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Lowdown: Arts Leader Departs, Finalists Found

04 Jul 2024

A second seasoned arts leader announces plans to vacate their role, new awards, nominations, announcements and the impending arrival of a global creative event.

It's getting colder outside - and the winds of change are sweeping through the creative community as well.

Hot on the heels of The Big Idea's Chief Executive Annie Ackerman announcing her departure after eight years at the helm (and the start of the search for her successor), another arts leader is leaving an established position.

Silo Theatre Artistic Director Sophie Roberts has declared she is leaving her role - but don't start rushing for a leaving card. Roberts's departure date is almost a year away: June 2025. That will allow her to set up her 11th and final programme for the Tāmaki Makaurau theatre.

She states “Being the artistic leader of Silo for the last decade has been one of the great honours of my life. Ngā mihi to our audiences, artists, staff - past and present, Shane, Jess, Chloe and Tim for everything you’ve taught me, and how much of yourselves you’ve offered up to our work. 

"I also want to thank my family, especially my partner Leon for supporting and enabling me to do this job through some very challenging years. I love this company and the brilliant people who make it what it is very much and I’m excited to see where it goes in the next decade.”

Sophie Roberts. Photo: Andi Crown Photography.

Many new works have made their debut under Roberts' leadership, as she has taken great pride in focussing on developing local artists and stories, as well as female-centred storytelling and work for young people

Silo Executive Director Tim Blake shares: “I worked at Silo when Sophie started in 2014, and now it feels like a full-circle moment to be back at the company alongside her as she finishes up her time as our Artistic Director. Sophie has had a huge influence on me, both professionally and personally – I’ve learnt so much from her leadership and her creativity. The rest of this year and 2025 will be an amazing time to honour and celebrate Sophie and everything she has given to the organisation.”

Silo Board Chair Greg Fahey says: “Sophie is a driving force for theatre in Aotearoa, and over the last decade she has made a big impact on Silo - evolving the company’s programming into commissioning and presenting exceptional local storytelling alongside some of the best international scripts. Along with her talented team, Sophie has steered the company through seismic changes within the arts landscape, always with a focus on being responsive to the challenging operating environment and centring artists in everything Silo does.”

Recruitment for Silo’s new artistic leader will begin in October this year.

Silver selection

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Another of Aotearoa's most coveted music awards is on the horizon - and some extraordinarily talented performers are back in the reckoning.

Stan Walker - it seems - just can't miss when it comes to nominations right now, with his tracks I Am (co-written with Vince Harder, Donny Te Kanapu Anasta, and Michael Fatkin) and Māori Ki Te Ao ( co-written by Donny Te Kanapu Anasta, Matthew Sadgrove, Rio Panapa, Hugh Lake, and Fasika Ayallew) in content for BOTH the APRA Silver Scroll and the Maioha Award.

Walker was recognised at the Aotearoa Music Awards in May with five nominations and co-winner of Te Manu Mātārae award - and will be heavily in contention from here.

Walker and Te Kanapu Anasta aren't the only dual finalists for the treasured songwriting gongs. Noema Te Hau III also has two songwriting credits in the 20-strong shortlist for the Scroll; MOHI's Kārearea, with co-writers Mohi Allen and Rukuwai Allen and Kātuarehe, written and performed by Anna Coddington, with co-writers Ruth Smith and Kawiti Waetford.

Smith and Waetford are also in contention for the Maioha Award with Jordyn with a Why's He Rei Niho (Jordyn Rapana and Dan Martin also credited. 

What makes the Scrolls so special is that after the nominating panel of songwriters, producers and performers pick their top 20 (and top five for Maioha) then it's up to the APRA members to vote in the winner for the best songs of the past year, to be announced at October's awards ceremony in Wellington.

"The APRA Silver Scroll is a particularly prestigious honour, as the recognition of your peers is a special celebration indeed," states Anthony Healey, Head of APRA AMCOS Aotearoa.

