A warm welcome to our amazing MAI Producer Intern Georgia Pani Nicholls (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Raukawa) who has joined our team this week. We’re absolutely thrilled to have Georgia back in Whakatū from Ōtautahi after she performed at the Festival last year, DJing alongside Jujulipps. ⁠

Over the course of the next months, Georgia will be involved with all parts of planning, producing and magic-making as we prepare for our 30th year of delivering 11 days of unmissable arts experiences come October.⁠ ⁠ Our biggest thanks go to the amazing folks at Toi Māori Aotearoa for making this internship possible – the MAI Programme, funded by Creative New Zealand, aims to develop future Māori arts managers, professionals and producers, to support the Māori arts infrastructure, and establish pathways for emerging Māori who wish to embark on a career in the arts.

“I was born and raised in Ōtautahi to a family of music enthusiasts. Constantly around the sounds of blues, soul, funk, R&B, and early dance, music became fundamental to my upbringing and would remain a crucial influence in my life until this day,” says Georgia.

“Despite having no musical training, I managed to find myself involved in the worlds of DJing, electronic production, and event production. I found that DJing and dance music spoke to me on a visceral personal level, but recognized that the current state of Aotearoa electronic music sorely needed healing.

I think that being involved in a festival such as the Nelson Arts Festival will provide a wealth of practical experience, develop my skills in producing a project to help run a festival and building relationships that will go beyond these 20 weeks. I am so thrilled to be a part of the MAI internship programme and really can’t thank Toi Maori anymore for this opportunity.”

We feel hugely honoured to have been selected as a host organisation this year, and to have Georgia work with us!⁠ ⁠

Piki mai, kake mai – tūtaki mai ki a Georgia!⁠

2024 marks the 30th consecutive year of the Nelson Arts Festival – and a move towards a bold vision for the next 30 years of unmissable arts experiences. In support of the future of the organisation, the Board of the Nelson Festivals Trust are very pleased to announce the appointment of Ruth Roebuck as General Manager. 

Te Pito Whakarei opening Night Vision 2023, photographed by Melissa Banks.

Roebuck (she/her/ia) brings extensive commercial experience, internationally and here in Aotearoa, to this role. Having most recently worked in the profit-for-purpose and charities sector spending four years as General Manager for the Spirit of Adventure Trust and three years as Manager of The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Ruth is well versed in navigating the ever-changing landscape of the non-profit sector, and the challenges of balancing strategic goals and organisational sustainability to profitable growth and audience development. 

Ruth will report to the board and has responsibility across the Trust while working alongside Artistic Director Lydia Zanetti (they/them/ia).

Zanetti started with the Trust in 2021 and has very successfully held both the Executive and Artistic Director roles since the beginning of 2022. They have led the team to deliver two hugely successful Festivals with over 110 events, increased festival partnerships and revenue streams, and attracted new audiences through progressive and diversified artistic programming as well as initiatives to increase event accessibility.  

Zanetti is pleased to now concentrate on the Artistic Director function while Roebuck will lead the Executive Director aspects. With this recent appointment and structural change, Nelson Festivals Trust has a unique collective expertise across the gambit of skills necessary for strategic growth – resourcing the organisation to further develop in its vital role as part of the regional, national and international ecosystems, and continue to give back to the community of Whakatū and Te Tauihu. 

We are very aware of the importance of the Arts Festival to the Whakatū Nelson community and as an activator for the city and region. As the team prepares for the festival in its thirtieth year, it is great to have the structure in place to support Lydia as Artistic Director and for them to have total focus on the programme. We have recently undertaken a strategic review to ensure that we are in the best position to deliver for the next three decades, and this new structure and appointment of Ruth is key to making that happen.”

Ali Boswijk, Chair of Nelson Festivals Trust (she/her/ia)

Download our full media release here.

Save the dates:

Our 30th Nelson Arts Festival will take place from Thursday 24 October – Sunday 3 November 2024, with the programme launching in late August. 

Opportunities to join the 2024 Nelson Arts Festival team: we are currently advertising for two roles, and are also looking for an intern via Toi Māori Aotearoa.

Programme Coordinator:

The Nelson Festivals Trust are looking for a dynamic, warm and highly organised Programme Coordinator to join our team for the Nelson Arts Festival 2024.

