Island Bay Festival Parade 2024

Fun in the sun in the teeth of a howling southerly

Wellington Batucada at the Island Bay Festival 2024 - photo by Island Bay Festival

It’s not often that we have to wear thermals and our special Batucada warm and snuggly red sweatshirts for a gig in February – but there you go. That’s the unpredictable Wellington weather for you, especially in these days of climate change.

We’ve played at the Island Bay Festival Parade for many years, and really enjoy it. It’s a long parade that goes all the way down The Parade to Shorland Park on the waterfront. It’s quite a tricky one to get right, timing-wise. In past years we’ve either gone too slow (2023) and arrived so late there wasn’t time for us to play at the Rotunda, or we’ve galloped along (2021) – not easy when you’re carrying a big drum – and arrived very hot and sweaty and completely knackered.

So it was a bit of a miracle that this year (a bit like Goldilocks) we managed to get it just right. Not too fast, not too slow. And also not that easy marching into the teeth of a howling southerly.

Wellington Batucada at the Island Bay Festival 2024 - photo by Tom Etuata

Yeah – that southerly. Super-cold – and also super-frustrating for the poor old organisers, who always put so much effort into all the various events that make up the Island Bay Festival.

One of the most important parts of the Festival is the Blessing of the Boats. Each year, local and visiting Clergy venture out into the Bay to bless the fishing boats after they’ve made a trip around Tapu te Ranga Island. Unique to Island Bay, the Blessing of the Boats ceremony has been adopted in Island Bay by its Italian community since 1933. So many boats and so much activity really makes this something special to see. It always attracts large crowds to the coastline, who come to watch boats from all over Wellington line up to be blessed for safe carriage and bountiful catches.

For the first time, Wellington Batucada had been invited to take part in this traditional event by leading a parade of clergy and supporters around Shorland Street and down to the beach to board their boat so the blessing ceremonies can begin. We felt honoured to have been asked, and were really looking forward to it.

And then in came the southerly and put paid to that plan. Cancelled due to bad weather.

Instead, the organisers invited us to help with the Birdman Competition parade. We were asked to lead a the parade to the beach, so they could all jump off the wharf into the water. Coolio! Except that was cancelled too, as it wouldn’t have been safe for the birdmen and women to jump off the wharf in such bad weather. Darn it!

Wellington Batucada at the Island Bay Festival 2024 - photo by Tom Etuata

In the end, we did a little gig at the Rotunda instead. Quite a few of the band had left by that point, to make sure they got back to Newtown in time for band practice. So were were a small but perfectly-formed crew, including Joe, who found himself with no caixa buddies left at all. Solo caixa! Not the easiest of instruments to play all on your ownsome, so Lisa and I made sure that we made lots of chocalho noise, to keep Joe company.

All in all a lovely day. Cold, slightly breezy, but lovely all the same. Let’s do it again next year (with less wind!).

Wellington Batucada at the Island Bay Festival 2024
Video by Tom Etuata

Wellington Batucada at the Island Bay Festival 2024 - photo by Tom Etuata

Photo gallery

Photos by Gina King, Island Bay Festival, Kelly Etuata, Rebecca Routhan and Tom Etuata. Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version:

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