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Nelson Arts Festival opens this week

The 2019 Nelson Arts Festival has an action-packed programme that boasts something for everyone. This year, the Festival opens with the Mask Parade & Carnivale, with Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern as a guest judge for the Mask Parade. Friday is also the first showing of Pic’s Piki Mai, which will run every night of the Festival, from 18-28 October.

The 25th Nelson Arts Festival features 64 shows, 487 performers, and 22 venues. There will be more than 2,500 in the Mask Parade, with an anticipated 15,000 spectators. It is expected that Pic’s Piki Mai will attract tens of thousands across its eleven nights.

There are strong tickets sales across the programme, and preparations are well underway for the 11-day festival. “We worked hard to pull together the best possible line-up for the 25th anniversary, and the response has been fantastic, “says Festival Director Charlie Unwin.

“Some shows sold out pretty quickly, like The Topp Twins and Still Life with Chickens, as well as a couple of the sessions in Page & Blackmore’s Pukapuka Talks, although there are still tickets available to most shows.”

“Alongside the ticketed shows, this year’s Festival has more free events than ever before,” continues Unwin. “We want as many people as possible to be involved in the 25th celebrations, whether it’s by buying a ticket to a show, being in the Mask Parade, coming along to see Pic’s Piki Mai, singing Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, looking at the Festival Retrospective photo exhibition, or many of the other dozens of events on offer.”

“We’re particularly excited to welcome some of Nelson’s newest residents into the Festival whānau with Cultural Conversations,” says Unwin, “where members of the Bhutanese, Colombian and Sri Lankan communities have been invited to share some of their cultural creativity through demonstrations and performance. Cultural Conversations will be in the Festival Tent in upper Trafalgar Street, taking full advantage of the permanent road closure.”

With this Festival being Unwin’s fifth and final as Festival Director, he says he particularly loves the thought that people continue to talk about events long after the Festival, “As New Zealand’s longest-running annual arts festival, Nelson Arts Festival really is a defining part of our smart little city, creating shared experiences and memories that will linger for years to come.”

“We want everyone to come along and be part of Nelson’s favourite annual arts event.”

Chair of the Nelson Festivals Trust, Brent Thawley says, “Nelson Arts Festival is one of the highlights on our region’s cultural calendar. We’re extremely proud of the combination of free and ticketed events, making the Festival a much-anticipated event for a whole lot of reasons, appealing to a broad audience.”

“We’re confident this 25th Festival will exceed expectations in livening up the central city, and engaging with tens of thousands of people,” said Thawley.

Nelson Arts Festival is one of Nelson’s favourite annual events, attracting thousands of people to see its programme of free and ticketed shows, events, talks and workshops.

Further information and tickets available at

© Scoop Media

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