The Programme Coordinator will work closely with the programming team to facilitate the logistics and administration of the festival. Serving as the primary point of contact and leader of artist manaakitanga, the successful candidate will ensure a seamless and supportive experience for our artists, from initial outreach to post-Festival off-boarding.

Applications close on Thursday 14 March.

Tamariki & Rangatahi Programme Coordinator:

We are also looking for our new Tamariki & Rangatahi Programme Coordinator to join us for 2024. 

Highly organised and an excellent communicator, the Tamariki & Rangatahi Programme Coordinator will work closely with the Programming team to co-ordinate the planning, delivery and reporting of the education programme.

While this fixed term contract is a crucial role in our team, it  does not require many hours outside of the immediate Festival period – for the right person, we think this role could be combined with the Programme Coordinator role advertised above.

Applications are open until Thursday 14 March.

For full job descriptions and to apply for these roles, please contact Rose McGrannachan via info@nelsonartsfestival.nz.

MAI Programme | He Taurima o Toi Māori – Toi Māori Intern

We’re thrilled to be one of the host organisations for the second round of the Toi Māori Internship programme by Toi Māori Aotearoa.

Toi Māori Aotearoa invites applications for the 2024 MAI Internship Programme for a 20-week placement from 29 April 2024 to 13 September 2024: this internship will offer valuable experience in a professional environment – the perfect platform for those looking to gain the relevant knowledge and skills for a career in the arts.

Find all details and apply here: https://www.maoriart.org.nz/mai-calling-for-interns.html

Ngā mihi o te tau hou pākehā e hoa mā – here’s to an arts-filled/fueled 2024!

We can’t wait to celebrate our 30th Festival with you come October – don’t forget to save the dates now: 24 October – 3 November 2024.

To get everyone excited for the arts goodness to come, we’re thrilled to share a joyful trip down memory lane for our 2023 Mask Carnivale with you all – captured by our friends and Festival partners Innit Creative.

Ooft it was such a joy to bring back this beloved event – we’re already excited about the next one!

What was your favourite moment or experience at the Carnivale, arts lovers?

2024 will be our 30th anniversary and we’re so excited to create it with our community, our partners and funders and – of course! – our artists at the festival heart!  

Save the dates now: 24 October – 3 November 2024!

Before we sign off for a well-deserved break after a big, big year, we’re proud to share and celebrate some amazing stats from a big, big festival year:

We’re so grateful to our amazing community for showing up for our artists and celebrating them alongside us, for coming out to enjoy the arts experiences that we pour so much love, careful planning and intention into, for bringing your friends and whānau, engaging in our content and sharing your feedback with us.

The Nelson Arts Festival is for you, Whakatū – and with you, because without our community, our annual 11 days of unmissable arts experiences would not be what they are. Thank you.

We’re so thrilled to bring our 2023 Pukapuka Talks back into your ears and minds with our podcast series.

First up: Lotta Dann (Mrs D) and Guyon Espiner in conversation with our local community and arts champion Matty Anderson in Wine O’Clock Meets The Drinking Game!

This powerful kōrero took a sobering look into how the way we consume alcohol is not only up to personal choice, but also shaped by government, media and big business. 

Have a listen HERE, arts lovers.

Image Credit: Steve Hussey

While it may take us a few days to find the right kupu to express all the feels about the magic of the past 11 days, we know one thing already: YOU, our amazing community, audience and artists, make this Festival what it is. Thank you for sharing your creativity, joy, curiosity and vibrance with us, and making all these arts experiences truly unmissable. Thank you, Whakatū.

We look forward to sharing all the photos, give shout outs to our amazing festival partners who help us make it all happen, and celebrate all our wonderful artists in the coming weeks – the Festival dates may be official over for 2023, but the Festival feels will still linger for a long time.

2023 Festival Survey

We’d hugely appreciate if you could please share your thoughts on your festival experience this year – your feedback is greatly appreciated and will help us shape our future festivals.

Please tell us what you loved, what went really well and what could go better, and go into the draw to win a sweet Festival goodie bag of inspiring pukapuka by our Pukapuka Talks authors, 2x double passes to 2024 Festival events of your choice, and an awesome Carry the Arts tote bag.

The survey will be open until next Friday, 10 November. Thank you! 

