FESTIVALS ARE COMPLEX, UNWIELDY, UNCERTAIN BEASTS.
They are akin to a storm, long seen in the distance and then wildly all-encompassing when on top of you.
Festivals take you for a ride, and we wouldn’t want them any other way. But not all storms are alike, and not all environments are either. This storm, on this day, in this place, is hugely different from 2021, 2020, or particularly 2019. And so we put on our coats and head out to jump in puddles, to see if we can soar on the gusts and to feel the rain on our faces. This Festival, this creative storm, holds us here, now, in this moment - and for all its challenges, we celebrate it, challenge it, thrive in it, fly in it.
The presentness to this moment (and the certainty of change) means Nelson Arts Festival has to change too. We are making a Festival with our community at its heart, embracing a wider range of artists and spaces in Whakatū and beyond, looking to different framings where even more of our community may feel seen and safe, and embedding the community in a multitude of aspects of the programme.
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed many aspects of our lives, and by necessity our programme. This year we’re not holding events which bring together large crowds focused on one experience over a short space of time, which means there is no Mask Parade and Carnivale this festival. It’s a multigenerational event, and the younger and older members of our community are particularly vulnerable. We know the Carnivale is much loved, so we have split elements of it across the programme: Masks About Town which celebrates the creativity and history of mask culture and making in our community; a big event for the whole community in THAW; and community-led making embedded across the Festival – more details about how to get involved are in the following pages.
After premiering at Sydney Festival in January, we are super excited to be bringing the call to climate action THAW to Whakatū for its Aotearoa premiere. Across 8 hours audiences can come and go, experiencing this wholly unique and life- changing event safely and comfortably.
The storms of now have given us the opportunity to trial new things, reach further, innovate and extend ourselves. This begins to manifest in the programme this year in an expanded Access Programme, continual growth in our Tamariki and Rangatahi Programme, and new initiatives such as the inaugural By Whakatū residency at the Suter Theatre.
From flying icebergs to boxing ring poetry slams, Pasifika cabaret/dance extravaganzas to Ukrainian pop musos, celebrations of Keri Hulme, Rita Angus and Don McGlashan, Dancing With The Stars celebs to Cousins acting prowess, jazz from dawn to nightfall, Ockham winners to book launches, everything from exhibitions, performances, workshops, whispers in the streets, parties, words, discussions, rituals, residencies and unforgettable experiences, in halls, theatres, galleries, cafes, heritage sites, Kōhanga Reo and digital platforms, and, to top it all off, a burning piano to see the storm through.
What will tomorrow bring? Release yourself into the storm and let’s find out, together.
Nau mai, haere mai e te whānau!
Lydia, Annie, Rose, Kerry, Wendy, Natalie, Nerys, Olivia, Maria, JR, Antony & the Nelson Arts Festival team