The Gathering

December 31 - January 2, Takaka Hill, Nelson

North & South January 1999

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The Gathering is a New Year's dance party on a grand scale. From small-time beginnings five years ago among the limestone sinkholes and rocky out crops of Canaan Downs on the Takaka Hill, The Gathering has captured the imagination of techno dance fans - to a point where ticket sales are now limited to 12,000. At the 1998 bFM music awards it picked up the top prize for New Zealand's best dance party.

Seven "musical zones" - trance/techno. drum-n-bass, hardcore and tribal among them - start up at lunchtime on December 31, after which the whole campsite bops till it drops at lunchtime on January 2. The country's best DJs, VJs (video jockeys) and electronic artists keep the music pulsing; "field" theatre, jugglers, stiltwalkers and fire performers offer less exhausting entertainment and numerous food stalls fuel the dancers.

Safety is a mjor issue for the organisers: "There is no alcohol allowed ad we have our own extensive security," says co-ordinator Greg Shaw. "We want everybody to have fun."

On the hot topic of "designer dance" drugs, Detective Sergeant Derek Milne of the Motueka Police says: "I'm certainly heartened by the approach organisers are taking to discourage drug use. A non-alcohol event can be taken to be drug-friendly, but that is not the case at all. There will always be a percentage of criminality at such a large event, but there are steps to prevent it. The police will have a role at the venue."

Melanie Dicks-Drewery, North & South, January 1999

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