Homai te pakipaki, a big round of applause for our 2023 Parade Winners!

School Groups:

First Prize / Kim Merry Surpreme Award Winner: Appleby School

Second Prize: Upper Moutere School

Community Groups:

First Prize: Sambassadors

Second Prize: MYNTies (Multicultural Youth Nelson Tasman)

Zestiest Costume:

Wild Onesies

We’re proud to announce Kat Beyle and Keren Oertly as our 2023 By Whakatū Residency Programme recipients!

Kat Beyle is a documentary photographer originally from Chile. Now based in Whakatū after extensive travels, Kat loves community-based work and is passionate about creating documentaries and connecting with people from diverse cultures and realities. She is the founder of Wiphala Studio – Photographs with a social conscience, inspired by her South American roots.

For her residency, Kat is working on APRICITY | The Warmth of the Sun in Winter – a photo documentary about permanent residents living in campgrounds around Whakatū. “I aim to connect with several residents in different campgrounds, capturing portraits of them and their homes, while also interviewing them about their personal stories and reasons for choosing to reside in campgrounds. This is a work in progress, and I am incredibly grateful for every person who has been involved in this process, opening the doors of their homes and sharing their stories with me,” says Kat.

Born in Huiterangi, Switzerland, Keren Oertly is a visual artist based in Whakatū, exploring the intersections between craft and community practice to test collective forms of making and storytelling in relation to place. Keren has a BFA (Hons) from Central St Martins College of Art and Design, a Master of Fine Arts from Ilam School of Fine Art (Sculpture) and recently completed the Furniture Makers Programme at the Centre for Fine Woodworking in Wakapuaka.

For Keren, the By Whakatū Residency offers space for a research and design study into public art furniture for social spaces. Through design research, drawing, modelling and community art sessions with tamariki at Hira School, Keren seeks to develop and test accessible, socially-oriented, placemaking objects that celebrate a festival atmosphere and embrace senses of connection and belonging – for a prototype festival seat 🪑 🪑 , a public sculpture for the community to enjoy.

You can find out more about these amazing artists, their practice and processes at our By Whakatū Residency Sharing on Sun 29 Oct, 12.30pm in the Suter Theatre 💙

Drum roll, please 🥁🥁🥁

We’re so thrilled to present Whakatū Nelson’s most joyful street party for the whole whānau: the beloved Mask Carnivale is back on Friday 27 Oct! 🎪🥳

There’s SO MUCH to discover, see, participate in and enjoy from 5–10pm.

Take a look at this line-up that street party dreams are made of 🎪🎉

Featuring Drum & Bass icon Optimus Gryme, one of the most exciting voices in Aotearoa pop music with Theia 🎀, exceptional dance from Tōrua 🦋, a stage full of our incredible local Pasifika talent in collaboration with Nelson Tasman Pasifika Community Trust and Pasifika Arts and Culture Committee (PACC), roaming musicians 🎸, performers and compliment givers 💌, balloons 🎈and brilliant musical talent, party beats 🪩 and chill zones – and of course, the mask parade itself! 🪅

Definitely not a night to be missed, Whakatū – bring your whānau, friends, neighbours, and come on out to see our CBD transformed into the free street party of the year!

It is our intention as an organisation to provide greater accessibility to the Festival as a whole.
As we learn and grow our knowledge in this space, our programme continues to expand to be more inclusive to different needs – as does the way we deliver our events.

This year, we are thrilled to host three New Zealand Sign Language Interpreted events at the Theatre Royal – huge shoutout to our collaborators from Platform Interpreting New Zealand for their mahi, knowledge and support for these amazing events:
The most outstanding theatre experience of the year, The Savage Coloniser Show, plus comedy excellence in Hayley Sproull’s Ailments, and an inspiring kōrero with the incredible Dr Emma Espiner in There’s A Cure for This.

Also in the Access Programme are three audio described events/experiences, in addition to a Touch Tour and a recorded Audio Described tour of Bailee Lobb’s exhibition at the Refinery ArtSpace, SENSORY SELF PORTRAITS

You can search our events via their accessibility code on our All Events page, or find the NZSL interpreted and the audio described events listed HERE.

