Jayne and I went to Whangaparaoa Baptist to be at Louis Duval’s funeral. Louis was just 15 years old when something went wrong, he fell to the floor at home, hitting his head, and dying in his parent’s arms. Stu - Louis’ Dad, is an old mate of mine and an all round good guy. After the Funeral Stu came and told Jayne and I how much Festival One meant to Louis. He loved being there. He loved that he’d won the Photo Competition as a grommie. He loved being a part of the photo team and took some amazing shots of Rapture Ruckus to name just one. And with just a 50mm lens! Unreal talent.

Stu had asked another old mate of all of ours - Derek Lind - to sing, “Will You Rescue Me”. Derek leaned into the microphone and with hearfelt tenderness said, “Next month will be seven years since my wife passed away. Suddenly and unexpectedly. (A pause) For about six months nothing much happened, then a few songs began to seep out. This is one of them. It is a lament. It is a prayer. And in some way … it also has hope.” He began to play. His guitar sounded like an orchestra, at once delicate and strong. A master craftsman at one with an instrument he has gotten know over a few decades and bringing its every nuance to caress and hold the grieving family.

Enter around one hundred of Louis’ school friends from Whangaparaoa College. “Hallelujah” was sung in Te Reo and English. And then the haka! Oh my goodness, the haka. 100 fifteen year olds giving full vent to their anger, grief, shock, love and sorrow. Loud? Loud doesn’t describe it. A raw, unfettered cry of one hundred hearts. And then… sobbing. A deep uncontrolled grief at what to many looks like an untimely and sudden departure and loss.

Festival One family, these are our people. 15 year old Louis who took gorgeous photos and is now looking at greater wonder than we can imagine or think. Stu Duval - grieving dad for sure, but also raconteur, storyteller par excellence, painter, and loyal servant of the King. Derek Lind - a much loved and admired wordsmith, tunesmith and painter of contemporary art.

So here’s what I’m thinking. We’ve been through an extraordinary time with the lockdown. We have lost jobs, futures and sometimes hope. We’ve also gained a deeper understanding of the value of human life. It has drawn some of us closer together. It has pushed some of us apart.

So what does Festival 2021 look like? Right now, I’m not one hundred percent sure. What do I know? I know that we want - desperately - to come together and celebrate. Celebrate what? Or who? Celebrate our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

What does this celebration look like? I’m currently taking clues from Louis’ funeral. I’m thinking that it has to have space so that we can hear the beauty of a single chord on Derek’s guitar. That I might want to sing along to the lyric,

“When I’m lost at sea and I’m all alone,
And the waves crash over me,
When the undertow is dragging me down,
Will you rescue me?”

I’m thinking I might want to sit for while looking at a retrospective of the amazing images created by a 15 year old photographer and give thanks for his life and remember his cheeky grin and eyes that shone brighter than the noon day sun on a good day.

I’m thinking I might want to sit under some trees and really… just… sit. Maybe scribble a poem and hang it up to flutter in the warm breeze - just because.

I’m thinking I might want to sit with a few hundred others listening to Aaron Boyens use all the tools at his disposal to pour out his heart about social injustice, ingrained and systemic racism and the beauty of… what… could… be. Talking, singing, playing, crying, laughing - hearing his heart.

I’m thinking that as darkness falls I might hear the faint sound of guitar and people singing. That as I walk towards it I smell the sweet aroma of woodsmoke and there - in a clearing, around a fire - is a group sitting, quietly singing and laughing. And the songs? Some old. Some new. Some brand new on the spot!

I’m thinking that I might suddenly remember that Derek Lind is playing in the grove on the Market Stage at 9:30pm. I’d missed him earlier in the day ‘cos I’d got there too late and couldn’t get close enough, so gave up, and then had to put up with everyone saying how awesome it was and ‘you really should have been there!’

I’m thinking I’ll get to the Music Box early so that I can get a good spot for The Sations - I want to hear them under the stars.

Will we have the One Arena and all the lights and sounds? Most probably. What I do know is that we will for sure have what I’ve been writing about.

It’s been a wild year so far, and still nothing is certain. As I write this new COVID cases have just been announced.

What do I know? I’m super keen to get together with you all this coming January. Where? Not saying… yet!

What will the final shape be? Not 100% sure, but even better than this year. We’ve had an amazing number of kiwi bands applying to play. It’s going to be a real kiwi celebration. And ticket sales are further ahead than we have ever been before. Awesome.

Get your tickets while the price is right! See you soon.