Dunedin Midwinter Carnival

Iconic community event The Dunedin Midwinter Carnival is just around the corner and is celebrating not only light and a little magic in the depths of winter, but almost 30 years of existence.

“It was initially just a small gathering in 1997 - literally just a handful of people, and it just grew like topsy, doubling every year. It started out more as a Pagan ritual then became a theatrical showcase. Which then morphed into a really big parade, and now it's an installation based event.” says Paul Smith, Trust Chairman.

A capacity crowd in 2021, fluctuating COVID event regulations, and event sustainability, prompted organisers to rethink the format. In 2022 the event became ticketed and shifted, taking up a new home at one of Ōtepoti’s/Dunedin’s most iconic sites, First Church.

Part of the new format saw ticketing. Ticketing the event had caused public debate but was a move that needed to be made according to the Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations trust.

“Ticketing wasn’t completely welcomed but it was a crucial move we had to make. We had to redesign the whole event to suit COVID regulations, but it was also so that we could manage crowd capacity and safety, and to ensure the event’s sustainability.”

The new format gives the community the chance to admire the lanterns up close, and allows for a two day event with an expanded program of entertainment giving ample opportunity to enjoy every aspect, including a small procession that focusing on the lanterns created in the workshops, which will this year see the inclusion of more larger lanterns joining in, and a longer route through the grounds.

The event is put together by an incredibly dedicated team who work tirelessly behind the scenes on every aspect to make sure the festivities bring joy to the community. There is huge volunteer involvement every year from postering to helping with ticketing on Carnival night, even guiding the community through workshops.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the lantern workshops, without the full team effort we wouldn’t be able to share this experience with as many families as we do.” Says Co-Event Manager/Lantern Workshop Coordinator/Lantern Artist Xanthe Naylor, who began as a volunteer herself twelve years ago.

The Executive Art team, consisting of five lantern artists and two sewers, have been working tirelessly behind the scenes on costumes for all the performers and lantern restoration. This year sees a few new additions including Albatross, but the focus is bringing old favourites back to life, with each one receiving an extreme amount of care to restore them to their former glory.

"All restorations and new lanterns from now on get the full works, including water resistant material. Applying the material takes an extremely long time but it's so worth it in the long run” says Phillipa Crofskey, Executive Art team member and Lantern Director.

While the restoration process is laborious, and takes the same amount of time as creating a new lantern from scratch, it's extremely important and worth it to see these crowd favourites make a reappearance, now able to last the foreseeable future all shiny, new, and protected with their new water resistant fabric instead of the previous tissue paper.

“I’ve spent 80 hours already, and I estimate there's at least another 50 to go. And that’s on my lantern repairs alone” says Xanthe Naylor Co-event manager/lantern artist/workshop coordinator.

This June 21 and 22 The Dunedin Midwinter Carnival returns to First Church with the theme “Creatures of the Deep'' a celebration of the wonderful world of water and the fascinating creatures that live above and below the surface; from soaring albatross to terrifying taniwha.

“The Carnival is about celebrating our local creativity, environment and especially our seasons so the focus on the sea, our lakes and rivers is really appropriate and important.” Says Paul Smith, Trust Chairman.

Dive into dazzling lantern installations illuminating the night. Roving costumed performers manoeuvring through the crowds. The ever popular projections will once again radiate from First Church itself, and Bropy Aerials will be frolicking amongst the coral reef high in the trees. Mini lantern processions will wind through the grounds, lighting up the night and the faces of those involved. Plus dance performances by local troupes, local live music, your favourite food trucks and SO much more!



When: 21 & 22 June 6pm - 9pm
Where: First Church grounds and Moray place
Event tickets, pay-it-forward and workshop bookings are all available now through the event website - www.midwintercarnival.co.nz