I spent last weekend in Wellington, visiting friends and enjoying the LUX Light Festival; a free public event that attracts thousands of people onto the streets and waterfront area to enjoy clever, whimsical and creative light sculptures.
LUX is incredibly family-friendly; the works are easily accessible and there are performances, activities, street food, and a range of glow-in-the-dark merchandise (including ice-cream) to delight kids.
On Tuesday as I waited for my flight home, news of the Manchester Arena bomb began to appear. By the time I reached Auckland, it was known that people had died, amongst them children.
With each terror attack, each mass-shooting and atrocity that occurs in the world, I struggle to comprehend how anyone can feel enough hatred and anger to knowingly kill and maim complete strangers going about their day-to-day lives.
I think of the people who rugged up and went out to enjoy street art, and of the people who dressed up and went to a pop concert; of those whose memories are of a fun night out, and those whose lives were taken or forever damaged.
Festivals, concerts, public events; these things are essential to the fabric of our communities. They build and strengthen the bonds between us though the sharing of food, music, art and fun. That they seem increasingly a target for terrorism, is worrying. If we become too afraid to go out and share in the joy and camaraderie of public events, we lose not only personal happiness, but community strength.
Yet in adversity people do come together, looking for ways to connect with our shared culture and common humanity. Manchester’s Tony Walsh has shown how art is integral to this, reading his poem, This is the Place at a vigil for the Manchester Arena victims.