Nelson arts Festival logo
Nelson arts Festival logo

200 artists.
50 works.
11 days of unmissable arts experiences.

21 - 31 October 2021

As of 7th of October 2021


Silver. Stone. Wood. Bone. (18 Oct)

Pure Psychic Automatism (Fri 22 Oct| 10.30am - workshop at Elma Turner Library)

Through The Eye of Whakatū (throughout)

Exhibitions at Refinery ArtSpace by Samara Davis & Vicki Smith (throughout)

He Raranga Kōrero: Weaving Conversations at Suter Art Galery Te Aratoi o Whakatū (throughout)

Nelson City Centre ArtWalk Tours (22, 28 & 30 Oct)


And the following 3 digital Pukapuka Talks (FREE):

Writing Home: An Antidote to Feeling Stranded (digital on demand)

The Mirror Book (digital on demand)

Once Were Hippies (digital on demand)



Kia ora koutou katoa,

In the light of the government’s Monday 4 Oct announcement, it is with doubly heavy hearts that we have had to make further changes to what the Nelson Festivals Trust is able to deliver in 2021 while keeping our community safe.

We held on tightly to a spark of hope that we might have been able to safely gather as a community, but sadly, we continue to face too much uncertainty.

With the current government strategy rolling out over the next 4 to 8 weeks, it is very unlikely that Whakatū will be back to an alert level in time where we would be able to safely deliver our vision.

Because of this, we have had to make further tough decisions, including cancelling Whakatū’s festival-favourite, the Mask Carnivale, the Pukapuka Talks literary programme, Night Vision, PechaKucha and Couch Stories.

You will find a full list of which events have been cancelled, and which we will be to proceed with, below.

We know that these are heart-breaking news for everyone involved. We share our huge disappointment with all our artists, producers, crew and venues who worked so hard towards creating this festival; with our funders and sponsors who have been relentless in their support and belief in our vision; and with you, our audiences, who have met our programme with such enthusiasm and have so warmly welcomed our new team and our vision for this year’s festival.

Tēnā koutou, thank you all.

He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatākiri.
There is strength in unity and weakness in division.

Until we can see you all again to connect in person, please take care, arts lovers. Be kind, look after each other, wear your mask, use the tracker app…you know it.

Big gatherings may not be possible, but as long as we are willing, we can connect.

We encourage you to still enjoy and support the arts: visit your local galleries and museums (lots of beautiful exhibitions are waiting for visitors at the moment!), buy a book from your favourite author or discover a new one, tune into a digital presentation, book ahead and get tickets for concerts and performances - while things may look a bit uncertain now, shows will be back.

Every time you buy a ticket, at least one artist, organiser, technician and/or venue operator does a happy dance - it keeps them, and all of us, going to have your support!

Lydia, Rose, Shanine & the Nelson Arts Festival team


  • Mask Carnivale
  • Night Vision
  • PechaKucha
  • Couch Stories
  • Selina Tusitala Marsh in-school workshops (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Connections & Cultural Obsessions (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Navigating Space & Time (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Whaiora: Reimagining Wellbeing (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Only A Few Years From Now... (Pukapuka Talks)
  • The Mansfield Legacy: Blessing or Curse? (Pukapuka Talks)
  • The Crucial Decade: Responding to the Climate Crisis (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Beyond the Headlines: True Crime (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Asian Voices in Aotearoa (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Wāhine Wahapū (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Out Here in Whakatū (Pukapuka Talks)
  • Sisters Are Doing It (Pukapuka Talks)

Tickets for the cancelled shows will be refunded in full - please read more about this here. Ticket holders for The Mirror Book and Once Were Hippies will also be offered a refund as these events are now free.

Please sign up to our newsletter, keep an eye on our social media and check back here for updates.

Thank you for your understanding and support, arts lovers. We are so very grateful for you.

Kia kaha, kia atawhai, kia haumaru.
Stay strong, stay kind, stay safe.


17 September 2021


It is with immense disappointment and sadness that we have had to cancel most of our 2021 shows and events due to the continued impact of the Covid-19 Delta outbreak.

Despite working hard throughout this time towards our 2021 offering, the ongoing lockdown and alert level restrictions have created a situation where we had to assess not only what is possible, but what is the right thing to do by our community, our artists and our people at this moment in time.

The Festival’s kaupapa is focused on caring for our community - and we have made our decision with this care in mind. Looking out for the health and wellbeing of all those attending, performing and working at the Nelson Arts Festival, as well as our wider community, has to be our utmost priority.

We have made this decision now in order to be in the best position to provide clarity and support those most affected by these cancellations: our artists, technicians, producers and partners working and creating for the Festival. Delaying this decision further would put the Nelson Festivals Trust at jeopardy and risk our ability to sustain support for artists, staff, venues and our community long term. While we are deeply sad and disappointed to not be able to share all the incredible shows we had planned for this year’s Festival with you, we believe it is the right decision to make.

Our scaled back programme will remain focussed on our core intention for 2021: CONNECTION.

With the hope that Whakatū will return to alert level 1 by early October, we are working towards a locally-focused programme of events, including Mask Carnivale, Night Vision and Pukapuka Talks, our collaborative project, Through the Eye of Whakatū, Couch Stories, PechaKucha, and most of our visual arts offering. We will provide updates on all events as we are able to confirm them.

Tickets for the cancelled shows will be refunded in full - please read more about this here.

Please sign up to our newsletter, keep an eye on our social media, and check back here for updates and notifications.

Thank you for your understanding and support, arts lovers. We are so very grateful for you.


Nau mai,
haere mai!

Nau mai, haere mai ki te whānau!

In 2021, we have commissioned new works especially for our place and our people, with a beautiful Refinery ArtSpace takeover from Charles Koroneho, sound ritual/absurdist dance gig by Vanessa Worm, Flavio Villani playing compositions from global sensation Nils Frahm (as well as his own), and the Aotearoa premiere of the internationally renowned Walking:Holding.

We are bookending the festival with our two full city explosions — Night Vision returns to kick us off and the revamped Mask Carnivale rings in our final weekend. Join us (almost) every night at East St Festival Hub, as we take over East St Cafe & Bar with a series of our best Whakatū and Aotearoa-wide gigs.

With most of the Fest happening within the CBD, you can dash between events with everything from top theatre productions, award-winning musos, happenings for our young ones and the whole whānau and, of course, the excellent minds and hearts housed within Pukapuka Talks. Phew!

See you at a show, a gig, a talk or perhaps even let’s hold hands — welcome to your Nelson Arts Festival 2021.

Lydia, Rose, Shanine, Annie, Kerry, Sarah, Wendy
& the Nelson Arts Festival team

Our Festival

Names and River

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa

Let us keep close together, not wide apart

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