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Nostalgia Festival – music, food and a dose of yesteryear

12 January 2018

Nostalgia Festival invites people to party the day away in an Edwardian-style village on the edge of the Port Hills. ChristchurchNZ spoke to founder Johnny Gibson about the event combining the old and the new – from its heritage park setting and music from New Zealand stalwarts The Chills to fresh brews and cuisine from inventive local foodies.

How would you describe Nostalgia Festival to a stranger sitting next to you on a plane?

It's a replica 1900s township consumed by an indie music, arts and food festival.

What was the motivation behind setting it up five years ago?

I decided a festival was the best way to blend my talents and with nothing to lose, as I had just returned from overseas, I started exploring the city for a unique venue.

What drew you to Ferrymead Heritage Park?

The park is amazing. It delivers a pop-up world where people can really get away from day-to-day life. As soon as I walked in there, I had a flashback to a memory of being there as a child. After a while I realised that other people who grew up in Canterbury probably had the same memories. Plus, the backdrop of the Port Hills is ideal.

How does Nostalgia differ to other New Zealand festivals?

Apart from the venue, I would say we've always been a community event – and by that I mean we have so many passionate people involved showcasing skills, products or ideas. They all become invested in the event and that then spills out into their lives. A key component is that the festival is curated; certain things – like acts and decisions – help create the overall experience.

Has the festival changed or evolved in five years?

We're big on organic growth and that's because for most of us, this is all new and I'm hesitant about biting off more than we can chew. This approach has allowed us to maintain control of the event, which shows in the repeat attendees and the fact we've never had a recorded complaint or incident. So, we've just got bigger acts and better at what we do without changing our values.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s event?

This year we should have just over 4000 people, which is a bit of growth from last year. I'm excited about our new second stage area with RDU that's next to a water feature in the park. We've also got a couple of surprises up our sleeve…

How do you choose the food and drink providers at the festival?

Again, this just evolved organically. We don't really put the call out for vendors, it has always come down to passionate, skilled foodies who just want to get involved. We've had the same core vendors from day one which has been amazing as they've been a big part of the festival's development. 

What do you think are our city/region’s best attributes?

For me, it would have to be the Port Hills, Lyttelton, Governors Bay and Banks Peninsula area. It seems to relax and inspire me on every adventure.

Where do you live in Christchurch and what do you like about living in your part of town?

I live on the Riccarton edge of Hagley Park. It has great access to the city and park. But I’m currently planning a move to the Port Hills. 

What do you like about living in this city/region overall?

The possibilities for the central city is a big one, I'm really interested and involved in the conversation of where it's going  through our other company Neat Places. Also, having grown up in the Amberley/Waipara region, I love being back out in wine country. I think that area has a huge future in the food and wine producing scene.

Is our city/region different now to what you remember growing up?

Sure is. I think we were so comfortable before, but now – post-quake – I believe we're building a new identity for the region, which will still take some time.

What are your favourite things to do here in your spare time?

Heading over to Banks Peninsula, checking out new businesses in the city and spending time with family and friends. 

Where do you go to get a good feed/coffee in the city?

We're spoilt for choice with coffee. The Anchorage, Coffee Embassy and Grain Coffee & Eatery are my daytime haunts. For food, you can't go past Gatherings for an experience in food unlike any other.

What are your hopes for Christchurch in the next few years?

Collaboration between hospitality businesses in the city to create events and new experiences unique to them and the city.

Nostalgia Festival is at Ferrymead Heritage Park on February 10. For tickets or more information, visit the festival website.

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