First Gathering dance festival held

31 December 1996

Poster for the Gathering, 1996/97 (Alison Green)

On New Year’s Eve around 4000 people made their way to the remote location of Canaan Downs, Tākaka, to take part in the first Gathering, a two-day festival for electronic dance music fans.

Nelson DJ Murray Kingi conceived the New Year’s event after becoming dissatisfied with the local Entrain parties. He worked up the idea and looked for an outdoor site to host it. With a budget of $90,000 and relying mostly on word-of-mouth advertising, the Gathering was an immediate success.

The first event featured over 100 New Zealand DJs, with 35 acts creating live electronic music, and artists performing in six separate music zones.

The 1997/98 event drew a crowd of 8000 and cost $350,000 to run, but brought an estimated $4 million into the local economy. After several successful years, the Gathering began to struggle as more dance parties were held in the South Island. The final event was held in 2002.

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