Wanaka's Tuki festival celebrates the sound of New Zealand music

by Laura Williamson / 10 February, 2018

Lynne Christie.

Twenty years after launching Wanaka’s popular Rippon Festival, Lynne Christie is back on the beat.

The problem with Wanaka was the lack of gigs. It was the 90s, and Lynne Christie had moved to the Central Otago town to teach high-school music. Disappointed by a dearth of live shows – “we’d have to wait a year for someone like Midge Marsden or the Exponents to visit the village” – she got together with 12 others, including three students, set up the not-for-profit Lake Wanaka SouNZ Inc, and launched Rippon Festival.

Held at Rippon Vineyard on Waitangi Day in 1998, it certainly solved the gig drought, featuring Chris Knox, Salmonella Dub, Pitch Black, HDU and Jan Hellriegel, and attracting 1765 people, “not counting the ones who snuck in through the grapevines at night”.

Even so, they lost money. And finances suffered further thanks to a “yucko” lawsuit stemming from a shared PA system that failed at a Dave Dobbyn concert the next day, something Christie calls “a hard knock”.

Still, Rippon survived until 2014, growing from a teacher’s pet project to New Zealand’s longest-running festival, and the place to see up-and-comers. Acts like Fat Freddy’s Drop, Ladi6 and Shapeshifter all played there before they broke big.

Now, two decades later, the festival is back – with a new Glendhu Bay site, a new name, Tuki, and a very “now” line-up, including Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Marlon Williams and the Phoenix Foundation (February 10, tukifestival.nz). “We thought it would be a one-off,” she says. “We kind of got swept up with the love for it all and before you know it, it’s 20 years later. And we look 40 years older.”

Music has always been at the core of life for Christie, who also runs contemporary music workshops in Wanaka and the biennial Yami Sounz Summit, where participants work with professionals from across the music industry, including producers, managers and performers. 

She learned piano as a child, then turned to keyboards after discovering Pink Floyd and Yazoo. Her musical journey progressed when, while studying in Dunedin, she saw bands like The Clean, The Verlaines and Straitjacket Fits. “They shaped my desire to continue supporting quality original music. It was a great time to be alive!” she says.

Her own Rippon highlights include finally seeing Shihad “tear up the stage for the first time in Wanaka in 2006, after eight years of pestering”, as well as witnessing ex-TrinityRoots member Riki Gooch of Eru Dangerspiel play live with, yes, 37 others in 2010. “It was mind-blowing,” she remembers.

What Christie and her “inspiring” team remain driven by is a love of New Zealand music. “Our music is always growing, changing, and gaining in quality. The creative, innovative aspect remains – we’re a quirky bunch, happy to march to the beat of our own quirky drum.”

This was published in the February 2018 issue of North & South.


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