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Silver Lining Saving NZ Events from Financial Hardship

Many are feeling the pinch as Omicron tears shreds off Aotearoa's performance events calendar. Find out why some organisers are breathing a sigh of relief after joining a MCH scheme.



Forget death and taxes - right now, there’s nothing more certain than COVID threatening the livelihoods of Aotearoa’s live performance industry.

As we try to come to grips with Omicron, the handbrake being applied to creative and cultural events up and down the country brings with it a blanket range of unwanted emotions; from despair, to anger, to fear of what happens when months of planning and the bulk of your planned annual income runs into a Red Light.

But it is also showing that one of Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s (MCH) final initiatives of 2021 is paying off - literally. 

The Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme was set up to help fill the demands coming from the entertainment sector to provide insurance to help underwrite events in such uncertain times.

Any eligible events happening between 17 December 2021 and 3 April 2022 (EDIT: extended to 31 January 2023) have been invited to apply for up to $300,000 of the $22.5 million fund designed to give confidence to event organisers.

Of course, as of 11.59pm on Sunday, that confidence has been desperately needed.

Joe Fowler, Deputy Chief Executive Te Aka Tūhono Investment & Outcomes, Manatū Taonga explains to The Big Idea “the decision to move all of New Zealand into Red will cause significant disruption to arts and culture events around the motu, and we acknowledge the heartbreak felt by the organisers, and individual artists, crews and event workers who will not be able to perform and work as they’d hoped to.

“Events approved under the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme will be supported if they can’t go ahead because of Red conditions, so the Prime Minister’s announcement that all of Aotearoa will go into the Red traffic light setting reinforces the value that this Scheme provides.

“The Ministry has received many applications since the Scheme was launched in December, and we’ve been assessing eligibility and pre-approving these events since then. We expect to be busy in coming weeks processing those events, and the team is ready to step up and help hundreds of artists and practitioners through a difficult time.”

Supported events include the already cancelled Auckland Pride Festival and the postponed Other Ways Festival. Difficult decisions that have at least not been focussed on the financial stress.

Chamber music event Adam Summer Celebration was due to run 3-6 February in Nelson - but has been scrapped. Spokesperson Sophie Kelly says “[The scheme] makes a phenomenal difference now that we have that support from an organisation perspective. Things are changing so quickly... Having that financial assurity is brilliant.”

Some of NZ's best chamber musicians have missed out on the chance to play at the cancelled Adam Summer Celebration. Photo: Supplied.

Roger Farr is helming Ashburton’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar in March. “We’re very nervous! We don’t start rehearsing again until 30 January with the show opening on 19 March and if we were to lose a week of rehearsals due to restrictions, we would be in trouble. 

“The scheme’s support has provided a load off our minds. The financial commitment for us is huge, if we did have to cancel there would be serious repercussions.” 

Ashburton's cast of Jesus Christ Superstar on stage. Photo: Supplied,

Takapuna’s Shakespeare in the Park hasn’t had to cancel - working to the 100 person limit - to start their 26th season. James Bell says “the Scheme has helped a lot, our chair said she let out a big sigh of relief. 

“It only takes one person being in a location of interest to scupper the whole thing. It relieves one of the pressure points if we move up a level.

“We think we are the first theatre production to go ahead in Auckland for 2022.”

Cast of Shakespeare in the Park's Merchant of Venice. Photo: Supplied.

Louis Murphy-Harris was one who didn’t need to call on the support - getting his emerging talent music and dance festival Tora Bombora done and dusted in the Wairarapa just hours before the transition to Red,

”Tora Bombora is a pure passion project. Running events during this time is hard and a massive gamble. I'm very stoked that this Event Support Scheme has become available for smaller events.

“This new fund is a massive sense of relief, it takes so much stress out of it.”

Tora bombora festival. Photo: Supplied.

It’s certainly worth noting, applications are still open but you need to pre-register before your event - the sooner the better to ensure there's time to process your application.

Fowler adds “the message for events which are covered under the scheme is to drop us a line at and we’ll make contact as we focus on getting support out to the event sector.”


Written by

The Big Idea Editor

27 Jan 2022

The Big Idea Editor