Organiser unperturbed by small crowds

By Peter de Graaf

The organiser of last weekend's Honey Jam near Kerikeri is undaunted by low turnout at the two-day music festival, saying the event will definitely be back next summer.

The festival, held at Te Kowhai Pt farm off Redcliffs Rd, was geared at families rather than the usual 18-30-year-old crowd and headlined by a re-formed Supergroove featuring Che Fu. Other acts included Whangaroa reggae band 1814, Mangawhai's Jamie McDell, Melbourne-based Bonjah and Wellington's Thomas Oliver Band.

Close to 1000 people were on site on Saturday, including the musicians, stallholders and volunteers. Sunday's turnout, however, was a lot lower. The event's consent allowed up to 3500 people.

Organiser Toby Garland, of Kerikeri, said the idea of starting a festival came about when he was living in France, playing in bands and "knocking around with people in the music industry". When he returned to New Zealand with his family three years ago, the idea kept growing.

"It seemed there was a gap in the calendar in this part of the country for a boutique music festival, one that was family friendly but still rock and roll."

Other festivals, such as Rhythm and Vines and Homegrown, were aimed at the 18-30-year-old market, but he wanted an event suitable for kids and the over-30s.

Mr Garland said he was not disappointed with the turnout but admitted he was hoping for a bigger crowd.

"We always expected to run at a loss in the first year. We'll carry on, it's too good not to do it again. Now we've got a platform, it's gone from just being an idea to being an experience."

Mr Garland believed part of the problem was that Honey Jam was a new concept and not what most people expected from a music festival.

Families might have been put off by the mistaken belief kids would be exposed to "noise, booze and pot".

"We're trying to break that preconception. People are always hesitant when something is new."

As for the price - $135 for two days - Mr Garland said he had done all he could to give value for money, and the price was "fantastic" for the 18-band line-up.

He was proud of what the Honey Jam had achieved and the fact almost everything on site, including two monster sound systems, had been provided by Northland firms.

His personal highlight was walking into the VIP tent on Saturday to find his 10-year-old daughter playing ping-pong with "superstar" Che Fu.

Mr Garland said his dream headline act for next year's festival was an international big-hitter of the calibre of Ben Harper. That, however, would send costs skyrocketing and require sponsorship.

- Northern Advocate

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