Who We Are

The Nelson Arts Festival exists because we love the arts, and we see the power of the arts in promoting wellbeing and building communities. We are here to champion the arts in our region and to share unmissable arts experiences for, and with, the people of Te Tauihu and beyond.
Following 24 successful years of development and support, in 2018 the Nelson City Council moved the Nelson Arts Festival into a community-based, autonomous organisation to enable it to grow and flourish.

The Nelson Arts Festival is now under the governance of the Nelson Festivals Trust, a registered charity. 2023 marks the 29th annual Nelson Arts Festival.

Curatorial Statement

2023 Nelson Arts Festival Team

Lydia Zanetti

Executive & Artistic 

Annie Pokel

Head of Creative & Communications

Rose McGrannachan

Head of Business & Operations

Kerry Sunderland

Pukapuka Talks Programme Manager | Development Manager

Olivia Flanagan

Access Coordinator | Programme Coordinator

JR Richardson

Technical & Production Manager | Head of Sound

Michelle Lafferty | Elephant Publicity

Festival Publicist

Antony Hodgson

Head of Projection | Deputy Technical & Production Manager

Maria Anderson

Audience Experience Coordinator

Wendy Clease

Head of Lighting

Natalie Gilberd

Marketing Coordinator

Sam Cole

Mask Carnivale Project Manager

Sylvan Thomson

Tamariki & Rangatahi Programme Coordinator 

Rosie Pidd

Mask Parade Coordinator

Small but mighty team from around Aotearoa

Festival Technical Team & Crew

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), 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.

Gemma Laing

Gemma (she/her/ia) is a born and bred Nelsonian with a passion for the arts, and a life-long interest in dance. Having run a dance studio until 2016, she has been involved in sourcing and preparing entertainment for many community, sporting and cultural events, and taught both performing arts and dance in numerous schools. With a diploma in performing arts, she has coached competitive dancers to the world championships. Currently she works in the events industry running nationwide dance events, competitions and showcases.

Gemma has also worked on the Fringe Festival, International Arts Festival, Cuba Street Carnival and WOW, as well as the opening Entertainment for the All Blacks test matches and Bledisloe Cup.

Her board experience includes being the current vice chair of the First Years Community pre-school board and she is a member of the national dance board -Street Dance New Zealand.

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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