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NZ International Arts Festival Celebrates10th Fest

New Zealand International Arts Festival Celebrates 10th Festival

2004 will be the tenth biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival and it is a celebration of survival and growth, says Artistic Director Carla van Zon, with only two weeks until the launch of the eagerly awaited events programme.

“The Festival has grown enormously over the years and changed beyond recognition, particularly in the area of New Zealand work,” she said.

The next Festival will be held in Wellington from 27 February – 21 March 2004.

The Festival as an organisation has been going for twenty years and to celebrate in 2004 we will be acknowledging some of the artists who have participated in the past,” says van Zon.

The New Zealand International Arts Festival is the largest and most successful cultural event in terms of ticket sales in Australasia. It presents to New Zealand audiences a programme of accessible, diverse, innovative and exciting events from around the world which might otherwise bypass us because, as van Zon says, many overseas artists don’t see us having the population to make it worth-while touring here.

The Festival offers opportunities for all to experience and enjoy the arts through the Festival’s schools programme and an extensive free community programme. During the 2002 Festival there were 110 events for schools and 22 seminars or forums. An estimated 220,000 people attended one or more of the 26 free events. More than 1300 artists from 25 countries performed.

“The Festival has a solid reputation amongst arts festivals worldwide and the artists who perform in them. It has a professional and experienced management team, loyal sponsors and an increasingly sophisticated and adventurous audience,” says David Inns, the Festival’s new Chief Executive.

“A testament to that is the Festival having received 14 Tourism Awards for excellence in 20 years of operation,” he said. The Festival brings an estimated $30 million to the region.

Another focus for the Festival is producing and presenting Aotearoa’s best alongside the finest in the world. There will be six new works commissioned by the Festival for 2004, of these three are new theatre or music theatre works, two are music and one is a video composition. There will also be a host of New Zealand works premiered.

“The Festival commissions work, with the funding support of Creative New Zealand, it believes will add to the artistic wealth of the country and has the potential to go on to be performed throughout New Zealand and overseas. These works have the potential to have a life longer than the 2004 Festival,” Carla van Zon says.

In its history the Festival has presented 55 New Zealand commissions and premiẻres. In 2004 there will be more than 400 New Zealand artists performing at the festival.

1996 was the first year the Festival commissioned new New Zealand theatre with three productions, A Frigate Bird Sings by David Fane and Oscar Knightly and directed by Nathanial Lees, Ricordi written by Peter Wells, directed by Colin McColl, and Waiora by Hone Kouka, directed by Murray Lynch. To celebrate the Festival’s 10th birthday Hone Kouka returns with a Festival commissioned work, The Prophet, which continues and concludes the story started in Waiora in 1996. It is a co-production between the Festival and Taki Rua Theatre. Two music theatre pieces will be staged. Geographical Cure, a co-production with Downstage Theatre and Quartet, a comic opera by Anthony Ritchie and Stuart Hoar and directed by Colin McColl. Geographical Cure is written by innovative music group, Verona and is directed by Downstage Theatre Director Murray Lynch. There will also be the world premiere of the new Roger Hall play Spreading Out at Circa Theatre. The rest of the New Zealand work will be announced at the launch of the Festival programme on October 30.

“The only writer who has had more plays than Hone Kouka’s staged at the New Zealand International Arts Festival is a guy named William Shakespeare,” says van Zon, “Stuart Hoar, Anthony Ritchie and Murray Lynch are no strangers to the Festival either. We have tried to find a balance between featuring quality artists whom we’ve never presented before and acknowledging some of the artists who have contributed enormously to the past. There will be threads of the past throughout the 2004 Festival,” she says.

