GRANT SMITHIES IS ONE OF THE FOUR MAIN ORGANISERS OF THE GATHERING AND ALSO ACTS AS THE MEDIA LIAISON. RIPITUP SPOKE TO SMITHIES SEVERAL DAYS AFTER THE GATHERING TO GET HIS THOUGHTS ON THE EVENT.
Given the attendance this year, could the site handle any more people?
"If we'd organised more with surrounding farmers to open up more land for parking you could fit more people in there in that regard. But that isn't particularly our aim anyway. [The Gathering has reached] the size where you get 8,000 really enthusiastic into-it folk - which is what we want."
Will the event be held at the same site over New Years 98/99?
"One of the police guys in Motueka said as a joke "they should take it up to the North Island." He was taking the piss as it happened, but he was quoted [in the Nelson Mail] as if it was a serious quote, and he was inundated with calls from local businesses who were pissed off, who really want it to continue here, who are really supportive of it. All the other police that we deal with are really supportive as well. They just recognise that there's a few problems that we need to plan our way around - like getting people in there."
Were there any crowd problems?
"There was not a single arrest at The Gathering. What drama there was with substance abuse of any kind got dealt with really well by the Red Cross team, the security team that we had, and the psych support team. Overall, I think it went really harmoniously. If you had a thousand people who were drinking heavily for three days, then you'd have heaps more drama than we had with 8,000."
What inspires you about the event?
"For me it's real sign that dance culture is really healthy in this country these days. A few years ago, there wouldn't have been that breadth of talent and that many people travelling that far to go [to The Gathering]. It's refreshing that a lot more young people are wanting to get into things where you participate more. It's less of a spectator sport than rock 'n' roll, it's not built around the rock star persona, which I think is really tired. The participatory vibe of the whole thing was evident everywhere, and by the second day there was a palpable feeling of community between people who might otherwise be into quite different things. There were junglists who were prepared to sit and have espressos with various new age hippy types. People who would ordinarily avoid each other like the plague were, after a couple of days, partying together, talking to each other, and enjoying each other's company. I think it had a real 'coming together' feeling to it, which is important."