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Carla Van Zon: Postcard from the Festival

Dear Friends,

A rainy Sunday in Hanover - I am on the last leg of this trip, sitting in another hotel room, this time courtesy of the Goethe Institut. I am very much looking forward to coming home and to all the normal things, like sleeping in my own bed, cooking dinner and speaking English. Travelling can get a little lonely. I have been lucky that my husband Gregg has been able to travel with me most of the trip which has proved an absolute lifesaver. Two people coping with daily chores and problems, from doing the washing to getting the train tickets and guarding the bags, makes things a lot easier. Unfortunately, he is not travelling with me at the moment.

The past four months have ultimately been very successful. Although, I felt after two months that I was never going to find any shows suitable for our Festival, I am now feeling more confident. When I last wrote in July, we were in Amsterdam. Since then I have found at least a dozen shows or artists who are real possibilities for us. Two fine music ensembles - one in Amsterdam and another in Germany - and in France a wonderful funny theatre group from Holland and a small outdoor show from Switzerland. I spent three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival seeing work from all over the world. I saw 54 shows in the first two weeks in Edinburgh. I slowed down in the last week to one or two shows a day. Alex and Joseph both joined me in Edinburgh. We spent the first couple of days talking to people, finding out what were the "hot" shows and then we made lists and divided them up. If one of us saw a show that we thought was possible then the others went off to see it as well. It became like a military exercise. However, it was worth it. Now I am mulling them all over, along with everything I had seen in the previous three months, to see how they might work in with the overall concept for the 2002 Festival.

When I get back to New Zealand in early October, we will begin the process of inviting some of those companies and ensembles. We have already invited and started negotiations with a number of the larger events that I hope will happen. The opera, a fine music ensemble and a ballet company are under way towards contracting. We were extremely well hosted in Edinburgh by the International and Fringe Festivals, Brigadier Mel Jameson of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Eric Milligan. It was wonderful that the relationship that we had established with bringing the Tattoo to New Zealand has continued and Alex and I certainly enjoyed the closing nights of both the Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival. The Lord Provost is hoping to return to Wellington for the Rugby World Cup to see Scotland play the All Blacks.

I was very proud to be in the right place at the right time for some very significant and exciting moments for New Zealand art. The first occurred in Bologna, Italy where I attended, along with thousands of Italians, a concert in Piazza Maggiore to mark the anniversary of the bombing of the railway station. It was a beautiful warm night, the state orchestra and choir were on stage with American saxophone soloist Michael Brecker and the music they were playing was composed by one of our most well known composers, John Psathas. I was so pleased and proud that I was able to be there. John's "Concert for saxophone and orchestra", especially commissioned for the evening, was glorious and the audience loved it. He got by far the biggest applause of the evening, in fact people were yelling and cheering like it was rock and roll. The concert was broadcast live on the radio throughout Italy and recorded by Italian TV. I hope that when I get home I can convince New Zealand broadcasting, both radio and television to present at least a part of this evening so that you can all share in this wonderful moment.

The second great moment came in Edinburgh where Toa Fraser's play "No. 2" was being performed by New Zealand actress Madeleine Sami. Every day I heard audiences raving about the show - Madeleine performed it to full houses daily for three straight weeks. "No. 2" won a Fringe First for best new writing and Madeleine was nominated, from thousands, as one of five for Best Actress. Quite an honour for the 25 year old Toa Fraser and the 20 year old Madeleine Sami. The Scotsman newspaper predicted that Madeleine would be one of the great actors of the future. So watch out for both Madeleine and Toa around New Zealand. And don't miss them if they come your way.

I also bumped in to many other New Zealanders in Edinburgh which was very pleasant, including the Festival's Technical Manager David Inns who is the Production Manager at the Assembly Rooms, a major Fringe festival venue with 6 auditoriums. Also at the Assembly Rooms were many other New Zealand crew and Scottish crew who work for both the Edinburgh Festival and the New Zealand Festival. And I was lucky enough to see New Zealand dancer, Lisa Densem, performing magnificently with German Company Sasha Waltz in "korper" as part of the main Festival. I will catch up with Lisa in Berlin later this week. Totally exhausted after the three weeks in Edinburgh, I headed to Helsinki for one night to see a French show and then back to London to see three more shows and to spend a few days working with Joseph.

I am now in Berlin, my German trip has taken in 9 cities over 13 days, so I have got very expert at traveling on German trains and finding my way around S. Bahns and U. Bahns in German cities. I have met with composers, festivals, dance and theatre companies and museums which has been very interesting.Ê Here, I ran in to New Zealand visual artist Peter Robinson who has just had a very successful exhibition, Ken Gorbey previously of Te Papa who is now at the Jewish Museum and opera singer Hamish Morrison who is currently studying in Berlin. Peter is highly regarded in Europe and has sold some works from this exhibition to galleries in France and the USA.Ê Another New Zealand success story. It is amazing to see our artists and our arts workers everywhere in the world winning in their endeavors. They are real heroes and we should honour them as much as our sports stars.

Although, I started this postcard in Hanover, and wrote a fragment in Berlin, I am now happily back in the office looking out of my window at a typically beautiful Wellington day. I am a little exhausted but it is very good to be back home. It is nice to be working with the others on the Festival team who have been holding the fort while I have been away. A new cycle now begins as I meet with New Zealand artists, make offers and try to finalize some of the international artists and hit the road again, in a more figurative sense, to raise money to put on another great Festival for all New Zealanders in 2002. There is a lot more to do, and this is just the beginning but we have begun our new adventure together, in the search for experiences to delight, challenge, enthrall and move people - "soul food". I will write again, but the postcard may just come from some special local place like Wellington. I hope that you enjoy getting the postcards and that they give you an understanding of how we create and produce our Festival.

So until next time, kindest regards Carla van Zon


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