This past weekend, Wellingtonians treated themselves to a bender of epic proportions. Friday night began on a boat, whilst Saturday coasted in with a skate festival, winding up at the infamous Betty’s. The whole thing was orchestrated by one 19 year old. His name is Olly de Salis.
I called Olly in the middle of soundcheck on Wednesday. At the time, he had thirteen second-release tickets left to the 121 Boat Party. In the next few hours, they sold out.
Earlier in the week he’d “printed out a shit load of posters, but sold out of tickets that same day,” leaving the dilemma of whether it was worthwhile to put them up or not. They were of a solid dozen or so variations, produced by artist friends to the brief of "do whatever the fuck you want." A few followed Olly's favourite brand of being “as hard to look at as possible,” catering to an audience with a tiny attention span; ensuring they didn’t get bored seeing the same thing, but also had to double take to figure out what the hell was going on in the first place.
Such is the mind of a teenager who’d walked into the cusp of adulthood by studying Fine Arts, only to drop out, bored and patronised. He offered an example of the latter, where tutors assigned creation of a work to the theme of ‘celebration’; Olly instead “wanted to deal with life, death, and morality - others were dealing with why their flatmate won’t take out the rubbish.”
121 by Toby Kepes
Around the same time, the catalyst hit him square in the face.
Olly broke his cheek and eye-socket (actually) playing rugby, and spent the next few weeks “on twenty different drugs,” before being coaxed out of the house by some friends in that same rugby team to an EP release party at somebody’s house. He was “blown away,” so much so that within a month, with his parents out of town and the house turned into a flat, he’d arranged the hire of a PA to replicate the party he’d been to - taking it upon himself to play the role of MC and Hypeman.
121 Art Party by Nic Little
This was the first 121 party, adopting its moniker from the letterbox found outside Olly’s family home. Half of hired gear was destroyed (later paid for by a surreptitious deduction of course-related costs), Beach Boy played his first gig, and Olly had found his calling.
It was only obvious then to ditch University and focus energies on building experiences for other local and expat kids in the capital, taking a job as a pizza delivery guy to fund the mission.
In the months that followed, he hosted four or five party-gig-madness-conglomerations, playing breeding ground to a plethora of underground talent (including October, Subject, Wax Mouth, Rory Flowerday, Leon van Dijk and Fukcworld).
One crazy gig lead to another, lead to the decision to host an Art Party, inviting artschool friends to paint his parent’s walls. At this point, surrounded by some of the best yung artists on the come up, freely spilling their work on an unconventional living canvas, it was obvious 121 had become a community for friends, friends of friends, oddballs, and anybody who sought something bigger than the sum of their parts.
So how does a teenager go from houseparties to thousand-dollar, thousand-people venue hire agreements? Resoundingly, “It’s Wellington - it’s so fucking small.” In much the same tone, Olly describes his ventures as, “by Wellington, for Wellington,” filling a gap in a market and giving kids the opportunity to stand amongst a crowd of open and like minded others, at the same time belonging and discovering.
The kids will be alright.