"The songs shortlisted here reflect the masterful talent of songwriters and storytellers from Aotearoa whose work is being heard not just at home but all around the globe. These waiata represent our unique voices in the world and it's a privilege and honour to celebrate them."

Whether you're signed up to vote or not - you can check them out and make your picks in the finalists' playlist below.

Choral collision 

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World Choir Games are coming to Auckland next week. Photo: Supplied.

A massive creative event is just about on Tāmaki Makaurau's doorstep - and there's plenty of international gaze.

The World Choir Games (WCG) opens next week (10-20 July) - set to be the biggest choral music event New Zealand has ever hosted.

250 choirs and groups made up of 11,000 singers from over 40 countries, spanning six continents are descending on Auckland, with 10 city centre venues with a global choir competition comprising 28 categories each in two sections – Open and Champions – along with large-scale opening and closing ceremonies, nine Celebration Concerts, 15 workshops, and a Parade of Nations along Quay Street. 

World Choir Games 2024 Executive Director Kylie Sealy states, “It’s incredible to think that so many hundreds of people are working together on an event that celebrates singing, yet I can’t think of something we all need more right now than the joy and connection choral music can bring. 

"We have a huge team of music, arts and events managers working with hundreds of performers, volunteers and crew and we’re doing all of this while showcasing the beauty of Aotearoa New Zealand to over 9000 people travelling from overseas. Audiences in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and visitors to the city are in for an absolute treat.”

The event is forecast to generate over $10 million in GDP and nearly 67,000 visitor nights for the Auckland region in July 2024 – traditionally a quiet month for Tāmaki Makaurau.

If past events are anything to go by,  get ready for a vibrant few weeks as the City of Sails becomes the City of Song.

Dame Lynley Pays It Forward

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Dame Lynley Dodd. Photo: Bob Tulloch.

A new accolade has been revealed this week - with the Arts Foundation declaring a new dedicated award for mid-career children’s writers.

Named after one of the undisputed greats of the genre, the Lynley Dodd Children’s Writers Award brings with it a $30,000 prize to recognise and nurture creative talent in children’s literature.

Dame Lynley's not just offering her name - it's her generous donation that is funding the award too.

The Hairy Maclary mastermind says it's inspired by a pivotal moment in her own career Lynley’s career when a financial gift transformed her path, enabling her to continue writing and ultimately becoming a celebrated writer and illustrator.

“The Bursary I received in the late 1970s gave me the vote of confidence I needed at just the right moment. I have always felt immensely grateful for such a life-changing piece of luck. 

"Knowing what the win did for me, I have always thought how marvellous it would be to be able to do the same for another writer. At last, I have the opportunity to realise my dream!”

Arts Foundation General Manager Jessica Palalagi explains "This new Award will alternate with the Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award, which recognises children's illustrators. We couldn’t be more grateful for these arts champions, whose backing directly supports artists who do the crucial work of telling our stories to our tamariki children across generations.”

The Lynley Dodd Children’s Writers Award is intended for authors who have established their identity in the field of children’s literature, showcasing richness, range, and depth in their work. 

The inaugural recipient will be announced in August 2024 - selected by a panel rather than by application - with consideration given to writers who have published two or three books - whether they are picture books, junior novels, or young adult novels - that exemplify the strength and quality of children’s literature in Aotearoa.

Word up

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Kiran Dass. Photo: Supplied.

Canterbury creatives would have had their appetites whet by the announcement of WORD Christchurch Festival 2024 Programme and the release of ticket sales.

More than 100 writers, creative minds and performers have been locked in to take to the streets, schools and theatres of Ōtautahi from 27 August to 1 September 2024.

There will be more than 70 free and ticketed events with more than just avid readers in the target audience, with WORD programme director Kiran Dass lining up local and national favourites, as well as some different speakers and topics. 

“Some of the great pleasures of festival-going are discovering new voices, being inspired by fresh ideas and broadening your horizons on issues by listening to local and global experts. I’m thrilled by the depth and diversity of this year’s line-up that includes well-known novelists, award-winning songwriters and local and international thinkers and storytellers."

