Spe­cial place in our hearts

The Timaru Herald - - ENTERTAINMENT -

share of view­ers aged 25-54.

Last year, that share was a rea­son­able but sig­nif­i­cantly smaller 9.2 per cent. These days, if a show has dou­ble-digit mar­ket share it’s do­ing well – the most­watched doc­u­men­tary of the year, Stan, had 32.5 per cent of view­ers tun­ing in.

Its smaller viewer num­bers could be down to a pro­lif­er­a­tion in tele­vi­sion op­tions, and what Mau calls its move from be­ing new and ex­cit­ing to ‘‘a tra­di­tion’’.

‘‘I am a bit shocked it is still go­ing,’’ she ad­mits. ‘‘It’s a tra­di­tion, now. A reg­u­lar yearly gig for peo­ple in the per­form­ing arts.’’

The sur­vival is some­thing of a mir­a­cle, most ad­mit. Even event pro­ducer John Searle, who has been with the show since it started, is sur­prised.

When it launched, its founder, Alan Smythe, de­clared ‘‘the Christ­mas con­cert will be back’’. But Searle didn’t ex­pect to be work­ing on it 25 years later. ‘‘You wouldn’t have thought it would end up like this,’’ he says.

Now, about 1000 peo­ple are in­volved in the con­cert each year – 200 per­form­ers, as well as se­cu­rity, vol­un­teers and stage crew.

Searle is stand­ing with the crew when we talk, await­ing con­tain­ers which have made it through land­slips and rough seas from Christchurch.

The 17 con­tain­ers are in Auck­land, but the rain is de­lay­ing stage set-up.

The long-serv­ing pro­ducer is op­ti­mistic about the weather for to­mor­row’s show at the Auck­land Do­main, but he’s also ask­ing him­self, ‘‘Why am I do­ing this?’’

He’s look­ing for­ward to host­ing some well-known tal­ents – this year’s head­liner is Stan Walker – and also younger, lesser-known dancers and mu­si­cians. ‘‘This show has al­ways been a plat­form for emerg­ing tal­ent,’’ he says.

As a teenager, chart-top­ping vo­cal­ist Hay­ley Westenra made her screen de­but at Christ­mas in the Park and Searle is pas­sion­ate about keep­ing this fes­ti­val, a tal­ent in­cu­ba­tor of sorts, alive.

Although the artists may change, the show is still about Christ­mas, rais­ing money for the char­ity Youth­line, and bring­ing to­gether fresh and old tal­ent.

‘‘For bet­ter or worse, that ap­peals to me,’’ Searle says.

As long as peo­ple keep show­ing up, he hopes those three ‘‘core prin­ci­ples’’ of Christ­mas in the Park – char­ity, com­mu­nity, and qual­ity tal­ent – will be enough to keep it go­ing.

I think it’s changed a lit­tle. Back in the day I think it was all about Christ­mas. It’s more poppy now. Frankie Stevens, left

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