The first Festival in 1986 differed from the 2004 Festival currently being shaped up by a small energetic Wellington-based team at their central city offices. Van Zon has been involved in the Festival since 1989 and has worked in many roles in the organisation. She has been Artistic Director for three years and was Executive Director from 1996. Chief Executive David Inns has more than ten years experience in senior arts administration and has been involved with the New Zealand International Arts Festival since 1994 and the Edinburgh Festivals for ten years. He was Executive Director of the Taranaki Festival and was part of the team that brought the highly successful WOMAD New Zealand to Taranaki earlier this year. The coming Festival will have artists from each continent involved. “It’s been challenging, says Inns, “with higher insurance and freight charges since September 11 pushing costs of overseas acts up. “

“The first Festival concentrated on classical music and brought most of its international content from the Australian festivals. The programme from the beginning did include many of New Zealand’s significant artistic organisations such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and the National Youth Choir,” says van Zon. “But from the start the majority of New Zealand artists took the risk of staging productions at the Festival themselves.”

In 1988 ensembles and companies began to commission work to present at the Festival. 1990 saw the first significant presentation of New Zealand plays and the first season of Maori work. Both seasons were presented in an umbrella situation and the Festival had no financial responsibility, says van Zon. Opera began in 1990 with Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg, which was a bought production. The Festival did however commission its first significant piece of New Zealand music that year with a work by Jack Body for the Kronos Quartet.

1994 saw more change, with the Festival commissioning its first New Zealand opera, Bitter Calm by Stuart Hoar and Chris Blake, in conjunction with the Wellington City Opera. It bought its first plays, Hide ‘n Seek by Hone Kouka and Inside Out’s Holy Sinner, plus it presented its first season of Maori and Pacific Island work.

1996 was the landmark year with the Festival’s first theatre commissions: Wairoa, A Frigate Bird Sings and Ricordi. Music that year also featured commissions by Jack Body and Gareth Farr. In 1998, more works were commissioned across a greater number of genres, including a second New Zealand opera, Alley by Jack Body.

For 2000, the Festival created Show and Tell, an event designed to increase the quality and quantity of local work being produced nationwide, which was funded by Creative New Zealand. “Artists would apply for funding to develop an idea for a show to present at a two-day Show and Tell event in front of Festival staff, producers and directors. From these projects a number are selected to be developed,” says Inns. Show and Tell is attended by the directors of all major New Zealand Festivals, producing venues and organisations, independent producers, Creative New Zealand representatives and a number of directors from Australian Festivals.

From this process in 2000 came the well received Blue Smoke, Woman Far Walking, Baxter, Haruru Mai and The Candlestick Maker. The 2002 commissioned works included The World’s Wife, Velocities, Inland, RantersTantrum, The Underwatermelon Man, and the New Zealand Sculpture Walk, Changing Places.

This year the quality of Show and Tell was outstanding, says van Zon. “It illustrated the enormous range, diversity and depth of creativity and talent that there is in this country. We were excited by all the work that we saw presented over the two days and much of it was worthy of being presented at the Festival and other arts festival nationally and internationally.”

“Even for those not chosen from Show and Tell to be a part of the Festival, the development grant encourages them to pursue their ideas and stimulate the art industry as a whole,” she said.

At the last Festival in 2002 more than 180,000 tickets were sold to ticketed events. The main sources of income for the Festival are box office and sponsorship.


Carla van Zon

Carla van Zon is the Artistic Director of New Zealand's biggest cultural event, the New Zealand International Arts Festival. Involved in the Festival since 1989, she has been Artistic Director for three years, and was Executive Director from 1996. The Festival made a profit for the first time under her leadership.

Carla has a range of professional experience in the arts. She has an MA in Dance from George Washington University (USA), has sat on the QEII Choreographic Commission, has been publicist, tutor and manager of a number of dance companies, and a publicist and education officer in the New Zealand film industry.

David Inns

David Inns has been Chief Executive of the New Zealand International Arts Festival since 2002. He has more than 10 years’ experience in senior arts administration roles, both offshore and in New Zealand. He was Executive Director of the Taranaki Arts Festival from 1997 – 2002 and Technical Director of the Assembly Theatre, part of the annual Edinburgh Festivals in Scotland from 1995 – 2002.

David has an extensive background with the New Zealand International Arts Festival as a technical director and was also an education and community programme coordinator at several festivals. David comes from a teaching background and was Principal of several primary schools. He sits on numerous Trust Boards, and was co-director of WOMAD New Zealand 2003.

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