From Hippies to Hipsters

Forever summer: collecting the present on behalf of the future

With the summer long in our rear view mirrors and winter on the horizon it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on long hot days filled with road trips, BBQs, camping, swimming, and of course music!

Summer also marked a busy period for the E-pubs team, downloading and archiving videos, websites and music relating to the smorgasbord of music festivals that were on offer – in between the aforementioned activities of course!

Panorama of teh Parachute music festival, showing a large crowd and an evening sky.Parachute panorama, by Summer Skyes. Ref: Flickr, CC-BY.

Technical advances in making recordings of events have shaped the way stories have been transmitted over generations, and now advances in digital recording and the growth of online platforms have made audiovisual material more easily disseminated to a wider audience.

However, unlike more traditional storytelling methods based in the physical realm, digitally born audiovisual media are often under threat of getting deleted from memory cards or lost in the cloud(s) of online media drifting through the World Wide Web.

While many of these videos may still be viewable online, there’s no guarantee they will be forever and this is where collecting, describing and preserving this mass of new media becomes an important part of the modern library, in an effort to capture experiences of events through imagery, sights and sounds.

While preservation is a large part of what we do, bringing some order to the chaos by cataloguing and describing this media is just as important. This is challenging the ways in which we have traditionally grouped and described material, moving from chapters, albums and episodes to playlists, channels and sets.

Tents at a Nambassa festival, Golden Valley.Tents at a Nambassa festival, Golden Valley. Photograph taken by Brett Richardson. Ref: EP/1979/0382/34-F.

Farewell and goodnight

This summer sadly saw the final curtains drawn on two iconic NZ music festivals, indie music darling Camp a Low Hum and 26 year veteran Parachute Music Festival.

Parachute had been a stalwart of the NZ festival scene since staging their first annual festival way back in 1992 driven by a mission to help Christian musicians shift pop culture. After 24 years CEO Mark de Jong recently confirmed that the 2014 Festival held in January would be the last, citing that it was no longer financially viable and that continuing would place other activities of Parachute music at risk.

You can find out more about Parachute by watching this documentary produced in 2006 to mark their 15th year, which also includes live performances from that year’s festival.

Parachute Festival, 15 years strong

There is also a wealth of information on their festival websites past and present, including line-ups, news, galleries and other resources which we have been diligently harvesting since 2007. The 2013 harvest isn’t available yet, as the way the site was constructed makes it difficult to view correctly, but the files have been captured and we are currently working on a solution to the issue.

The brain-child of Ian Jorgensen (aka Blink), Camp a Low Hum debuted in 2007 with a philosophy of intimate performances, small(er) crowds, multiple environments, renegade performances, and no band announcements.

The Library has an extensive collection of digital media from a range of sources that help document the festival over its lifetime, including many memorable moments and performances, like this clip of the multi-talented Estere performing at Camp 2013.

Camp a Low Hum 2013

Viewing between the vines

While two iconic festivals bowed out, milestones were celebrated with the successful New Years Festival Rhythm & Vines marking its 10th year in operation. The Library has been regularly archiving their website since 2011, and we have also recently archived a short documentary that explores the festival’s history, from its humble beginnings as a group of graduating Dunedin students wanting to throw an epic party for all their friends.

Behind the vines – Ten years of R&V

You can leave your hat on

The idea of gathering en masse in fields and vineyards is nothing new, and many of the aforementioned festivals pale in comparison to the excess of the events staged in the 60s and 70s when crowd limits weren’t so much on our minds and clothes were only optional.

Nambassa was a series of multi-faceted hippie festivals held between 1976 and 1981, peaking with the somewhat controversial Waihi festival in 1979, which heralded up to 50,000 festival goers. Despite twice as many people as planned for turning up and the activation of emergency water provisions the festival itself went relatively smoothly. However it was tarnished by rumours of financial mismanagement and tax evasion.

Here is an interview with then 25 year old event organiser Peter Terry which provides a great overview of the festival and associated controversy. (Contains nudity.)

Nambassa '79

We have recently added the Nambassa archival website to our collections and have also archived a range of online videos featuring live footage and still shots from the festivals, complementing the range of articles, photos and other ephemera already held in the Library.

More than just the music

Music festivals are multifaceted events: They’re launching pads for lesser known bands and vehicles for more established bands to play to a wider fan demographic, and they often have equally important sociocultural and political components.

Camp a Low Hum was a successful experiment in challenging the traditional festival models of large crowds and commercialism and creating more intimate performances. Parachute was primarily a vehicle to push Christian culture and beliefs to a wider audience, through music and prayer. Nambassa, in addition to the music and entertainment, featured workshops and displays advocating holistic health issues, alternative medicines, sustainability and unadulterated foods.

Collecting these resources therefore becomes not only capturing a record of music performances but also of New Zealand culture and society from a range of perspectives and ideals. They can also provide windows into brands and sponsorship, fashions (or lack of), crowd interactions (including the latest dance moves of the era in which they were held) and social commentary, all of which can be of interest to future researchers and nostalgia seekers alike!

Preserving the old and documenting the new

There are many festivals not covered in this blog that hold a place in the Library collections. If you’re interested in any specific festivals and want to know what we hold you can simply search our catalogue or talk to one of our friendly research librarians.

Want to check out some more archived websites from the ghost of festivals past?

Hot off the press! Here are some of the new additions to our festival collections:



Square Wave Festival


Compilations of music from Square Wave 2013:

Tora! Coastal Music Festival


By Sholto Duncan

Sholto is a Web Archivist, responsible for locating and collecting digital music and other music-related digital media.

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Fiona May 8th at 10:37AM have a list of notable mentions / tags on the subject
Audio culture's blog post
An INNZ (Index NZ) search finds at least 406 articles on the subject , & findNZarticles even more, albeit the interpretation of 'music festival' is broad.

Jamie Mackay May 29th at 2:08PM

Actually a whole article on them: