Who We Are

The Nelson Festivals Trust looks to the horizon, igniting sparks of transformation and inciting the power of creativity as a force for positive change. 
We fiercely stand as a champion for artists and the arts, a catalyst for crucial conversations, and a mirror to our moment in time. 
We foster connections, by uplifting and celebrating our whole community through artistic and cultural experiences.
Now in our 30th year of delivering epic annual festivals, our key offering Nelson Arts Festival continues as a bright beacon for the arts in Aotearoa and a strong pou for the Whakatū creative community. Every Spring, we curate, craft and nurture 11 days of unmissable arts experiences for and with the people of Whakatū Nelson and Te Tauihu (and beyond). 

The events we deliver are awe-inspiring, audacious and accessible, all wrapped up in the warm embrace of manaakitanga that defines and holds us as people of Aotearoa and the Pacific.

Through caring for and supporting growth within both our festival whānau and the wider community, we cultivate a flourishing landscape where artistry, ecosystems and people thrive, shaping a world we can only hope to imagine.
Following 24 successful years, in 2018 the Nelson City Council moved the Nelson Arts Festival into a community-based, autonomous organisation to continue its growth.

The Nelson Arts Festival is now under the governance of the Nelson Festivals Trust, a registered charity. 2024 marks the 30th annual Nelson Arts Festival - a milestone birthday for the longest running annual arts festival in Aotearoa. 

Curatorial Statement


[Lydia] Zanetti

Artistic Director

Ruth Roebuck

General Manager

Annie Pokel

Head of Marketing, Community & Partnerships

Rose McGrannachan

Head of Operations

Kerry Sunderland

Pukapuka Talks Programme Manager

Lydia Hannah Thomas

Programme Coordinator

JR Richardson

Technical & Production Manager | Head of Sound

Antony Hodgson

Head of Projection | Deputy Technical & Production Manager

Michelle Lafferty | Elephant Publicity

Festival Publicist

Maria Anderson

Audience Experience Coordinator

Emily Sanson

Tamariki & Rangatahi Programme Coordinator 

Georgia Nicholls

Producer Intern | Toi Māori Aotearoa 

Sam Cole

Mask Carnivale Project Manager

Rosie Pidd

Mask Parade Coordinator

Festival Technical Team & Crew

Small but mighty team from Whakatū and around Aotearoa

Nelson Festivals Trust

The Trustees have combined experience in governance, business, central and local government, and arts promotion and management. 

The Trustees would like to thank all previous Board members for their contribution, advice and support of the Trust and the Festival: Brent Thawley, Zoe Palmer, Johannah Kātene-Burge (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Tama), Gemma Laing, Debbie Hannan, Sarah Sharp, Caroline Marshall and Pic Picot. 

Ali Boswijk (Board Chair)

A broadcaster by profession, Ali (she/her/ia) has been involved with arts in Nelson since moving to New Zealand in 1996. She ran the Nelson Bays Arts Marketing Trust, is a former Deputy Mayor of Nelson City Council, and the former Head of International and Business Development for WOW. She is now Chief Executive of Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce.

Cynthia Greep

Cynthia (she/her/ia) is from Tasman and works nationwide as an employment relations / HR consultant with an emphasis on dispute resolution. She is a trained NZ mediator across a range of forums including employment. Cynthia supports the Trust with HR and Contractor oversight and is experienced in operational and strategic HR matters. Her work as an HR Specialist at NZ School Trustees has given her wide experience across the education sector and a strong understanding of governance.

Johny O'Donnell (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri)

Born and raised here in Te Tauihu, Johny (he/him/ia) draws his identity from Hokianga in the Far North as well as Irish, Scottish, and Pākēhā ancestry. He has a background in communications and runs his own strategy and consulting firm OD&Co which is based here in Whakatū Nelson. Johny has extensive experience in economic and community development, including delivering regional initiatives such as the Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy and Project Kōkiri.

He is passionate about the potential of arts and culture in Te Tauihu, particularly championing and supporting the growth of Ngā Toi Māori. He was involved in the creation of the city's arts and creativity strategy He Tātai Whetū and has been supporting the development of an iwi-led approach to Toi Māori in the region. As a massive Nelson Arts Festival groupie, he excited to give back to the festival that gives so much to Whakatū Nelson.

Sarah Yarrow

Sarah (she/her/ia) has over 20 years experience in local government focused on community wellbeing, arts and the environment and was involved in arts management with the Salisbury International Arts Festival in the United Kingdom. Sarah has a professional interest in good governance and is a chartered member of the Institute of Directors.

Sarah is a founding board member of the Nelson Festivals Trust and was part of the group that assessed and recommended how the Festival could be moved successfully from council to community governance and management. She has had a life-long involvement in the arts, growing up in a family heavily involved in the am dram scene in provincial New Zealand.

Luke Acland

Luke (he/him/ia) is a lawyer and partner of one of Nelson’s oldest established law firms Rout Milner Fitchett. The firm specialises in corporate and commercial matters and Luke is primarily the litigation partner with emphasis on employment/industrial and general commercial disputes. Luke was a Nelson City Councillor for two terms before joining the RMF partnership and he currently holds various governance roles including the boards of local charitable orgainsations and school board of trustees. Luke has been involved in the performing arts from a young age and obtained an undergraduate degree in art history. Luke has recently taken up fishing after relentless pressure from his children and it’s good fun.
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