Punters clamor for more as laneway festival attracts big crowds

As well as an entertaining way to farewell winter, the inaugural Four Lanes Festival offered a glimpse into the potential use of Nelson's smaller spaces in creating a vibrant city centre. 

Hundreds attended the six-hour event on Saturday and were treated to a wide range of entertainment, food options and street performers. 

The event aimed to bring locals to the CBD, while getting people off the main streets and utilising private and public laneways.

The four linked precincts included a noodle market at Kirby Lane, public art creations and projections at Fiddle Lane, a live performance space including circus acts at Old Bank Reserve laneway and a Latin Quarter of dancing, live music and themed food at Morrison Square.

As well as kapa haka performances and a ferris wheel, the sight of the Abel Tasman hot air balloon fully inflated and tethered in Buxton Square was a rare, if not unprecedented spectacle.

For the Fernandez family - Oscar, Cynthia and daughter Connie - the busy atmosphere of Four Lanes was a happy reminder of what they experienced in their native Chile.

"Right now it's the start of the season for all this kind of stuff - we would normally be getting ready for Independence Day [on September 18] - that means a lot of games, food and dancing - but this has been very nice," Oscar said.

The Lee family of Marybank had arrived just in time to witness the hot air balloon at full capacity and were "very impressed" with the array of activities on show. 

"Is it going to take off? That's what I want to see," said father David Lee. 

"We've been around, got some food - it's good to have something like this at the end of winter, just before spring."

Nelson City Council city centre development programme lead Alan Gray said while the follow-up meetings and discussions were still to occur, the initial feedback had been positive.

He had also heard from a number of restaurants and eateries had benefited from the influx of visitors to town, particularly at the eastern end of Hardy St.

"The people I ran into were excited - there was quite a bit that we had planned in there and I think people were going back and forth so they wouldn't miss out on something ... I think I managed to rack up 16,000 steps."

"For me, it was great to see a lot of families out, a huge number of children and there was something for everyone to do - that was really successful."

Gray said planning had focused on creating an easy flow between the venues so punters could travel easily on foot without the need for road closures.

He said while much had been made of the potential benefits of closing upper Trafalgar St,  Four Lanes had opened many people's eyes to how other parts of the city could also benefit from activating more laneways.  

"Obviously if this one is seen as a success then we're going to think about what we're going to do next year ... in my mind we had six hours yesterday - what if we did that for a whole day or over the weekend? There are lots of other quiet lanes and streets that we could probably use on the other side of the city."

"I'm all about making the city more for people, and anything we can do in that CBD space is a good move."

 - Stuff

TIM O’CONNELL

Last updated 15:57, Sep 01 2019