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It’s a wrap for the 25th Nelson Arts Festival


“It's been another excellent year”
“A great first night combo of Los Galanes and Shooglenifty...danced the night away with friends and then watched the Rugby on the big screen in the Granary....winners all round”
“An awesome atmosphere with all age groups” (Pic’s Piki Mai)
“I am so pleased I caught the opening night of the absolutely brilliant Aperture
"Exquisite and heartwarming” (Aperture)
”Shooglenifty made all the Scots in the audience (e.g. me) very happy last night! Thanks to all the organisers and supporters too.”
“Brilliant night – thank you!!!”
“What a great night! Caravãna Sun was epic…”
(feedback from Festival punters)

As New Zealand’s longest running and largest regional arts festival, Nelson Arts Festival has finished for another year with tens of thousands of people joining the 25th celebrations.

Festival Director Charlie Unwin says, “We’ve been overwhelmed with the response to the 25th Festival. We knew we had a really fantastic programme, but it’s not until we start getting audience feedback that we know we have a winner.”

“The Festival prides itself on its broad programming,” continued Charlie. “We have a huge fan base who come along to see our theatre shows and concerts every year, and it’s important that we present high-quality productions that are going to entertain, challenge and enthral. And we also really want to engage and encourage those people who may never have been to a Festival event before, and that’s where something like Pic’s Piki Mai really comes to the fore.”

The 2019 Festival featured close to 500 performers in 163 performances of 64 shows. It is estimated that more 27,000 people saw Pic’s Piki Mai over the 11 nights. Overall, the Festival sold more than 8,000 tickets, with 18 sold out performances, and total attendances to all events being more than 85,000 people.

“I’ve truly felt honoured to lead the Nelson Arts Festival these past five years,” said Charlie, “and I know it’s in good hands with Padma Naidu as the new Director.’ Charlie is finishing his role this month, to take on the Dunedin Arts Festival.

One of the key aims for the Nelson Arts Festival is to enliven Nelson city and surrounds. In 2019, the Festival branched out by presenting two shows in Blenheim, as well as free street performances in Marlborough and Tasman. The Festival had multiple events at its base in Founders Heritage Park, where there was free and ticketed music and shows most evenings, creating a real “Festival vibe”.

The new schedule of four consecutive days for the Page & Blackmore Pukapuka Talks, also worked particularly well, with high attendances. There was even a foray into the world of sport with the Festival showing some of the Rugby World Cup games live on the big screen in the Granary Festival Café. “As the Festival’s dates coincided with a certain major international rugby tournament,” mused Charlie, “we thought we'd show that art and sport really can work together. It was fun – until we lost!”

Chair of the Nelson Festivals Trust Brent Thawley says, “The Trust’s new strategic plan was launched in December 2018, and identified three areas we wanted grow: strategic partnerships, increasing the visibility of the Festival in the CBD, and making the Festival more accessible to all Nelsonians. To me, Pic’s Piki Mai exemplifies all these ambitions, with thousands of people of all ages and all cultures attending, and a wonderful partnership with Light Nelson and Pic’s – all delivered by our fantastic Festival team.”

“Planning is already underway to ensure that we keep developing this wonderful event, so look out for an even more exciting program next year and be sure to book early,” said Brent.

Singer/songwriter Anthonie Tonnon claimed “When you’re in Nelson, the rest of the world disappears,” and writer Witi Ihimaera commended the Festival as being one of the best-loved in the country.

Nelson Arts Festival will return in 2020 for its 26th outing, under the leadership of its new Festival Director, Padma Naidu.


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