From puppets to panels and dance
This year’s Upsurge Bay of Islands Arts Festival promises something for everyone, with offerings from a foam rubber puppet called Bruce to writers’ panels, an up-and-coming alt-folk musician and a world premiere by the New Zealand Dance Company.
The biennial festival, which runs over April 2-7, with 27 events across the Bay of Islands, including one on board a tall ship on the Bay itself, and as far away as Rawene, is a revitalised version of the Bay of Islands Arts Festival, which was staged in Kerikeri until it ran out of funding in 2012.
The event was subsequently rebranded, and external director Sophie Kelly, who ran the Nelson Arts Festival for 10 years, was brought in.
Ms Kelly said changes this year included extending the festival to six days instead of five, and the introduction of Upsurge Talks, a writers’ programme featuring poets, journalists, doctors, a cook and a historian.
One talk would take place on the tall ship R Tucker Thompson, historian Dame Anne Salmond retracing Captain Cook’s route around the Bay 250 years ago. Another, at Rawene’s No 1 Parnell Gallery, would feature Glenn Colquhoun, a poet and GP who used to live at Te Tii, presenting a new work entitled Oral Poetry and Totems. Other Upsurge Talks would include a panel discussion with Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner and NZ Herald writer Steve Braunias.
“I think that’ll be a very entertaining rant,” she said.
One of the aims of the 2019 festival was to build audience engagement. As part of its brand-new piece The Fibonacci, for example, the NZ Dance Company would be recruiting local residents for a mixed choir to rehearse and perform with the dancers.
The festival was also offering more free events, with roving street theatre in Kawakawa, Kaikohe and Paihia, and an interactive digital installation projected on to a globe suspended from a tree at Kerikeri’s Kemp House.
Other highlights would include the powerful Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, based on the poetry of Tusiata Avia, and the winner of the awards for best play and best actor at the 2016 Wellington Theatre Awards, and alt-folk singersongwriter Nadia Reid, who would perform in the old showgrounds hall at Waimate North, a venue that earned rave reviews at the 2017 festival.
As in previous years was a collaboration with Festival of Colour, Ms Kelly Upsurge
Sharing acts allowed the two events to split costs and attract overseas shows, such as Bruce, the foam rubber puppet.
“Don’t think of Bruce as a children’s show. It’s definitely for all ages,” she said.
The full Upsurge 2019 programme can be found at upsurgefestival.co.nz
A foam rubber puppet named Bruce is likely to be one of stars of the festival.