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Lowdown: Stand Up Before It's Too Late

09 Mar 2023
The collective voice of the creative community is needed urgently - find out how it can make a huge difference, if you're prepared to let it. Plus all the latest arts news you need to know.
Image From Stop The Cuts website. Photo: Eu-Lee Teh.

You know what a creative loves most? What really fills their bucket?

Filling out forms.

Yeah, OK - maybe not.

Let's face it, most of us have some degree of form fatigue. As if the census isn't enough, there is seemingly a constant stream of applications, reports and feedback requested of most of us. 

But without it, funding opportunities, awards, residencies and scholarships are all out of reach. 

So too is the chance to have your voice heard and to stand up for the creative community.

There is often a state of angst that the creative community isn't consulted enough, that decisions are made from behind an office desk rather than with input from those at the cultural coalface. So when the microphone to broadcast into the corridors of power is handed over, it's critical to make the most of it. 

Right now, there is a swag of opportunities to do just that. Important windows that can have a huge impact on what happens to independent creatives, arts organisations and the infrastructure that makes the whole thing tick.

And the only way to fight for what is really needed is sit in front of a computer or device and tap away. I'm not referring to social media soapboxing, rather filling out submissions and offering your critique through official channels. 

When it comes to Arts and Culture's precarious placement in the proposed Auckland Council budget, Mayor Wayne Brown's already made it pretty clear he doesn't want to discuss it in person...

$36.5 million dollars. 

That's how much the Council’s draft budget is proposing to slash from regional arts, events, and community initiatives in the next financial term of 2023/2024.

It's now on the creative community to unleash their opinions if there's to be any chance of quelling that monumental threat to culturally related spending from the largest city in Aotearoa.

Even if you don't live in Tāmaki Makaurau, the plight is one that all creatives and supporters should be invested in.  While arts and culture are far from exclusive to Auckland, budget cuts there have the clear potential to trickle down to impacting other regions.

This has huge implications on livelihoods and the ability of Auckland to hold a place as a cultural hub.

It's a time for jockeying for political favour to go out the window - it's not about who gets the funding, but whether the funding exists to begin with. 

Organisations are unifying that message in their droves, with emails and social media posts campaigning for anyone who is able to jump online and fill out the Auckland Council form. Just like any good musical, solos are good but there's nothing like the power of a chorus in full voice.

But let's be frank - the world of local government form submission is a foreign language to most. Making time to do it is one thing, but knowing how to use that time effectively is another.

The 'Stop The Cuts' website - set up by Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi - has put together a submission form guide to break down what questions need to be answered (you don't need to answer them all) and what type of answers to give if you're not familiar with all the detail.

The feedback form (here's the link for it) must be submitted before 28 March.  There are postal options, online and in-person meetings across the city as well.

There is an undercurrent at displeasure within the council itself regarding these proposed cuts. The only way to give those concerns the power they need to grow is to speak up.

Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage (MCH) is also calling for the creative community to have their say with the latest feedback window just opening for the Cultural Regeneration Fund.

As with the previous two rounds, this window has a short run - open until the end of 19 March - and has provided great insight into what those who actually stand to gain from the proposed initiatives think. It's a great way for MCH to ensure that organisations (some from outside the traditional arts infrastructure like Limited, run by the polarising We Are Indigo group) are offering what creatives actually want and need.  

Unlike the Auckland Council situation, there's no shortage of money still available, with $17 million of the $28m fund remaining. Around 270 proposals are vying for funding - that's about 100 new proposals for this round. All submissions for the remaining two rounds are now in, after the window closed late last month.

MCH Deputy Executive Joe Fowler told The Lowdown "receiving more than 8,000 feedback responses for Round 2 was awesome, but it’s important to mention again that this is not a popularity contest.

"As with the previous rounds, we’re particularly interested in hearing feedback from people or organisations who will benefit directly from a particular proposal; people with recognised and relevant expertise; and representatives of local and sector partners that will be actively involved in helping initiatives achieve their goals.

"We recognise that it’s a really busy time and people are still recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle and the recent flooding, and we’re incredibly appreciative of people giving their time to share feedback. We always look forward to reading what people share with us, and I can assure you that we have made better decisions as a result.

"This is a great opportunity for the sector influence decision making around funding for projects that will have a lasting impact. If you have submitted feedback on a proposal before, you don’t need to submit again. We’ll retain feedback received through each round and the collated feedback will be considered at each evaluation stage." 

