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Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora Ki Kirikiriroa 23 February-3 March

Bic Runga, Prima Facie, The Mockers, Jazmine Mary, Ridiculusmus Theatre, NZ Opera, and Tom Sainsbury are just a few of the big name artists and shows featured in the Hamilton Arts Festival’s eclectic 2024 programme.

The festival will see over 1200 artists converge on Hamilton Kirikiriroa from the 23rd Feb to the 3rd March next year. Music, theatre, dance, comedy, musical theatre and whanau-friendly shows are all represented across 46 ticketed events.

Festival Director Geoff Turkington says the festival will showcase some of Waikato’s most exciting creative talent alongside a curated selection of international and national artists.

“We’re thrilled to present a programme of works that is eclectic, relevant, and in some cases, thought provoking. However, first and foremost it is very joyful.”

Turkington says there’s an emphasis on making the programme accessible to all, with affordable ticket prices and a huge range of free non-ticketed experiences.

“We encourage people to come along and check out the free live entertainment while enjoying a diverse selection of food and beverages as the sun sets over the Grassroots Trust Festival Hub Stage from 5pm each night.

During the day you might witness an impromptu classical piano performance, meet a puppet called Paco or have an unexpected encounter with a drag queen as you meander through the gardens,” says Turkington.

New Zealand music icon Bic Runga will headline the event, performing on the Rhododendron Lawn accompanied by a live band and supported by award-winning rising star Georgia Lines.

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Bic Runga isn’t the only blast from the past on the programme with 80s new-wave rockers The Mockers supported by Rikki Morris also performing on the Rhododendron Lawn celebrating 40 years since the release of their massive hit Forever Tuesday Morning.

A spirit of collaboration runs through many of the festival’s music events.

Figaro! Figaro! Figaro! is a special one off collaboration between NZ Opera and Opus Orchestra celebrating some of opera's most cherished characters.

Big Band Jazz Spectacular brings together an all star line-up of current and past students and associates of Hamilton Boys’ High School. The show will feature a 40-piece jazz orchestra backing two of the most outstanding singers in the Waikato performing the biggest hits from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

Fans of past festival contemporary folk artists Tiny Ruins and Nadia Reid are sure to be won over by Taite Music Prize winning artist Jazmine Mary, who’s 2023 album Dog received widespread critical acclaim.

2024 will also see the welcome return of a handful of Hamilton Arts Festival favourites.

One of the Waikato’s most iconic and beloved events Sunset Symphony will take place on the first Saturday of the festival with epic orchestral music provided by Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra.

The perennially popular ‘Summer Shakespeare’, takes on the Bard’s classic comedy Merry Wives of Windsor with a modern reimagining ‘fit for a Joe Rogan podcast’.

Following the success of Vivaldi by Candlelight at this year’s festival, the Ancient Egyptian Garden is set to come alive once again with Classical Jazz by Candlelight from Ensemble Aaru and OCT Ensemble.

Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora ki Kirikiriroa also boasts a diverse programme of theatre.

Described as 'existential clowning' by The Guardian, Beautiful People is a hilariously dark comedy about ageing and death from British theatre company Ridiculusmus Theatre. The internationally acclaimed duo will also be presenting So… a lament on separation inspired by Brexit and the global pandemic.

Theatre lovers will be thrilled to see Prima Facie at the Clarence Street Theatre. This gripping one-woman show, based on the book by Suzie Miller tells the story of a criminal defence lawyer at the top of her game. Winner of the 2023 Olivier Award for Best Play, Prima Facie recently had a sell-out season at Circa Theatre in Wellington.

Stories About My Body is described as a ‘glorious fist-pump for body positivity’ and was the winner of ‘Best in Fringe’ at Whangārei Fringe Festival 2022.

New to the festival, Te Rēhia Theatre will present KŌPŪ, a cheeky ballad of a show sharing the songs young wāhine Māori as they navigate this world, ‘hairy nipples first’!

Performances are uniquely matched with venues - a delightful and hilarious theatre show celebrating bees (Mary Bumby’s Hive of Story) will take place in the English Flower Garden.

Flora and fauna is also a focus of the programme with Force of Nature crowning the opening night of the festival with Aotearoa chamber music celebrating the vital conservation work of Forest & Bird.

Elsewhere the mighty pekapeka take centre stage in Bats Incredible.

Environmental issues are also a theme in The Ice Cream is Melting, a whānau-friendly show sprinkled with aerial acrobatics, contortion and ice cream juggling.

The 2024 programme offers up plenty of other whānau-friendly content with the wondrous puppetry of Box of Birds, the Pirates of the Caribbean inspired Captain Festus McBoyle’s Travellin’ Variety Show and Spark LIVE, an immersive multi-sensory story exploring the incredible bond between a human and their horse.

Some of the country’s funniest comedians will be providing the laughs with Tom Sainsbury, Dai Henwood, Abby Howell, and The Birdman & Egg, nominated Most Original Comedy at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, all making appearances.

The Hamilton Arts Festival is regarded as the largest regional arts festival in New Zealand with its unique point of difference being its primary venue - the Hamilton Gardens - named as one of the top 1% of travel experiences in the world by the world's largest travel platform Tripadvisor.

The Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora ki Kirikiriroa is made possible by the generous support of:

Hamilton City Council, WEL Energy Trust, Grassroots Trust, Trust Waikato, The Mighty Waikato, Brian Perry Charitable Trust, Creative New Zealand, The Lion Foundation, Hamilton Gardens, King St Advertising, ACLX, Everest People, Lottery Grants Board, Cleland Hancox, Hobbiton Movie Set, First Credit Union, Village Food & Events, Waikato Times, Mediaworks, and Go Media.

Head to hamiltonartsfestival.co.nz to check out the full programme. Multi-show buy discounts and layby options are available.

© Scoop Media

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