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Lowdown: World First For NZ Arts Organisation

08 Feb 2024

We go behind the new digital approach one Aotearoa creative heavyweight is taking to increase its audience, art's influence of a tumultuous Waitangi holiday and other industry news. 

In 2024, if you can produce a world first in the creative sector, one already known for pushing boundaries -  then hats off to you.

Auckland Philharmonia is breaking new ground - thought to be the first orchestra on the planet to introduce an interactive 3D view and virtual experience, which includes a virtual tour of its Auckland Town Hall stage.

Diana Weir, Auckland Philharmonia’s Chief Executive told The Lowdown "We were one of the first orchestras in Aotearoa to livestream our concerts in 2014, which has given us the opportunity to showcase the orchestra on a global stage. 

"So, we’re always interested in ways to extend and enhance the digital experience for our audiences and provide new ways to learn more about the orchestra, the roles of the musicians, and our performances in a fun and interactive way.

"The idea to develop this digital experience was initially proposed to us by Insight Creative as a new technology that would help us to communicate the experience of attending one of our concerts in the beautiful Auckland Town Hall."  

The multi-sensory, immersive experience gives anyone with access to the internet the chance to meet the musicians and discover more about their instruments through a bird’s eye interactive 3D view of the stage - as well as hear special digital performances by the orchestra.

The tour takes participants from the Queen Street entrance of the building all the way to the Green Room backstage (via the Great Hall).

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The Wyreframe team 3D mapping the Auckland Town Hall. Photo: Auckland Philharmonia.
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The new virtual tour of Auckland Town Hall. Photo: Auckland Philharmonia.

"The actual 3D scanning process was very quick and completed in one day, but the creation of the online experience has taken a number of months to develop and fine-tune. 

"As this was the first time that this mapping technology has been used for this purpose, it was a truly collaborative process that involved a lot of testing and working through solutions together."
Weir hopes this new digital offering will help remove the barriers and preconceptions of what an orchestral performance is for those unsure of what to expect - as well as for the aficionados to be able to delve deeper into what they already love.

"Whether our virtual interactive tour is being used by students in a classroom, or a local resident considering attending a free concert, we're thrilled to share the experience of our beautiful venue and our orchestra with the wider community – both online and in person."

Art infiltrates Waitangi headlines

 The White flag hīkoi in full effect. Photo: RNZ/Pokere Paewai.

In these divisive times, you can always rely on creatives to make sense of it all.

There's no question that this year has been a particularly messy Waitangi Day for Aotearoa - the headlines and reactions exhausting, no matter which side of the political divide you sit on.

But when it comes to what it actually means to be the nation many cherish being part of - the highlight belongs to those involved in Tame Iti's white flag hīkoi on Monday.

The often controversial but highly passionate Arts Laureate was surprised by how many showed up to be part of what RNZ described as "part pōwhiri, part art piece" and included the donating of Iti's sculpture, Ngā Tamatoa to Waitangi.

Iti stated that protest can be innovative.

"We don't have to do the same old, same old thing, we have to be more creative. It's an artist's approach, that's our role, we are the storytellers. There's no rules to it."

Clare Robinson was one of many who made the journey to be involved as part of the Moana hapū (named after the late Moana Jackson). The 66-year-old told The Lowdown she drove up from her home in Gisborne by herself but along the way, picked up other interested parties from France, America and an Inuit woman from Greenland.

"It was just amazing. The whole thing was peaceful, it was calm. And it was just such a buzz. 

"The feeling was just incredible with an amazing cross-section of people. It was probably 40-50% Māori and then the rest of us from all different age groups and from lots of different cultures. There were Pacific Islanders, Indians, Palestinians, Asians - total unity."

Imagine that.

Cash injection

An expanded pot of money for creatives to tap into is always welcome news to hear.

The Screenrights annual Cultural Fund has boosted its tally by $50,000 - with $300,000 now on offer for applicants.

The Fund supports projects that foster the creation and appreciation of screen content in Australia and New Zealand and seeks initiatives that respond to the annual focus of Big Issues: Creative Solutions - with up to $50K per project.