You can book your tickets for the NZSL interpreted events via our website, or if you have any questions, please reach out to our Access Coordinator Olivia: access@nelsonartsfestival.nz

Follow in the footsteps of our 2022 recipients: Te Oro Hā and Alvaro Moreno, and become our 2023 By Whakatū Residency Artist!

We want to support local artists through time and resources, help them meet new audiences, and to tell local stories to the community (and the world!).  

We’re proud to again gift a paid residency to an incredible artist from our region, to progress their mahi or trial new ideas as part of the By Whakatū Residency Programme 2023. This will culminate in a sharing at the end of the Festival – to talk to what you’ve been playing with, share a work in progress or workshop ideas live with an audience. 


Sound like you?

Please fill out the form below if you want to be our 2023 artist.

We’ve tried to keep it simple, but please reach out to artists@nelsonartsfestival.nz if you need any further information on how to answer any of the questions, or if you’d like to submit in a different format (video, audio, or other). 

We particularly invite submissions from artists who identify as mana whenua, tangata whenua, pasifika, black, indigenous, people of colour, disabled, neurodivergent, d/Deaf, culturally diverse, of marginalised gender or LGBTQIA+.  

Please note this opportunity is only available for people who live in or whakapapa to Te Tauihu (Top of the South Island). 

Key Dates for 2023:

You can find more information about the sharing space and technical support offered by the Festival here.

We can’t wait to engage with your ideas! 

The big day is finally here – we are so excited to share our 2023 Festival Programme with you all!

From inflatable sculptures to doppelgängers, Irish Music legends to literary heroes, poetry coming alive on stage to dancers roaming our streets, we are so proud of all the incredible artists and events coming to Whakatū this October.

Without much further ado – here it is, take a look, grab your tickets, let us know what you are most excited about:

He Toi Whakairo, He Mana Tangata. Where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity.
– Dr Piri Sciascia (1946-2020)

We are proud to host a wonderful line-up of Māori artistic excellence across our whole programme – before we can share them all with you, please give a warm welcome to these very special artists: break-out musical talent Theia, and the incomparable Witi Ihimaera with whom we will spend a very special event celebrating his career and contribution to Aotearoa literature.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Witi Ihimaera’s Tangi, the first novel written by a Māori author to be published in New Zealand. Join Witi and six fellow Māori writers at this special gala event to celebrate Aotearoa storytelling: Emma Espiner (MC), Vaughan Rapatahana, Ruby Solly, Donna McLeod, Arihia Latham and Airana Ngarewa.

Truly a very special night to remember.

Theatre Royal | Sunday 22 October | 7pm

All our 2023 Pukapuka Talks events are presented by Go Media.

NAF2023_Girl, In A Savage World

GIRL, IN A SAVAGE WORLD | Theia x Te Kaahu

Celebrated singer-songwriter Theia presents re-imagined songs from her critically acclaimed alt-pop catalogue alongside dreamy waiata from her award-winning reo Māori project Te Kaahu.
Theia’s lyrics are often raw and confrontational, while Te Kaahu explores cultural identity, environment and spirituality. Bringing together both projects for this Aotearoa premiere tour, this powerful songwriter presents music of soaring heights and devastating depths.

Theatre Royal | Saturday 28 October | 6.30pm

GIRL, IN A SAVAGE WORLD is supported by Tohu Wines.

Celebrated singer-songwriter Theia presents re-imagined songs from her critically acclaimed alt-pop catalogue alongside dreamy waiata from her award-winning reo Māori project Te Kaahu.
Theia’s lyrics are often raw and confrontational, while Te Kaahu explores cultural identity, environment and spirituality. Bringing together both projects for this Aotearoa premiere tour, this powerful songwriter presents music of soaring heights and devastating depths.

Theatre Royal | Saturday 28 October | 6.30pm

GIRL, IN A SAVAGE WORLD is supported by Tohu Wines.

We’re thrilled to make a couple of early announcements for our 2023 contemporary music programme.

Drum roll, please, as we welcome Irish Music legends Gráda to Neudorf Vineyards, and the incredible KITA to our Deville Music Hub!



From Sydney Opera House and Ireland’s National Concert Hall to the Upper Moutere: Irish music heroes Gráda reunite to tour their homelands – Ireland and Aotearoa. With over 1,000 cities in 30 countries over 10 years under their belt, Gráda are “to Irish music what Arcade Fire is to Indie – informal, prodigious and full of spirit” (The Washington Post). This will be the perfect way to spend your Sunday and get your boogie on!

