New owners at Homegrown
Mark Wright is a proud Hamiltonian, having started the extreme sports event X*Air in the city in 2000, which eventually evolved into the Homegrown music festival in Wellington, attracting sell-out audiences.
He’s now handing two thirds of the business to loyal colleagues and fellow Hamilton residents, Andrew Tuck and Rachel Turney, who have been working with him for 16 and 17 years respectively.
Wright originally started X*Air in recognition of his passions for wakeboarding in the Waikato’s local lakes and waterways, as well as motorcycling. Also encompassing skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross, it turned into a large, internationally renowned event.
Pro skater Tony Hawk, BMX rider David Mirra and many more of the world’s best attended the event on multiple occasions.
It was based in Hamilton for six years before naturally morphing into Homegrown, Wright said.
“Hamilton City Council, who had funded the event, were looking at withdrawing their funding, which was going to bring a challenge to keep it all working how it needed to work.
“Also, at the time, we were kind of bursting at the seams at Claudelands, which was obviously before their redevelopment, so we were literally blowing out the sides of all the things to make it happen.”
Homegrown, paying testament to Kiwi musicians and their fans, perpetuated the ethos bred in Hamilton with X*Air. Tuck and Turney continued to work with Wright on that venture, while continuing to reside in Hamilton.
“I was planning on doing Homegrown for about three years before it happened, and it was just that there was a natural change in direction globally from Red Bull, and a change in direction strategically from Vodafone, which meant that X*Air just came to a natural conclusion.”
Wright is happy to be handing part of the business over to Tuck and Turney.
“The key for me personally is how many hours there are in a day. We used to run Coro Gold at New Year’s Eve in Whitianga as well, and with two festivals it was just an unsustainable lifestyle— 70 hour weeks the entire time. I wanted to get away from that,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of an event like Homegrown being started in Hamilton, Wright was conservative but hopeful.
“One day I’m sure there will be. Andrew in particular has got a desire to do something here, but it’s just about everything we do needs to be sustainable, and that’s sustainable for our families as well.”
He added that the venue at Claudelands was “far superior” to what they were when
Homegrown began, and was being managed well, so he sees the potential for future events is there.
“Certainly never say never.”
Homegrown consistently attracts big-name acts such as Six60, pictured, and large crowds.