Aucklanders will have more ways to celebrate Diwali this year, with the Auckland Diwali Festival set to be held at multiple locations across the Auckland region.
Auckland Diwali Festival will now be celebrated over three weeks, from 27 October to 14 November, at various community venues.
The revised festival will enhance the current community-based programme with additional features that may include film nights, cooking classes, and workshops.
The decision to change the festival this year from the traditional format of a two-day event held in central Auckland was made following consultation this week between Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and the Diwali Advisory Group, which is comprised of representatives from Auckland’s Indian communities.
With the recent changes to COVID-19 Alert Levels in Auckland, ATEED and the Advisory Group agreed that it was best to deliver a festival that could meet the guidelines of Alert Level 2 or higher.
Further information about the Auckland Diwali Festival 2020 programme will be available by the end of September.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said Diwali was one of Auckland’s most popular cultural festivals and the new format will allow it to go ahead in a different way if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.
“We are having to adjust to new ways of doing things as a result of COVID-19,” he said.
“Along with many other Aucklanders, I had been looking forward to the traditional gathering in Aotea Square. However, the threat of COVID-19 means that this year, our stakeholders including the Diwali Advisory Group agreed that we have to do things differently to help keep our communities safe.
“It is important that we still celebrate Diwali but do so in a way that is safe for everyone and that recognises the festival’s significance to our diverse communities.”
ATEED General Manager Destination Steve Armitage said, “since March, we have been looking at alternative ways we can deliver our cultural festivals, such as Diwali, within the guidelines of different COVID-19 Alert Levels.”
“The Diwali Advisory Group confirmed with us how important it was for the community to celebrate Diwali, regardless of Alert Level. The alternative approach agreed upon allows for that.”
The Diwali Festival team is now busy developing the revised programme, which may include features such as movie nights, workshops, cooking classes and panel discussions on top of the usual community programme.
The Auckland Diwali Festival Community Programme began two years ago and takes place at community centres across Auckland. The programme usually features activations, workshops and events such as free henna, a special Day of the Older Person lunch, lantern making and rangoli art.
Vinod Kumar, President of Hindu Council of NZ and member of the Diwali Advisory Group says: “With COVID-19, it is good to know that the celebrations of Diwali are still going to take place. The decision by the organisers and steering committee to come up with safer plans rather than cancel the event altogether is a huge outcome for the community.
“The celebrations will take place regionally in several regions and in a very controlled fashion which can be adjusted to suit effectively while keeping the society safe. We welcome the decision and thanks to all concerned,” says Kumar.
Steve Armitage says: “While the festival programme will be different this year, it provides a great opportunity to celebrate traditional and contemporary Indian culture, and our diverse Auckland Indian communities. It will also mean Aucklanders can celebrate Diwali in their local community, with events planned in North, South, East, West and Central Auckland.”
“Making this decision now will ensure we have time to plan and deliver this new community-based festival programme,” says Armitage.