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Christchurch Arts Festival a success against the odds

Christchurch Arts Festival a success against the odds

Christchurch Arts Festival 2011 has been a resounding success with more than 27,000 tickets snapped up to shows, and more than 8000 students from 55 schools taking part in the schools programme of shows and workshops.

Festival director Philip Tremewan is delighted with the result. “Four months after losing all our venues in the February earthquake we launched a radically new Festival to meet the demands of a city desperate for entertainment but still reeling from the devastating events.”

The traditional 17-day format was abandoned for eight weekends of programming, venues were found in all reaches of the city and thanks to a Creative New Zealand grant and support from the REAL New Zealand Festival, ticket prices were able to be kept to $20.

“We’re thrilled at how Christchurch people embraced the Festival,” Mr Tremewan said, adding that the with many full houses, the Festival had also exceeded its box office target and ensured it has a contingency set aside for the 2013 Festival.

Mr Tremewan said that initial results from the audience surveys showed that more than one third of the audience had never attended Christchurch Arts Festival before.

Highlights of the Festival were Christchurch-tailored events including Christchurch Memorial, featuring a new commission from Kiwi composer Gareth Farr – a work that moved the audience to tears; the free massed choir event Christchurch Sings which drew 3250 people to the CBS Canterbury Arena; Tilt – a dance work made in response to the earthquakes; the sold-out Maurice Till memorial concert where his two star pupils played duets; The Loons’ use of a Lyttelton demolition site to stage an extraordinary feral version of Macbeth and storyteller Tanya Batt who is now taking Christchurch student stories to Japan.

The Festival also showcased unique, family and community oriented shows including Electric Wire Hustle Family with the musical parents of all three band members; Fathers and Sons featuring Che Fu and Tigilau Ness; Amiria Grenell and Family and Kiwi Kitchen Table Banquets hosted by Richard Till, which gave 450 diners at communal tables the chance to break bread together over three courses. An estimated 82,000 people visited the free outdoor exhibition Earth From Above –“some even braved the snowstorm to see the images”.

Christchurch Arts Festival Chair Linda Constable says the excitement for people to be out and about was so palpable and seeing crowds rise to dance was wonderful. “After the hardships of the last 12 months, I think the city was ready for some lightness and entertainment – and the ticket sales reflected that.

"The feedback we've received is that people were delighted to have a Festival to go to at all - and the calibre of the acts and low ticket prices were the icing on the cake."

Mr Tremewan added that there were so many fine performances and “each had an additional layer of emotion and feeling for people in this city. The music, the dance and theatre really touched people’s hearts.”

“I know of no other arts festival that has had had to cope with two major earthquakes and a series of ongoing aftershocks, plus a snowstorm that shut the city down for two days – and yet the staff continued to welcome capacity audiences who just loved coming out to enjoy live performances with their family and friends.”


“What a tonic for ChCh! A great night out. Much appreciated.” – Jo
“Hi Guys, just like to say fantastic job well done to all involved, so far my wife and I have being to Liam Finn, Jeff Lang and Na Ozizetti all absolutely stupendous. The Jeff Lang gig was just squeezed in before the last snowstorm but it was so good we would have gone in the middle of a storm Just what the town needed” – Martin & Lynne
“One child told her teacher that it was ‘the best day of her life’.” – Sacred Heart – on Passing Wind
“So far I have been thrilled with the ticket selections I made and I think it is GREAT that in these difficult times you even bothered to go ahead with the Arts Festival.” –Jackie
“I am most impressed with the festival line-up, with the huge efforts which must have gone in to finding a whole range of new venues, and with the very positive boost that the festival can give Christchurch at this time… Thanks for the great line-up under such difficult circumstances.” – Helen
“Am loving the festival.. going to heaps... because of the ticket price and in fact far more because I think the price is so reasonable! Have seen some amazing performances e.g- Rita and Douglas.. and Macbeth –stunning” – Adrienne
“To get it all going under very difficult circumstances has been great well done. Especially liked going to different venues.” – Gayle
“I can tell you that I have loved everything, and Macbeth last night was spectacular. What a setting, and though our faces started to get cold we were well rugged up, and revelled in the atmosphere.” – Judy
“Electric Wire Hustle family was extraordinary – expectations met and some! So just wanted to say job well done and thanks for providing me that – it's ok to live in Christchurch feeling again!!” – Lisa
“So far the Arts Festival has been FANTASTIC – I have loved everything I have been to – enjoying the smaller more intimate venues and of course the price tag of mostly $20.00 – please do it again!!” – Robyn
“Just wanted to say myself and my two children had a fabulous time at this event with Richard Till this morning. We laughed out loud so much and enjoyed every second. Hope an event like this happens again. Please pass on our thanks to everyone involved.” – Jane
“I think the festival is being a great success, and that Philip and the team have designed a programme very suited to the context we are in, with tickets largely at $20, and a not too high-brow programme. I have really enjoyed what I have been to.” – The Very Reverend Peter Beck
“Many thanks for the work put in to the festival. It’s wonderful to have so much going on again.” – Joanna Preston
“Super festival, you’re all to be congratulated on such fine event.” – Mike
“I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting the Christchurch Art Festival on. It has been fantastic to have one or two events to look forward to every week and they have all been outstanding. Due to the very cheap tickets it has also been great to encourage friends to come along who normally wouldn't spend money on shows etc and I am especially loving the TelstraClear Club venue. So many many thanks, you are the best thing to happen to Chch in 2011.” – Anna

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