Te Ruru Light Festival is a one-of-its-kind event, held annually in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton. Inspired by similar light-based festivals around Aotearoa, the festival was conceptualised by Wintec academics and researchers, Luke McConnell and Jason Long, and Wintec graduate and CEO of Creative Waikato, Jeremy Mayall.
Wintec School of Media Arts design tutor and founder of Te Ruru, Luke McConnell says, “We have talented artists and researchers in the School of Media Arts who had already been installing light-based works in other cities, so we wanted to create an opportunity for these works to be shown in Hamilton.”
McConnell can’t help but think of the festival as a design thinking challenge.
“Our artists have some amazing ideas for creative light-based works, but as they develop their work they need to consider how the audience might interact with the work and how it can be installed safely in a public space,” he says.
“Often this means a lot of testing and refining of ideas before anyone gets to see it.”
Sometimes this means having to adapt. “There are heaps of creative ways to bring all those things together. Each year is a sort of redesign of the festival, taking what we know worked well and refining things to make the next event even better.”
Originally held in Hamilton’s Garden Place in 2019, Te Ruru had set its sights on a bigger venue for 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and changing alert levels at the time however, the two-night festival was unfortunately cancelled that year.
Determined to bring some light to Hamilton during a particularly dark time, the team at Te Ruru came up with the idea of hosting pop-up nights.
“We only told people it was happening that morning [of the pop up], but word quickly got out and we had an average of 1000 people an hour turn up to wander through the trail of light works,” says McConnell.
This year, the pop-up nights have returned and provided Te Ruru with the opportunity to also engage with the Hamilton Kirikiriroa Innovating Streets project by Hamilton City Council, through the use of areas such as the recently converted Rostrevor Street, which is now a dedicated pedestrian zone in the heart of the city.
The festival directors, along with a group of Wintec student volunteers, brought the pop-up to life on Friday 11th of June. Around 5000 people turned up over the 4-hours the event ran and the team received an overwhelmingly positive response.
“A lot of people missed out on the pop-ups last year, so we thought it would be good to show some of those works again to a wider audience,” McConnell says.
There was a live performance by Dr Mesmer’s Private Army, which featured huge projections onto the back of the out-of-operation Founders Theatre on Hamilton’s Tristram Street.
McConnell’s own work, Tau Ruru, was also featured again this year.
“During lockdown, it was hard to get materials so I hunted around the shed trying to see what I already had. Luckily for me, the recycling wasn’t being collected during that time so I had a pile of frosted white milk bottles that had ‘light sculpture’ written all over them.”
The final sculpture is made of over 40 recycled milk bottles: “We drink a lot of milk in my house,” McConnell laughs.
Te Ruru Light Festival would not be possible without the on-going support from the community and sponsors. The festival has partnered with ACLX, who not only supply the gear but work with some of the artists to co-create installations.
Hamilton City Council, Waka Kotahi, Wintec, CBD Events, Momentum, NES Hire, Resene, Trust Waikato, Creative Waikato and the team behind Matariki ki Waikato have also supported Te Ruru Light Festival in the quest to create a more vibrant Hamilton.
“The festival is all about mahi tahi (working together). We are always looking for new light-based works to include in the festival as well as volunteers to help out at the event.”
Footnote: This article was written by Wintec School of Media Arts Year 3 Communication student, Maddy Morris.
Images: Te Ruru pop-up night was held recently on the converted Rostrevor Street, which is now a dedicated pedestrian zone in the heart of the city.
Photo credit: Geoff Ridder
Learn more about Wintec School of Media Arts here.