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ASB Polyfest Back In 2021

The ASB Polyfest, Auckland Secondary Schools Maori & Pacific Islands Cultural Festival, is back in 2021. The iconic festival will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year, after this milestone was put on hold last year due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak, which banned large events.

The 2020 event was cancelled two days before the opening powhiri, causing a significant financial loss for festival organisers. After spending a great deal of last year focussing on a financial rescue package to cover this loss, the Polyfest Trust are delighted to announce that the festival will return in 2021 with revised dates and format, but the same pride and passion that the festival is famous for.

In announcing the 2021 festival, Chair of the Polyfest Trust, Robert Solomone said – “like many events in 2020, our ASB Polyfest was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the interest of the health and safety of our Polyfest students, schools, stallholders, stakeholders and supporting communities.”

Solomone added – “this was the second consecutive year our event was cancelled, and a time to reflect on the learnings of the past two years. It was also an opportunity to consider new possibilities for future Polyfest events.”

“As a result, we are pleased to announce that we will be holding the 45th ASB Polyfest event in 2021 with a few changes, such as the timing and format of the event. We will operate four stages instead of six, combining the Pacific Island and Diversity stages which will have two days allocated to each, while the Maori stage will take place over four days. We will hold this year’s event during the last week of Term 1, with the festival dates being 14-17 April. Our venue will remain the same, and we look forward to returning to Manukau Sports Bowl,” says Solomone.

The Manukau Sports Bowl will come back to life, with the colour and culture of the ASB Polyfest. The revised festival layout allows more space for stallholders to spread out, and social distancing for attendees. Students will not miss any performance time with the new format seeing the Niue Stage sharing with Diversity Stage, Tongan Stage share with the Cook Islands Stage, Samoan Stage share with the speech competitions, and Maori Stage hosting its three divisions over the festival’s four day duration.

The festival theme from last year has been retained, with this being:

“Mā roto mai i te Ahurea whirikoka, ko te whakaora tinana, hinengaro, wairua me te ira tangata"

“Healing the body, mind and soul with the strength of Culture”

Festival Director – Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu said “this theme is more relevant than ever, given the challenges that the ASB Polyfest has faced over the last two years. Retaining the theme also allows students to re-purpose the performances and costumes from last year if they choose, or add new elements this year.”

In announcing the details for the 2021 ASB Polyfest, Solomone thanked festival stakeholders for their support during the challenging circumstances of 2020. Solomone said “we thank ASB for their enduring commitment to the festival, as well as our strategic partners, government ministries, grant funders, Auckland Council, and sponsors who honoured their sponsorships last year despite the last minute cancellation. We also thank our schools, stallholders and contractors for their patience and support as we worked through the ramifications of last year’s cancellation.”

ASB has been a sponsor of ASB Polyfest for more than 35 years, and head of Community and Sponsorship Mark Graham said it was great to see the festival running again after the two-year hiatus.

“It’s been a tough few years for ASB Polyfest and in particular for the event organisers and for students from schools across the country who spent months preparing for the event, so we’re beyond excited that ASB Polyfest is returning this year,” says Graham.

“This event is the largest Maori and Pacific Island festival in the world, and brings a huge range of cultures together into one community. We’re looking forward to being part of it and supporting all of this year’s performers.”

Solomone also gave special thanks to – “the Government’s COVID-19 recovery response, and in particular the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and their funding administrator Creative NZ, for the Tasi wave funds that helped us to clear remaining debts and obligations as a result of festival cancellations.”

Festival organisers look forward to the 45th Anniversary of the ASB Polyfest, finally getting underway from 14-17 April, and seeing students back on the festival stages competing with pride and passion, and the honour of being top school in their respective culture.


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