Included in the mix is a festival-opening celebration of the iconic Janet Frame, marking her 100th year to the day by charging five writers to share moments of imagination and courage. 

Hometown Girl Done Good Tusiata Avia will bring the theatre work of immensely successful The Savage Coloniser Show to the stage, while the hugely influential Pacific Underground present a rehearsed reading of Oscar Kightley’s Dawn Raids at Ngā Hau E Wha Marae.

Among the likely main attractions will be this year's Tate Music Prize winner Vera Ellen, writers Talia Marshall, Saraid de Silva, Claire Mabey, Tina Makereti and Steve Braunias - as well as WORD life member Rachael King - while Programmers at Large Tayi Tibble and Jordan Tricklebank are sure to add their unique touches and talents.

For any locals dreaming of being involved - there is still a window. Dass says there’s still time for Cantabrians to submit their poems, statements, wishes or super short stories for the Ōtautahi is Flash takeover.

“Anything goes and anyone can enter. All selected pieces will be part of a mighty mural brightening up The Crossing from late August all through spring. Authors of selected entries will receive a prize.”

Dass also has a new role as Editor in Chief of newly launched book website Kete Books in September. 

"New Zealand books have never been more relevant or more powerful. I’m very excited to be joining Kete." 

Matariki moments

Matariki brought plenty of good vibes up and down the country - especially for artists and creatives.

The Big Idea went to explore what impact art is having on NZ's youngest public holiday - it's an inspiring watch.

There were also accolades for ten Māori creatives in the Bay of Plenty, with the Ngā Tohu Toi Mo Ngā Uri Iwi o te Rohe o Tauranga Moana awards ceremony.

Dame Gillian Whitehead, Joanna Paul, Whirimako Black, and others were recognised for their significant contributions to the cultural landscape of Aotearoa. The recipients’ work spans diverse disciplines such as contribution to the arts, visual arts leadership, music, and arts research. Each award was presented with a name reflecting the rich heritage of the Tauranga Moana region.

It's a third consecutive year the award presentation has been held to honour Tauranga's creative community. 

“Each award winner has been a trailblazer in sharing our pūrākau (stories) through transformative art experiences,” said Paama-Pengelly, Te Tuhi Mareikura Trust chairperson. “Their contributions have had a profound impact on our people, shaping our regional identity, taking it beyond our borders and inspiring the next generation.”

Versatile performer Jason Te Mete was acknowledged as Creative of the Year, Tracey Tawhiao awarded Enduring Artistic Contribution, Thomas Kiwi was honoured for Film Leadership, Antoine Coffin for Research Leadership, Zena Elliott for Visual Arts, Joe Harawira for Leadership in Customary Knowledge. 

Garry Nicholas was highlighted with the Iconic Creative Project award, Whirimako Black was singled out with an Icon Award for Music Leadership, Joanna Paul's Icon Award was for Contribution to Creative Industries and Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead was celebrated with the Icon Award for International Leadership. 

Making money sing

Anyone who has used the support provided by creative sector charity MusicHelps knows just how crucial the organisation has been to many, especially since the start of the pandemic.

They've released their stats from the last 12 months - illustrating the positive impact on numerous communities throughout NZ, supporting projects throughout Aotearoa that use music in various innovative ways to help people address challenges, issues, health conditions and vulnerabilities with the aim of living improved lives.  

MusicHelps provided 33 grants over the last 12 months totalling $129,985 to music projects that reached over 3,000 New Zealanders. The grants ranged in kaupapa from helping disadvantaged communities to those with disabilities, people with mental wellbeing issues, or providing support to end-of-life care.

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The organisation also deployed $45,000 in counselling through their Wellbeing Service programmes to 184 New Zealand music people, totalling 257 hours of service, while their Benevolent Fund also made available $11,896 to 5 recipients who needed emergency financial assistance.

We all know the benefits the arts and creativity can have on lives - these are some of the numbers that back it up.