Fes­ti­val gets a re­vamp

The New Zealand Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Dionne Chris­tian

Anew mu­sic precinct on Auck­land’s wa­ter­front will be one of the high­lights of the re­gion’s re­vamped and now an­nual arts fes­ti­val. In­com­ing artis­tic di­rec­tor Jonathan Biel­ski has re­leased the full pro­gramme for the 2018 event, which runs through March, and says the precinct, at Silo Park, will be part of a new look Fes­ti­val Play­ground un­like any seen in Auck­land be­fore.

Cre­ated by de­signer and light­ing spe­cial­ist An­gus Muir, it in­cludes an arena stage and will open with a funk con­cert fea­tur­ing some of New Zealand’s top record­ing stars — the lineup will be an­nounced in the Her­ald’s Time­Out on Thurs­day — with gigs and co-labs through­out the three-week event.

As well as mu­sic, the Fes­ti­val Play­ground hosts House of Mir­rors, an out­door, walk-through labyrinth made from 40 tonnes of steel and 15 tonnes of glass and com­posed of seem­ingly endless mir­rors, and fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing Whanau Day.

But the Aotea Cen­tre will re­main as a hub for Auck­land Arts Fes­ti­val (AAF) which has seen 1.7 mil­lion at­tend since it was started by the Auck­land Fes­ti­val Trust in 2003.

Biel­ski, who re­places Carla van Zon as artis­tic di­rec­tor, says he wanted his first AAF to bring peo­ple to­gether and tell sto­ries of com­mu­ni­ties, his­to­ries and cul­tures.

“Auck­land Arts Fes­ti­val is the home for am­bi­tious and com­pelling ideas that cel­e­brate hu­man­ity and up­lift the spirit. We champion the sto­ry­teller, the ad­ven­turer, the provo­ca­teur and the cre­ator,” he says, adding that it has a com­mit­ment to tan­gata whenua while also cel­e­brat­ing con­tem­po­rary and cos­mopoli­tan Auck­land.

“We in­vited every­one to come along to the fes­ti­val to be en­ter­tained, in­spired, pro­voked and — most im­por­tantly — in­cluded.”

Auck­land Coun­cil’s fi­nance and per­for­mance com­mit­tee last month voted unan­i­mously for the AAF to be­come an an­nual event.

The coun­cil con­trib­utes, through the Auck­land Regional Ameni­ties Fund­ing Board, about $3.35 mil­lion to­wards the fes­ti­val which is also funded by Cre­ative New Zealand, char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions and pri­vate donors. It is up to the ARA Fund­ing Board to de­cide how much the fes­ti­val trust re­ceives each year.

De­spite in­creas­ing, ticket sales alone don’t gen­er­ate enough money to sus­tain the event which, un­til 2015, had been held ev­ery sec­ond year since 2003. But the Auck­land Coun­cil agreed to con­sider mak­ing the AAF an­nual if a busi­ness case could be pre­sented; the past three years served as a test­ing ground.

Sev­eral fac­tors played into the de­ci­sion to ap­prove fund­ing for an an­nual fes­ti­val. Last year, de­spite some of the worst weather the Auck­land re­gion has seen, the high­est num­ber of at­ten­dees ever — 196,000 — was recorded, while box of­fice rev­enue hit $2.38m — the AAF’s sec­ond-high­est take.

The coun­cil also noted that AAF has made sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to di­ver­sify au­di­ences, widen its ge­o­graph­i­cal spread with venues in Wark­worth, Manukau, Glen Innes and the North Shore in­cluded and has con­tin­ued to at­tract world-class acts.

“Hav­ing a ma­jor an­nual arts event helps build Auck­land’s rep­u­ta­tion as a vi­brant, cre­ative city,” says coun­cil­lor Ross Clow.

“It brings a great sense of pride to Auck­lan­ders that they can take part in, and en­joy, these fantastic events that en­er­gise our city.

“This de­vel­op­ment will help to dif­fer­en­ti­ate Auck­land cul­tur­ally, lead­ing the arts as the first city of the Pa­cific. I have no doubt that hav­ing an an­nual event will also at­tract a greater num­ber of vis­i­tors to Auck­land and boost our econ­omy.”

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