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Lowdown: Cancellation Headache For Major Festival

29 Feb 2024

Breaking news on why one of the biggest festivals in Aotearoa has been forced to change its programme, short-term executive appointments and the rest of the latest arts news.

Festival season is in full swing, with Auckland Pride coming to a close today (29 February), The Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts hitting its straps in the capital and the Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) only a week away.

But there's already been an unwanted change to the AAF programme - as Tāmaki Makaurau is the latest to feel the implications of the international shipping backlog.

The first four performances of Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett (7-10 March) have been cancelled.

The reason - the spectacular Spiegeltent won't arrive in time.

Originally scheduled to arrive with plenty of time to spare, the Spiegeltent was loaded onto a ship in Belgium many weeks ago, but was re-routed away from the Suez Canal due to the global shipping disruption. The new route took the tent around Cape Horn, which has frustratingly added weeks to the journey.  

AAF Chief Executive Robbie Macrae states “Until last week, we were confident it would arrive on time, or at least with minimal disruption to our planned shows, but just yesterday a new arrival date was confirmed - Monday 4 March - which meant getting the tent erected, and sets and performance infrastructure safely in place, in time to open four nights later, was untenable. Thus, we have been forced to cancel the first four performances in our season."

But Macrae underlines all performances from Tuesday 12 to Sunday 24 March will continue as scheduled.

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Bernie Deiter in performance. Photo: Craig Sugden.

“Our amazing production and technical teams will be working around the clock to build the Spiegeltent and have it ready to open in the week of 11 March. We are so disappointed for all our ticketholders who have purchased tickets for the 7, 8, 9 and 10 March. They will be provided with a full refund and also an offer to rebook discounted tickets for another date in the season, which runs until 24 March."

Tom Sainsbury and Lara Fischel-Chisholm's Boot Scoot’n Boogie and Arts Laureate Nigel Borell's Te Manawa Te Kāhui Kōrero were also supposed to be held under the Spiegeltent on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 March respectively but have been rescheduled.  Boot Scoot’n Boogie will now take place on 17 March in the Spiegeltent, while a new location to hear from the brilliant Borell is yet to be confirmed.

There's been mild disruption for the Festival of the Arts in Wellington too - with the World premiere of Our Own Little Mess forced to cut its season short after just two performances after COVID reared its ugly head with cast illness. 

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Meow Meow: Photo Hagen Hopkins.

Otherwise, the Festival of the Arts is flying - organisers told The Lowdown that they're in a good place, with sales tracking ahead of previous festivals pre-pandemic.

The opening weekend programming alone achieved one-third of their overall ticketing target with performances of Meow Meow, Jungle Book reimagined, Hatupatu/Kurungaituku a forbidden love, as well as a well-received concert from The National and the Writers programme.

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Taniwha Time Machine. Photo Mark Tantrum.

There's also been great feedback for some of the free events including Taniwha Time Machine and The Performance Arcade, experienced and enjoyed by thousands.

Among the upcoming highlights, critically acclaimed local hits The Savage Coloniser Show and Witi’s Wāhine, plus the Morning People Warehouse Rave and Tararua Bird Like Men at Māoriland Hub in Ōtaki, and a sold-out show of Hope by Soweto Gospel Choir but there are still some tickets available for almost all shows coming up.

Feilding offers  

While the big centres look to grow their festivals, the regions are proactively looking to make strides too.

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The Big Apple, created by David Jensen from recycled wood, steel and copper. Photo: Supplied.

Manawatū town Kimbolton is proud of its bi-annual creative highlight - and what it means to the region.

But like everyone else, the Kimbolton Sculpture Festival knows the future needs as much support as possible.

Organisers have come forward to appeal for a major sponsor to help continue its mission of providing a platform for creativity to help mental health in a rural community.

Spokesperson Tony Waugh told The Lowdown "We believe that the current economic climate means that it is harder to obtain major sponsors for events so that is why we are spreading our net further afield for 2025 and looking for a long-term relationship with a sponsor."

