Walk of Wonders. Photo: Hazel Redmond

[As published in September/October BayBuzz magazine.]

The Havelock hills are about to become a little more magical this spring. Now in its third incarnation, Walk of Wonders: The Return Journey, takes over the extensive Black Barn property for two Thursday to Sunday weekends in September. An immersive experience of light and fire, the festival is designed to ignite the imagination and delight the senses. 

Guests embark on an easy 2 km loop through woods and vines, over gentle hills and into underground caverns. Each nook and cranny and expansive space is transformed into a land of fantasy by an abundance of light installations to enchant the most jaded of eyes. 

The audience is drawn into the speculative world of wonder via a puppet show, commissioned especially for the festival. This articulates the high fantasy premise on which the experience is based, fertile fodder for the creative imagination. 

Many of the installations display astounding feats of technology, giving us a glimpse into the future. But there is an earthy realness too. The natural setting, the abundant roaring fires, the handmade puppets, the rare joy of being outside in the night time, all give the audience an opportunity to be in the moment. 

The experience is deepened by an original ambient score, composed by Tom Pierard, live performers and an engaging story weaving each vignette into a cohesive adventure for young and old alike. The market space is filled with a variety of food stalls and hot drinks and Black Barn wine is available at various locations along the way. 

The festival is the brainchild of Ant Van Dorsten, the artistic mind behind Vesica Aotearoa. He’s responsible for creating wonderful installations in public spaces across the country. If you’ve been surprised and delighted by giant inflatable mushrooms, a rainbow tunnel or a fountain filled with glowing orbs whilst wandering around town, chances are Vesica has made it happen. 

Walk of Wonders brings together many of these pieces, with more created and constructed especially for the festival. Artists such as Fish Aberadi, Angus Muir and Phoenix de Vere will feature amongst others. 

Live Night, on Saturday September 23rd, adds an extra element to the festival. A diverse range of performers intersperse the interactive art works, enlivening the space with music, theatre and dance and other whimsical surprises til 10.30pm closing time. The headline act, Wellington three piece, Kita, is worth the entry fee alone. 

Walk of Wonders runs from 14-17 and 21-24 September at Black Barn Vineyards 


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