Big Tick for CubaDupa
Wellington’s iconic street festival CubaDupa returned this year, following a break due to Covid-19. The weekend of March 24–26 saw the Cuba Street precinct once again bursting with colour, music, art, food, theatre and dance, with The Salvation Army Cuba Street right in the thick of it with the doors wide open!
Taking full advantage of this opportunity to engage with the public, not only was the Hamodava Coffee Shop open and serving exceptional coffee to a steady flow of foot traffic, but each day from 12 to 5pm there was a line-up of curated musical performances.
The residential population of this part of Wellington is aged between 16 to 30 years, with most of that demographic being students. Student Ministries Coordinator Noah Spargo reached out to various contacts at the local universities, explaining that the Sallies had a curbside venue and were looking to host musical acts over the weekend. The response exceeded expectations. ‘It was a raging success,’ reports Noah. ‘Students came to us and said, “Yes! We want to come into your space and play music”.’
The Salvation Army Cuba Street family was well and truly behind the event. Noah asked the corps family to do two things in support—the first being simply to show up. ‘We’re not asking you to convert the population of Cuba Street, and you don’t even have to have a conversation with a stranger if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Just show up and be the friendly, welcoming, smiling people you are,’ explains Noah. ‘CubaDupa is a great weekend for us to have our doors open and let people know we are here and not scary,’ says Noah. The second request was to pray, and those prayers were clearly answered.
‘We had great support from the corps, and each artist also brought their own circle of supporters—they rotated in and out as each act came and went. But as the crowds formed, more and more people popped their heads in to see what was going on. At one point I went outside and there were even people standing on the café chairs to see through the window.’
Noah explains that his goal at the beginning of the year was to figure out how to engage with the student population. ‘As a church and organisation we don’t want to be establishing things that are already happening down the street and better than we could probably do. So, we’re doing a lot of research in terms of identifying gaps—what do students need that doesn’t exist around here and how can we respond?’ Providing a CubaDupa performance venue that students wanted to come to was ‘a big tick’, says Noah.
The Salvation Army Cuba Street brass band also played outside on Sunday afternoon, drawing a large crowd. ‘Music is a real strength of the corps and so it makes sense to lean into those strengths. We have a strong musical heritage so it would be a waste not to see that translate across into connection. There is no point creating a ministry that sits external to the corps. I see my job as bridging the gap. If I meet with students who are having financial trouble, there are people in the corps who are accountants and could help with that. Maybe someone studying business could be connected with someone who has run their own business for 10 years. Our corps family has so much to offer,’ affirms Noah.