

Will the last man out please turn off the 400 lights? That man is Mike Farrand, plunging the Botanic Gardens into peaceful night-time gloom after the excited kids and the musicians and other revellers have all gone home.
Turn-off time is 10.30pm but Mike is not a light miser. If a Summer City evening has been particularly balmy and families have been drifting in late, he doesn't pull the switch and shoo them out the gate on the dot of closing time.
Mike has been making the gardens magical with light in January for a decade, adding a light here, changing one there, all the time discreetly listening to what people say. He did think he might lose the mirror ball tree by the duck pond, "but the feedback was people would be gutted if it wasn't there".
"We try to keep some components the same. Every year the bubble machine fills the garden with bubbles that drift with the breeze and catch the light going down the path."
Preparation for the garden lights begins in mid-December in Mike's Tawa workshop. It takes 10 men most of a working week to install them on five kilometres of cable. They are in four sections so that if Wellington turns on one of its mean deluges, all the lights don't all go out at once.
Rain sometimes stops play, but never like it did four years ago when a sudden downpour made the duck pond overflow. Mike says half a metre of water flowed on to Tinakori Rd and piles of lights got tangled up by the gate. A better plan for stormwater has been put in place since then, so it can't happen again.
The real effect of the lights is most apparent in the moments after they are turned off, says Mike, "and it's stark in comparison and you get a sense of how much we've put in and how it transforms the area".
Mike has been fascinated by light since he was a child. All he ever wanted to be was a lighting man and he joined the school lighting team in Tawa at 13. "I'm a practical person and one thing at school I was good at was lights for school productions. I wasn't into sports. I liked playing with electricity."In his seventh form year, he was farmore interested in getting bit parts in lighting teams for glamorous events such as a Dire Straits concert at Athletic Park and the Benson and Hedges fashion show than he was in school lessons. At 17, he became an apprentice electrician, buying gear with his modest pay and storing it in a basement dug out by his father for the purpose.
He knew then he wanted his own business and was establishing business relationships and planning while he was doing his four-year apprenticeship. Those years were spent on building sites and in high-rise commercial buildings. "I hated it and I got qualified and I took a leap of faith and left."
He was 21 - 16 years ago - when he set up his production lighting company, MJF Lighting. The gear got too much for the basement, then filled up a garage, and now spreads over 700 square metres of warehouse space in Tawa. There are nine employees. Mike's wife does the accounts and his father looks after the warehouse with its kilometres of cables, lights and sophisticated computer gear.
Lighting work extends far beyond Mike's favourite Botanic Gardens job. He lit up Civic Square on New Year's Eve and is often called on to light the TSB Bank Arena or the Town Hall. Car sales yards, marquees and wharf sheds light up to his plans and he can make a starkly lit hotel space glowingly romantic. "One-third of our work is creating ambience," he says. "It's a subtle thing people don't notice. It goes hand in hand with good catering and wine."
His lighting is often what puts Wellington people in the mood for a good time, creating an ambience even before they enter a venue. The outside and audience lights for World of WearableArt were Mike's work, designed to capture the spirit of the show from the moment the audience saw the venue till they disappeared afterward into the night.
When Peter Jackson's King Kong had its world premiere at the Embassy Theatre, the outside of the theatre was lit in a way fitting to the era of the film, and while the audience watched the movie inside, Mike and his crew were transforming the outside of the theatre into a light and smoke-filled street scene. He also lit the TSB Bank Arena when The Lord of the Rings premiered and did inside lighting for the David Beckham after-match function at "an undisclosed Wellington location".
Lighting is an odd thing, he muses, something people generally only take note of if it's not good. "The same with office lights. If you have a bad fluoro light it's annoying, but if it's comfortable and relaxing, you don't notice it."
The New Zealand International Arts Festival will keep him busy. Sometimes his day ends at 5am. And for the past 15 years, when he dropped exhausted into bed after a long, hard night, he knew he could be called out again - to a fire. He is a volunteer fireman and has just been appointed chief fire officer of the Tawa district. And, no, he insists, he's not in it to see the flames lighting up the sky. "It's about community service."










The images have been taken over a number of years.