Few organisation have a bigger reputation in the arts community for form filling than Creative New Zealand (CNZ) - but it is putting an emphasis on more direct consultation that has the potential to change one of the sector's thorniest issues.

The in-person regional workshops tour kicked off in Nelson last night - with the broad invitation of discussing the future of arts development. It's a vehicle to get an insight into what creatives want to see to replace the broken CNZ funding model that has caused so much outrage.

While there's been backlash to the fact that the regional workshops don't exactly go to all the regions, for those who can attend or be part of the online workshops, this is a huge opportunity to be heard. Here are the details for the remaining dates through until the end of the month that includes a new stopover in Tauranga (29 March).

It's run by independent facilitators, it's a chance to air the thoughts and frustrations - but also the creative solutions many have been putting forward as alternatives.

Oh, and if you can't make any of the workshops, don't worry...there's a feedback form open from today too.

The Bay's Plentiful week 

Speaking of Tauranga, it's been a massive week on the creative front for the Bay of Plenty town, with a couple of key appointments.

Tauranga Arts Festival is celebrating a coup, signing on Arts Laureate and acclaimed theatre leader Shane Bosher as the new Artistic Director for October's Festival. 

Shane Bosher. Photo: Jinki Cambronero.

Bosher's reputation as a director, actor, and producer and his track record of championing a generation of new talent over the past two decades makes him an enticing proposition in the role.

Bosher told The Lowdown "After a couple of years of doing the COVID shuffle as a producer and director, I'm really chuffed to be focussing my energies in one space. 

"Tauranga feels like it is embracing real change and transformation - there's such a spirit of connectedness and forward momentum in the people that live here. Having shared office spaces with a number of festivals over the last twentysomething years, I've always wanted the opportunity to work alongside artists to build one. 

"Everything about this just felt right - I was really inspired by the vision of the board and I'm so lucky to benefit from the great foundations laid down by the amazing Gabrielle Vincent." 

Bosher will now turn his attention to finalising the Festival's programming - started by Vincent before she departed last month - ahead of its launch in August.

It comes as Tauranga Art Gallery (TAG) celebrates Sonya Korohina (Ngāti Porou/Pākēha) accepting the role as its new Director.

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Sonya Korohina. Photo: Supplied.

With an arts career that's involved working with institutions like Artspace Aotearoa, Auckland Art Gallery, Elam School of Fine Arts, arts consultancy SuperCut Projects and local tertiary provider Toi Ohomai, Korohina is currently developing Tauranga City Council’s Public Art framework before taking on her new position mid-March.

“This is such an exciting role. This is my hometown, the arts are my absolute joy, and the significant redevelopment of Tauranga city centre presents so many opportunities for us to be bold and innovative”, Korohina explains. 

“Toi Tauranga has a special place in the hearts of our community and I'm honoured to be joining the TAG team at an exciting moment in its history. This is an opportunity to ignite the institution’s identity through art programmes that explore and celebrate who we are as people, place, communities, cultures and histories."

The full Monty?

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The shortlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards has some really intriguing side-stories to it.

And arguably at the forefront - one of the fiction finalists is actually best known for his nonfiction work.

Among the four finalists for New Zealand literature's most lucrative award, the $64,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction is Dr Monty Soutar, who has carved a reputation for his incredible dedication to documenting Māori involvement in the World Wars.

He's taken that knowledge to weave historical accounts with a fictional narrative to drive his best-selling hit Kāwai: For Such a Time as This - the first in a trilogy that's been supported by last year's $100,000 CNZ Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. 

He's up against a former winner of the Fiction award (and favourite in the eyes of ReadingRoom's Steve Braunias), Catherine Chidgey with her acclaimed The Axeman’s Carnival, Michael Bennett's (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) crime novel Better the Blood and another historical fiction entry, Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders.

Dr Monty Soutar. Photo: Melka Oakley, TAAH Photography.

After congratulating all the other shortlisted authors, Soutar (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Kahungunu) told The Lowdown "I was humbled to be named along with the three other novelists, given their reputations as fiction writers.

"Crossing the genres has been challenging, but I’m glad I was persistent.

"I set out to reach as wide an audience as I could by writing in an easy narrative style. Being shortlisted is a bonus I certainly didn’t expect when I launched the book back in September.

