Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

Tauranga Arts Festival 2021 Down but not Out

Tauranga Arts Festival team, from left, artistic director Gabrielle Vincent, general manager Nikki Hansen, trust board chair Kathryn Lellman. Image: Brydie Photography
Tauranga Arts Festival cancels live performances


This year’s Tauranga Arts Festival has fallen victim to the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland with the trust board making the difficult decision to cancel all live performances for the October 21-31 event.

With Auckland’s extended lockdown severely impacting the rehearsal and preparation time for many of the theatre shows coming to the festival, and the curtailed period for marketing and promoting the festival, the board felt it was financially prudent to cancel.

“We have been working through an unknown landscape,” board chair Kathryn Lellman said. “The arrival in the community of the Delta variant of Covid-19 changed that landscape again and we felt that the uncertainty around fast-moving changes to alert levels, and changes to the restrictions within those alert levels, left us with no option but to cancel.”

While the trust supports the Government’s decision to apply these restrictions in the face of the Delta variant, the guidelines have significant ramifications for the events and performing arts sectors. Level 2 restrictions that require physical distancing and limit indoor gathering sizes greatly reduce audience capacity, which in turn affects the viability of the Festival, and is also impacted by uncertainty over artists and staff travelling from Auckland’s higher alert level zone. And of course, essential weeks have already been lost for promoting shows, managing logistics, rehearsing and otherwise practically preparing for the massive 10-day undertaking.

“We were so looking forward to sharing our 2021 programme with the people of Tauranga Moana, but the festival team fully supports the need to cancel,” Gabrielle Vincent, the festival’s artistic director, said. “It’s a huge disappointment, but it’s also just how things are at present. We will regroup and be back. Our hearts go out to all the artists and companies around Aotearoa who have been affected by the lockdown.”

A silver lining is that at Level 2 the festival will still be able to offer its specially commissioned soundwalk, Te Manawataki o Mauao by Riki Gooch with Sonicity, from October 21-31. For 10 days, Tauranga Moana residents and Level 2 visitors will be able to experience the rhythmic pulse of Mauao with a walking performance specific to our maunga.

In partnership with Supercut Projects, Tauranga Art Gallery and The Elms Te Papa Tauranga, the festival will also offer vibrant public and free-to-access artworks, created by both local and national artists. The community will be able to see a rich visual arts programme across the Tauranga CBD, at The Elms and in Tauranga Art Gallery. The works scattered around the central city are both a celebration and a reflection of Tauranga Moana. Please visit the Tauranga Arts Festival website for more information about these events. 

The festival team is already working on plans for an expanded version of our Escape! festival over Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2022 and exploring options for other special offerings next year.

Festival staff are in discussions with funders and sponsors about the cancellation. Ticket holders will be contacted directly by Ticketek regarding refunds.

Image shows Tauranga Arts Festival team, from left, artistic director Gabrielle Vincent, general manager Nikki Hansen, trust board chair Kathryn Lellman. Photo: Brydie Photography

Written by

Sandra Simpson

22 Sep 2021