Rock! 35 Years of Rockquest

From: 04/04/2022 - 28/12/2022

Installation Type: passive

Millers Acre

Street Address

37-39 Halifax Street
Facing onto Miller’s Acre Carpark

Every year, in town halls and theatres all over New Zealand, around 2700 teenagers perform their own original songs, live, to an audience of their peers. This is Smokefreerockquest – a national institution with its roots here in Nelson. Over 35 years, this has added up to thousands of budding musicians, many of whom have gone on to professional careers and every year the list gets longer.

We worked with Smomkefreerockquest to celebrate their 35th anniversary with an exhibition and large-scale art and projections.

We kicked off the project with some art projections on the exterior of 37-39 Halifax Street – transforming the white-wrapped building-site into an art-installation spectacle of the iconic graphics that are such a distinctive part of Smokefreerockquest. It looked amazing! Check out the video below. Huge thanks to Tuku22 for their support.

There was also an exhibition in the windows of the old Souvenir Shop, featuring videos with music, interviews and highlights that explored various facets of the competition including music genres, industry impact, national winners and where-are-they-now’s. The exhibition could be viewed through the shop windows, making it accessible anytime during the day and evenings. 

One of the most distinctive things about the installation was all the funky graphics. The Nelson Mail had a chat to their creator, Dave Thomson. You can read the full article here.

“I’ve always been really passionate about the artwork that comes along with music, be that videos or photography.”

Dave Thomson, Graphic Design for Smokefreerockquest

We also got onto TV1 Seven Sharp, who made an excellent piece about the history of Smokefreerockquest. Watch it here. Thanks Seven Sharp!

We wanted to celebrate the fact that Smokefreerockquest is an incredible organisation that is based right here in Nelson! Make/Shift and Smokefreerockquest came together to present something suitably amazing to mark 35 years of music-making…

Smokefreerockquest is Aotearoa’s only nationwide, live, original music, youth event.

It all began in Christchurch in 1988, when two high school music teachers, Pete Rainey and Glenn Common, encouraged some of their students to enter a competition run by a local radio station. The next year, Pete and Glenn took over running the competition and two years later, the project had escalated to a nationwide competition, first in the main centres and then into 24 regions nationwide. In 1996, Smokefree Tangata Beats was created in recognition of the unique music and cultures of Aotearoa and the Pacific.

The competitions celebrate genres of music as diverse as pop, rock, indie, heavy metal, folk, reggae, electronica, soul, and jazz. All songs are original compositions, performed live on stage with full professional sound and light production.

Smokefreerockquest and Smokefree Tangata Beats give students the opportunity to write and perform their music to audiences of enthusiastic friends and family. The energy and buzz in the competitions is electric!

Many people don’t realise that Smokefreerockquest is based in Nelson – yet another example of an incredibly innovative and energetic localcompany that has a mighty impact across the entire country.

“ The arts play a huge role in helping our young people to face the future, building skills that give them flexibility, creativity, and the ability to cooperate. Skills they can apply in life wherever it takes them.”

Pete Rainey

Rock! 35 Years of Rockquest was a massive project for us, quite unlike anything we’ve done before. And as with all our adventures, we couldn’t have done it alone. We’d like to give a very earnest thanks to Shuttlerock, who came onboard with heaps of enthusiasm, and created the incredible video that was projected onto the building – what a spectacle!

We’d also like to thank Nelson City Council, Tuku22, Scott Construction, Nayland Scaffold, Speedy Signs and Shuttlerock. Legends all.

Millers Acre