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Terrabull, created by Regan Cooper from recycled bicycle tyres. Photo: Supplied.

In each of the past four festivals, Kimbolton has welcomed over 5,000 visitors, showcasing the talents of 60 sculptors with more than 100 sculptures. Additionally, the festivals have featured up to 50 art exhibits and 120 craft stalls. Organisers state that every event has seen an increase in attendance and impact over its predecessor. 

Sustainability is the backbone of the festival - an eco-freindly approach focussed on repurposing used materials found on farms, highlighting the importance of recycling and environmental consciousness in conjuction with the ingenuity and skills of national and local artists.

Waugh reflects “The act of making art can switch focus, even for a short time, away from negativity and stress towards something engaging and explorative.

“The festival is more than an artistic endeavour; it is a platform for wellbeing, offering a serene environment where creativity flourishes and the community comes together to appreciate the beauty and therapeutic power of art." 

Waugh declares the 2025 festival will still proceed if they're not successful in landing a new partner, but as everyone knows, it sure helps.

Musical chairs at SOUNZ

There's a new name at the helm of SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music - but not for long.

Claire Szabó has been named as Interim Chief Executive, agreeing to take the position for the next four months, with the hunt on for a permanent CE.

Her leadership credentials are undeniable, having been CEO of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand and President of the New Zealand Labour Party. From an arts point of view,  Szabó currently serves on the Board of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and has a music degree from the University of Auckland.

It comes after Diana Marsh announced the end of her 8-and-a-half-year tenure last month - with today her final day (29 February). Marsh guided the organisation through some hefty transformative times, including the pandemic, and some states that are hard to deny.

As SOUNZ co-chair Eve de Castro Robinson underlines “She has successfully implemented transformative strategies for our Māori and Moana Pacific composers increasing representation of Māori (from 9 to 104) and Moana Pacific (from 3 to 22) composers, overseen an extremely successful podcast series (The Sounds of the Moana won a Gold award in the prestigious New York Festivals Radio Awards), guiding many projects such as SOUNZ Regeneration Hōtaka Māori and the Moana Pacific Instrument Revitalisation projects, and overseen development of the SOUNZ blog and its content. All this engagement has grown SOUNZ represented composers generally from 350 to 668.”

 SOUNZ champions and promotes the music of Aotearoa New Zealand, the leading arts and music organisation in the digital space that makes available the sounds, music and stories of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Marsh, the current President of the International Association of Music Centres (IAMIC) and Chair of the Orchestra Wellington Foundation - takes up the post of Chief Executive with Experience Wellington, who oversee arts and cultural institutions including City Gallery Wellington.

Jordan steps up in the big smoke

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Jordan Davey-Emms. Photo: Supplied.

Opportunity is often the match needed to light the fuse of creativity - and Jordan Davey-Emms has just found hers.

She's been announced as the curatorial intern for Te Tuhi’s Parnell Project Space for 2024 - the fourth early-career curator to get this open-slate launch pad of a 12-month, full-time, paid position.

An artist and curator who ran Wormhole in Edgecumbe, a founding member of the Kauae Raro Research Collective and a winner of the Glaister Ennor Award at Sanderson Contemporary Art, Davey-Emms gushes about the next step in her promising creative career.

“I am hoping to use this opportunity to grow my confidence as a curator outside of my hometown, and to dig deeper into the themes and approaches I experimented with at Wormhole: thinking about living inside ecologies; centering partnership, reciprocity, and friendliness; and playing with the sensory potential of exhibition making. 

"I'm looking forward to working in a different context, with the support of the team at Te Tuhi. I'm looking forward to building community through art again, and trying things out together.”  

Using the Parnell Project Space for research and curatorial experimentation, the interns receive mentorship and access to Te Tuhi’s resources, working in an environment supported by an established team. Autonomy over her project offers Davey-Emms the chance to grow her curatorial voice by running a space that stands independent from Te Tuhi’s main programming.

Davey-Emms starts her internship in April.