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Auckland Arts Festival 2021 Full Programme Launched | Te Ahurei Toi O Tāmaki | 4-21 March 2021

The full programme for the Auckland Arts Festival/Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki (AAF) 2021 has been launched.

The 100% Aotearoa line-up was revealed tonight in a video streamed on AAF’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, following an initial reveal on 11 November that announced Taonga Moana, Pūmanawa, and Che-Fu & The Kratez, along with the Festival’s 2021 theme, Aroha.

After cutting its 2020 season short due to COVID-19, in 2021 the Festival will take place between 4 and 21 March 2021 and feature a selection of more than 70 multi-art shows and events at theatres, galleries and unique indoor and outdoor venues across Tāmaki Makaurau.

Event details can be found on the Festival’s brand new website (, including everything from dance to theatre, live music to comedy, visual and digital art, talks and debate, community participation projects and more. The programme includes a wide-ranging series of free and ticketed shows, installations and exhibitions designed to unify, uplift and inspire. Early Bird discounts are available on most events until Thursday 31 December 2020.

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The Festival has commissioned world premieres of several new works, resuscitated some that were cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will provide employment for over 1,000 artists and 150 production and administration staff.

All 2021 activity falls into three strands related to the overarching theme of Aroha: aroha ki ngā kōrero – the respect we hold for our stories; aroha ki te tangata – kindness, compassion and goodwill toward people; and aroha ki te taiao – our love and care for our natural environment – air, land and water.

In support of the Festival’s ‘access for all’ kaupapa, the programme features more free activities than ever before, including events on International Women’s Day and New Zealand Children’s Day. The Aroha Art Project will be an opportunity for all members of the public to contribute to a collaborative artwork in the Festival Garden in Aotea Square.

In 2021 the AAF’s Toitū Te Reo programme is integrated into all aspects of the Festival, ensuring that te reo Māori is seen and heard every day. Featured events include the Festival opening ceremony Te Tīmatanga; kapa haka extravaganza Pūmanawa; and the moving poetry of Maya Angelou translated into te reo, delivered by a host of language warrior women from across Aotearoa in Wāhine Toikupu.

The Civic Club is a brand new concept for the Festival that will see audiences seated onstage at much-loved Auckland landmark and entertainment venue The Civic, enjoying intimate, limited capacity performances. The Club line-up will feature a collection of New Zealand’s top music acts, including Reb Fountain, Dixon Nacey, Delaney Davidson with Shayne Carter – and Hine!, a showcase of four breakthrough wāhine toa performers led by Betty-Anne Monga of Ardijah fame. Hubbing it all is The Tom Sainsbury Love Hour, a comedy talk show with a star-studded array of celebrity guests including Hilary Barry and Chlöe Swarbrick discussing their best break-ups, make-ups and obsessions. The Club will also host Heavenly Bodies, a dazzling cabaret which sees a constellation of New Zealand’s finest circus superstars, urban acrobats and outrageous curiosities descend from The Civic’s glittering rafters.

Other Festival highlights include the 20th anniversary celebration of Che-Fu’s seminal album Navigator, which the artist will perform at an all-ages show at Auckland Town Hall with his band The Kratez, headlining the Festival’s Polynesian Panthers 50th Anniversary programming. The Panthers were an activist group known in particular for their protests against the notorious dawn raids of the 1970s, and 2021 marks 50 years since their formation. AAF will feature exhibitions, talks, play readings and the creation of a mural honouring the Panthers’ legacy, as well as a performance in the Festival Garden by Che-Fu’s father, Panthers activist and reggae musician Tigilau Ness, with special guests.

True to form, AAF 2021 offers a plethora of engaging and brilliant theatre, music and dance performances. Taku Tau Kahurangi: An Aotearoa Love Story is a collection of classic New Zealand love songs, performed by the stunning Ria Hall; Strasbourg 1518 is a powerful tribute to the dancing plague of 1518, directed and choreographed by Lucy Marinkovich, composed by Lucien Johnson and featuring Michael Parmenter; from the creators of The Factory, Vela Manusaute’s Tropical Love Birds premieres, bringing the tortured love tussle between electrifying beast of a league star Sani and his island queen Sheena to life; The Artist calls international circus sensation Thomas Monckton back from abroad to share his latest masterpiece with a home crowd; and Jack and the Beanstalk is a hilarious romp through this classic tale with a kiwi twist, written, directed and starring the legendary thespian Michael Hurst.

Six of the finest pianists from Aotearoa, including Michael Houston, will grace the stage – with six grand pianos – at the Auckland Town Hall to bring renowned composer John Psathas’ immersive world premiere of Voices at the End to life. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra celebrates International Women’s Day with a selection of women composers in Shoulder to Shoulder; and BalletCollective Aotearoa premiere their company in an exciting new chapter in contemporary ballet with a trio of new work titled Subtle Dances, featuring NZTrio playing live. For a special treat on the big screen, we present the Australasian premiere of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert, complete with John Williams’ Academy Award®-winning score performed live by the APO.

These are just some of the 70+ live performances and events that comprise Auckland Arts Festival/Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2021. A full list of activities is included below.

The 2021 Festival will be the first of four with new Artistic Director Shona McCullagh (MNZM) at the helm. Arts Foundation Laureate McCullagh founded and led The New Zealand Dance Company as Chief Executive/Artistic Director since its establishment in 2012, and joined AAF in March 2020.

“Auckland Arts Festival is committed to playing a key role in the post-COVID recovery of the arts sector in Tāmaki and the rest of New Zealand, by proudly delivering a 100% Aotearoa artist-led Festival in 2021. I’m beyond excited about the calibre and breadth of the programme we have been able to curate – we really have been spoilt for choice,” says McCullagh.

AAF 2021 proudly showcases the world-class artists of Aotearoa, launching at a time when venues in many other countries are still unable to open. It is an opportunity to champion the crucial role of the arts in providing solace, energy and hope in difficult times.

The irreplaceable essence of live performance binds and bonds us. We really wanted to capture a sense of gratitude – uplifting and creating a centre-stage platform to show aroha to our world-class artists for their support during lockdown, and nourishing our hearts, minds and understanding of the world we live in.”Shona McCullagh, Artistic Director

“At a time when the performance sector is in flux around the world, we are extremely pleased to be able to confirm Auckland Arts Festival will be back in 2021. A huge thanks to our partners, sponsors and supporters, who play a crucial role in ensuring we are able to deliver an extraordinary Festival and continue to support the arts in Aotearoa.”

– David Inns, Chief Executive

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