Neudorf Vineyards | Sunday 29 October | Doors from 12pm, concert starts 2pm.

GRÁDA are supported by Neudorf Vineyards and Avoca Web Design.



Despite the overwhelming news of the everyday, remember: Love Lives Here! Pōneke-based KITA meshes folk-soul, guitar and storytelling with thick lush sounds and barking psychedelic drums to bring you a must-see live experience. Off the back of Splore and WOMAD, Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant, Ed Zuccollo (ZUKE) and Rick Cranson (Little Bushman) will blow you away “with [their] massive sound”.   

Get ready to forget what you thought you knew about a three-piece band! 

Deville Music Hub | Saturday 21 October | Doors from 8pm, Support Act 8.30pm, Main Act 9.30pm

All our 2023 Deville Music Hub gigs are supported by Savage & Savage.

Both gigs will be Pay What You Can ticketing (PWYC) – tickets will be on sale from Friday 1 September 2023.

We can’t wait to see you on the dance floor, Whakatū!

We are delighted to share one of our big Visual Arts events with you already.

The Refinery ArtSpace will be taken over by some colourful, textile sculptures this October thanks to a very special artist from Te-Whanganui-a-Tara: Bailee Lobb and her exhibition, ‘Sensory Self Portraits’.

Think big soft sculptures that you can experience both from the outside and inside as well as soft props to touch and experience soothing support, transforming the gallery into a joyous pool of colours and textures.

‘Sensory Self Portraits’ is an exhibition of playful textile installations exploring the pursuit of self-regulation and sensory support that go with this for autistic artist Bailee.

For our 2023 festival, Bailee will present works from her colour-bathing series, ‘In Bathing, Bask’ alongside a brand new performance and installation work, ‘How do you sleep at night?’ which explores the use of sensory supports for sleep, and working with light, weight, and posture to develop non-pharmaceutical sleep aids. 

We are so proud to bring these works to Whakatū.

Sensory Self Portaits | Bailee Lobb | 19 – 29 October 2023 | The Refinery ArtSpace

We are thrilled to announce the return of a much-loved event for the 2023 Nelson Arts Festival:

The MASK CARNIVALE will transform our inner-city streets into a colourful explosion of joy, community and creativity on

Friday 27 October 2023

In 2023, as we journey together around the sun, we find ourselves 8 billion strong and 8 billion divided. And so we look to be part of the momentum – rewilding, regenerating, rebalancing, reinvigorating.

Let’s embrace and celebrate this momentum, with our theme for this year’s Mask Carnivale:


From reusing waste materials, using natural processes, Where the Wild Things Are or generat(ions) – interpret the theme however speaks to you and help us bring vigour, creativity and wonder
to our newly (re)born Mask Carnivale.

We can’t wait to see what creative masks and costumes you will come up with!

If you’re keen to be part of the Parade or perform during the Carnivale, please register via the button below by 30 September 2023.

Our team and Board have been busy dreaming and planning for this year’s Nelson Arts Festival. And while we can’t share all the amazing events we’re working on for a few months, please mark our Festival dates in your calendars already:

19 – 29 October 2023

More details on our big community events and how you can be part of this year’s Festival to come soon – until then, spread the word, invite those friends from out of town to come visit Whakatū this October and experience how our town comes alive with creativity!

The Nelson Festivals Trust exists because we love the arts and see the power it brings to support the wellbeing of our whole community.

As we step bravely in 2023, we are looking for two new Trust members to help deliver on our strategy and support the festival team to stage a festival of unmissable arts that will enrich the people of our region. The Nelson Arts Festival is the longest-running regional arts festival in Aotearoa, taking place annually in October across the Nelson region.

This an unpaid voluntary, governance role. Board members are not required to be involved with the delivery of the festival but to bring their governance skills to the table.

We meet monthly as a board and also have working groups aligned to our strategy. These working groups meet as required between board meetings.

We’d love to hear from you if you have:

We are particularly keen to encourage applications from tangata whenua, younger members of the community and from the diverse communities in the Nelson/Tasman region.

Applications close on December 16, 2022.

Please contact Ali Boswijk for questions or to apply: info@nelsonartsfestival.nz

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