"The recognition is not mine alone, but my family’s, my hapu, my iwi all those who helped me, and not just in the writing of the novel, there were many pakeke (elders), nearly all of whom are no longer with us. They shared information with me about our past when I was much younger. From their teachings I drew inspiration for the novel."

And heads up, next year's fiction finalists hopefuls - Soutar is currently working on the next book in the series and should see it off to the printers later in the year.

As for the rest of this year's finalists - Māori writers are represented in every category for the first time, 8 of them across 7 books. There are also 5 debut authors in the shortlist. And not one publisher has dominated - independent publishers holding their own with the established entities, with 12 different publishers in the 16 books shortlisted.

The Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry finalists have diversity at their heart, with three of the four also first time authors - People Person by Joanna Cho, Sedition by Anahera Maire Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe) and We’re All Made of Lightning by Khadro Mohamed. Alice Te Punga Somerville's (Te Āti Awa, Taranaki) Always Italicise: How to Write While Colonised being the only exception.

Jill Trevelyan is the only other former NZ Book of the Year winner in this year's shortlist, combining with Sarah Farrar and Nina Tonga for best Illustrated Non-Fiction finalist Robin White: Something is Happening Here. It's up against Nick Bollinger's Jumping Sundays: The Rise and Fall of the Counterculture in Aotearoa New Zealand,  Secrets of the Sea: The Story of New Zealand’s Native Sea Creatures by Robert Vennell  and Te Motunui Epa by Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa).

The General Non-Fiction Award will be decided between A Fire in the Belly of Hineāmaru: A Collection of Narratives about Te Tai Tokerau Tūpuna by Melinda Webber (Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaue) and Te Kapua O’Connor (Ngāti Kurī, Pohūtiare), Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay from Paul Diamond (Ngāti Hauā, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Noelle McCarthy's autobiographical Grand: Becoming my Mother’s Daughter and The English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ned Fletcher.

The winners will be announced on 17 May as part of the Auckland Writer's Festival.

It's going off

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Image from ASB Polyfest website.

Contrary to what mainstream and social media will have you believe, there's more happening this week than just a Harry Styles concert.

Not far down the road from Styles' temporary home at Mt Smart, Polyfest is set to bring all the colour and cultural buzz that only it can.

The Auckland Secondary Schools Māori & Pacific Islands Cultural Festival runs at Manukau Sports Bowl through until Saturday 11 March and the pride and passion on display is always palpable (Canterbury gets its turn next weekend). If you gave Te Matatini a try for the first time, this would fit nicely into your next port of call.

Wellington's in the throes of its own big week, after another successful Newtown Festival last weekend that saw an estimated 100,000 revellers enjoy all the sights and sounds on offer in the Wellington suburb. 

And they're a sweet little chaser - with the Newtown Open Studios showcasing 11 artists in six different locations - a celebration of creativity at a community level. Check out details here.

And with the New Zealand Fringe looking to finish its month long programme with a bang this weekend, Wellington's claim for cultural capital continues to flourish - especially with the Tūtira Mai: Cyclone Gabrielle Relief Concert set to rock Pipitea Marae on 19 March with big names like Troy Kingi and  Louis Baker headlining.


If you're looking for a good listen - it's worth checking out this playlist of the recently named Taite Music Prize finalists, celebrating the peak of 2022's musical creativity in Aotearoa.

Its eclecticism shows exactly why there's so much to love about the talent and diversity of the music industry in our neck of the woods.

The list includes former winners Aldous Harding (Warm Chris) and Avantdale Bowling Club (Trees) as well as Erny Belle for Venus Is Home, Fazerdaze (Break!), Hans Pucket's album No Drama, Marlon Williams for My Boy, Princess Chelsea with Everything Is Going To Be Alright, Tami Neilson's Aotearoa Music Award-dominating Kingmaker, TE KAAHU's Te Kaahu O Rangi and The Beths with Expert In A Dying Field.

Georgina's greatness

Most people think of Georgina Beyer as a groundbreaking politician - but her passing on Monday has allowed people to remember she brought so much more to the table.

Unstoppable with a mic in her hand or an issue between her teeth, her advocacy for the queer community and involvement and support of the creative community literally changed lives.

There are no amount of accolades worthy enough for Beyer's impact on Aotearoa - thankfully almost all were shared while she was still with us. While there'll only ever be one Georgina Beyer, her time as a performer and politician ensured she kicked open the door for many other New Zealanders to be their true selves.