My happy place: Julian Cook, Pride Festival director

Victoria Park Market has special memories for  Julian Cook. Photo / Getty Images
Victoria Park Market has special memories for Julian Cook. Photo / Getty Images

My happy place is Victoria Park Market. There are iconic places around the city that are touchstones for you throughout your life, and for me the market is one of those.

I first fell in love with it in the early 1990s when it was the home of a whole lot of edgy fashion boutiques. I used to visit Hunters and Collectors every week to see which new catwalk seconds had arrived by the container-load from Europe. It was a treasure trove.

I bought my all-time favourite pair of dancing shoes there - a gorgeous pair of Junior Gaultier boots in black suede and rubber, which I immediately had elevated into four-inch platforms. Funnily enough, they're not at all different from what the cool kids are wearing today. I've still got them somewhere, waiting to break my ankles in.

I'm a big fan of art nouveau and anything that is fin de siecle in terms of arts and culture. As a turn-of-the-century industrial construction, the market is an endless source of inspiration.

As well as being the director for the Auckland Pride Festival, I'm party director of PROUD, which is the huge closing party of the festival. This is the second year we'll hold the party at the market. The market is having a huge refurbishment, and it's a far more fabulous complex than it was in the nineties. All the clutter is gone and it's been beautifully and sympathetically redesigned. I think they've done an awesome job.

The historic and iconic elements are still there, but so are amazing new courtyards with overhanging pohutukawa trees and internal staircases accessing the bars. The bars all have massive decks with fantastic views. As a party director there's not much more you could ask for. People love the space; they love exploring the space.

We're working with a whole new configuration of party spaces and dance floors this year, which keeps it fresh and interesting. There's an underground space called the Eastern Stables we'll be using for the first time - a really industrial internal space.

The market's even got hidden spaces that haven't yet been rediscovered - there's a secret room underneath the base of the chimney, which is far too perilous to use at present. Very few people know about it - but in the future, who knows?

I get a nostalgic feeling when I walk into the market, because it's had meaning for me over many decades. I get really excited walking around and looking at all the possibilities. Being able to transform the market's diverse spaces for Proud and work with the artists who'll perform in them is not just a creative challenge, it's a joy.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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