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Changing hats and minds

Sharu Delilkan
Sharu Delilkan often wears quirky hats and juggles virtual hats in business. Her latest project is a charity event for Whāriki Hauora, a new wellbeing support initiative for performers.


Sharu Delilkan is often popping up in the arts scene wearing quirky hats. She has a genuine love of hats, but it also reflects the different virtual hats she wears for her business aptly called ‘Sharu Loves Hats’.  Her career has spanned journalism in the US, a rock band manager in Malaysia, a food and wine writer in Hong Kong, an arts reporter and then theatre producer, publicist and marketer in New Zealand.

Sharu tells us about her latest project, charity event Black Dog Relief: Souls of Solidarity Cabaret to promote awareness about mental health and help raise money for a new initiative Whāriki Hauora - weaving the foundation of wellbeing in the performing arts.

Whāriki Hauora was formed from the collective concern of an industry that saw people in need not reaching out for help. A small steering group reached out to local professional mental health peer-support organisation Mind and Body to set up a service to help performers that may be struggling with a difficult time in their lives. 

A group of actors and industry professionals including Taimi Allan, Hera Dunleavy, Rachel Nash, Cameron Rhodes and Borni Terongopai Tukiwaho, have been instrumental in setting up Whāriki Hauora to subsidise peer support sessions for performers.  They will moderate the official Facebook page , with Changing Minds’ support.

The charity event on Saturday 15 October at Te Pou Theatre in Auckland is part of Atawhai Festival held during Mental Health Awareness Week.


Qualifications: MA in Arts Management (1st) and B Sc in Mass Communications (Journalism)

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?
I’m most productive in the wee hours of the morning.  I blame my parents for that — I was born at 1.52am, making me a night owl.
How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?
Well presented, always wearing interesting and quirky hats.  The hats are a reflection of my business model for my company Sharu Loves Hats -- I wear different virtual hats and am inspired by work that’s poignant and meaningful. 

How many hats do you have and what do you do with them all?

I'm actually not sure how many hats I have but I would think that there are approaching the 100 mark. My belief is that one can never have too many hats.

A few years ago my husband made me an installation on the wall with a portion of my hats, as a birthday gift.  We have every intention of expanding the installation but just haven't had the time (so currently the rest of the hats live in hatboxes dotted around my office).

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?
Producing theatre, particularly touring shows to small towns nationally where they can be starved for the arts. I also love to give back to the arts and creating Black Dog Relief, a charity event that promotes awareness about mental health and that donates proceeds to charities in this arena really gives me a buzz.
How does your environment affect your work?
I like working with and around people but sometimes I need absolute quiet to do the tough jobs that require intense concentration, like funding applications.
What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?
Never take “No” for an answer.  Always think of different ways to achieve your goal.
Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?
Touring A Boy Wonder to Central/Otago Southland, with staging a show on Stewart Island being a particular highlight.  Producing Shakespeare’s Henry V with a cast of 40-women at the Pop Up Globe was another amazing experience.
Who or what has inspired you recently?
The life of a producer can often be isolating and sometimes even thankless. Being able to share ideas and support one another through Art Venture has been and will continue to be an absolute treat. 
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’ve had a varied career – from being journalist in the US, a rock band manager in Malaysia, a food and wine writer in Hong Kong, an arts reporter and then theatre producer, publicist and marketer in New Zealand.  My husband, Tim, freely admits that he’s jealous that I only do jobs that I love.
Tell us a bit about your recent and upcoming projects.
Currently I am producing the third Black Dog Relief show entitled Souls of Solidarity Cabaret.  A group of amazing talented singers will be on show in cabaret style to help raise money for a new charity Whariki Hauora.  Book tickets here.
This show follows on from the original Black Dog Relief charity events in Auckland and Wellington presented by Sharu Loves Hats, that raised over $8500 for the Mental Health Foundation last year. 
I am very pleased this show is part of the Atawhai Festival and I am co-presenting with my good friend Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho at our whare Te Pou in New Lynn.
Other projects include producing a brand new show written by Renee Liang and Jun Bin Lee, Dominion Rd The Musical as well as touring Jess Sayer’s hit show Sham nationally.
You are an established creative entrepreneur so why were you keen to be part of the creative business acceleration programme ART Venture?
Amazing exchange of ideas with creative entrepreneurs at the top of their game.
What has the experience been like so far?
Mind blowing and phenomenal.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store.
If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?
It took me more than 25 years to realise my mother’s advice to do yoga is actually the best stress relief ever.
What’s your big idea for 2017?

It pains me to see the amount of effort that goes into original theatre for a sometime fleeting run in Auckland. Through Sharu Loves Hats I would love to extend the life of these gems through national and international tours.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

12 Oct 2016

The Big Idea Editor

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