“There’s the old maxim that you can’t keep doing the same old things and expect a different outcome, so Screenrights’ Cultural Fund invites creative solutions to the challenges and opportunities faced by the education and screen sectors,” says Chair of the Cultural Fund Committee, Rachel Antony. “Whether it’s issues around AI, sustainability, or access and inclusion, for example, it’s terrific that the Screenrights membership is able to support some of the innovative problem solving we know our communities are continually exploring.”

Applications are open until 10 April, with Screenrights offering application support for those less experienced in funding submissions with free advice in the hope of reducing barriers to entry and increasing the diversity of funded initiatives.

Bonnett at the front

Many things manage to slip under the radar during the silly season - and for many, a major change at the NZ Music Commission could be one of them.

The Music Commission's February update included an update on the board, which saw the departure of long-serving Chair Victoria Blood after a decade in the role ;last December.

Blood's retirement from the role - she will still be the leader of WeCreate, the national alliance of creative industries, and a member of the NZ Story Advisory Board - has seen Greg Bonnett step into the hotseat solo.

Bonnett has been sharing the role as Co-Chair with Blood since 2022 but will take on the role by himself as he brings his extensive career in Corporate and Commercial Banking to the table.

Wairere Iti, a Kaitiaki of the Māori Music Industry Coalition, was elected the new Deputy Chair.

Blood states "The Music Commission does such vital work to help give NZ artists and music the best possible chance of achieving their dreams, at home and around the world – and it’s been thrilling to see so many new careers take off.  

"I’ve learned so much, met some super-inspiring people, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to contribute. I’ll miss everyone very much, but the Commission will be in fantastic hands with Greg and Wairere.”

Leading librarian honoured 

Elizabeth Jones. Photo: Supplied.

Long service in the library world is something that often goes unrecognised - but the National Library’s Director of Literacy and Learning, Elizabeth Jones has been put in the spotlight.

She has been named the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal winner for 2024 presented a person for their lifetime achievement and significant contribution to the broad field of children’s and young adult literature and literacy.

Jones is also Chair of the Te Awhi Rito Partners Group and Chair of the National Reading Initiatives Programme board, as well as linked to a multitude of international and national literacy and library associations.

Storylines Trust Chair Christine Young tributes “For more than 35 years she has been one of New Zealand’s most passionate, articulate, knowledgeable, and effective advocates of children and young people’s reading for pleasure and the academic and personal benefits it brings.

“Without her vision and determination, the Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador for Children and Young People, which involves partners from across the sector, would not have succeeded. I am in awe of her commitment, dedication and enthusiasm, and the way she is able to communicate with and engage others in her passionate pursuit of ensuring all tamariki and rangatahi have the opportunity and ability to enjoy reading.”

Jones will receive her prize at the Storylines annual Margaret Mahy National Awards Day in Auckland on 7 April.

Line-ups locked in

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Te KuraHuia. Photo: Supplied.
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Kédu Carlö. Photo: Supplied.

The final lineup for next month's Cross Street Music Festival (9 March) has been confirmed with some talented Aotearoa acts given their chance to shine.

A mix of established and emerging performers like Princess Chelsea, Hot Sauce Club, Mirror Ritual, Junior Junior, Fathe and the Sweetos, deepState, Fruju Peak, Baby Zionov, OD, DJ Solnate and Heylady has already been announced.

They've been joined by multidisciplinary Māori Pasifika singer-songwriter/rapper and music producer Te KuraHuia; Electronica-driven duo Kédu Carlö, New York-based alt-pop pairing Balu Brigada, Malaysian-Chinese pop singer/songwriter, musician, producer Geoff Ong and DJ Eli Chico.

And International Comedy Festival staple - the annual Comedy Gala - has laid down another half-a-dozen comedians for its Auckland and Wellington shows (3 & 4 May, respectively).

They include local talent Hayley Sproull, Billy T and Fred Award winner Rhys Mathewson, Fred winner Eli Matthewson and Alice Sneddon - who is returning home from her UK base - along with Aussie funnyfolk Nazeem Hussain and He Huang.

They link up with host Chris Parker and the already announced Heath Franklin’s Chopper, Brynley Stent, Pax Assadi, Abby Howells and Takashi Wakasugi.