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Pride Prevails

29 Feb 2024

Creative Director Nathan Joe gives an honest appraisal of the challenges - and highlights - of bringing Auckland Pride Festival to life as the curtain gets set to fall on the 29-day event.

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Nathan Joe

After an intense and packed month-long programme, The 2024 Auckland Pride Festival comes to a conclusion today (29 February).

For a festival that has been so severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown era over the previous four years, the 2024 edition was able to go hell for leather - bringing joy, awe and sequins to the many who attended.

Into his second year in the job, Pride's Creative Director Nathan Joe runs through his emotions and reaction to reaching the finish line for The Big Idea.


It feels like a massive level up from last year in terms of the scale of work, both from our community, as well as the festival team's output. There's a definite sense that audiences and creatives are hungry to engage and create. 

As I type this, we are at the very end of the festival, and it's almost hard to believe because It felt MASSIVE and NEVER ENDING (29 DAYS!!!), which has been exhausting in the best possible way. 

Our team has been really humbled and deeply moved by the response from the community so far. We took some big swings and people have been incredibly generous in meeting us. This requires a lot of trust across the process, but the result has been lovely collaborations that feel really alive and fresh. 

2024's standouts

The Perfect Image. Photo: Jinki Cambronero.

We brought back an opening event! 

That's a huge deal, especially since it wasn't the Gala, but something completely different with Te Tīmatanga. A performance offering made by our resident artist Pounamu Rurawhe with senior artist Rosana Raymond and last year's resident Kiriana Sheree. A powerful, defiant, and timely tribute to generations of wahine. It felt like a real gamechanger for the festival.

I also got to present my second year of Pride Elevates which was a nice relief after the funding struggles of my first year in the job (detailed here in an emotional open letter). 

Pride Elevates in action. Photo: Jinki Cambronero.

Every single show has been a delight to witness come to fruition. Such a reminder of the vitality and urgency of queer art and queer voices. I thought the contemporary dance work was particularly exceptional in terms of something we don't often see at Auckland Pride.  

Last weekend, we also had the Pride March and Party - God, it was beautiful to see a confident and courageous bunch of young people really lead the march. We couldn't have done it without the support of Rainbow Youth too. But the future generation is braver than I ever was. Every step they took was with joy and integrity. I was filled with awe and a little bit of envy. 

Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention that we got to present the work of Krishna Istha with First Trimester, all the way from the UK. Totally unique and special. An international work of profound calibre. Who knew searching for a sperm donor could be so funny, theatrical and engaging? Without hesitation, this was a once-in-a-lifetime art experience. 

There's so many more things I'd like to hype up - basically the whole programme - but those events listed above, we were simply lucky to have join our festival. Events we could never have dreamed of ourselves. Events that remind you that the community knows what they need best. 

2024's challenges

The Bloom. Photo: Jinki Cambronero.

Working in a new team is hard! 

You're all learning together and you make mistakes together. And it's also a small team, so sometimes you have also spread yourselves thin. 

Sometimes you can't do all the things you imagined or you can't do them the way you imagined them. You make sacrifices and something has got to give. 

I absolutely hand it to everyone in our team, from new Co-directors Julia Croft and Hāmiora Bailey, Creative Producer Izzy Robinson, Events Producer Amanda Wilson, Festival Coordinator Evelyn Cammock, and Social Media Superstar Sapati Apa-Fepulea'i. It's been the biggest collective effort. 

We produced and actively programmed more events this year. We got very excited and we just really went for it. I don't think we were totally prepared for it. It's months and months of preparation for the festival and then a month-long reward of actually attending the festival. Not much can prepare you for that. 

And, look, it's an understatement to say the political climate is tough right now, for everyone. Though some more than others. 

Legacy. Photo: Jinki Cambronero.

It goes without saying that Auckland Pride (and any other arts and culture organisation) has to contend with that. 

The sovereignty and freedom of our Māori and Trans community is being actively questioned and is under threat. Not to mention that of the Palestinian community who we cannot and should not forget. 

It's not an easy time to navigate and express your values as an organisation. Sometimes it's easy to wonder what the point of art and culture is, amidst all this. Sometimes you listen to all the negative voices saying, 'Why do you even need Pride Month?' 

But then you catch a glimmer of something. 

You catch a glimmer of community being built. You catch someone being filled with a sense of belonging or safety. You catch someone engaged in new ideas and perspectives. And, yeah, you catch some (very) cool art too, but that's less important than what happens around the art. Less important than those discussions before and after an event, and all that burning hope ignited.  

What I'm trying to say is, if I got sent back to 2022 (knowing all that I know now), I would still take this job. 

Every. Single. Time.

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