On The Fringe: Lydia Zanetti

Lydia Zanetti, Director Auckland Fringe Festival
Fringe Festival Opening, Credit Oliver Crawford
Off the back of a successful festival in 2017, Auckland Fringe Festival is now a yearly event. We talk to festival director, Lydia Zanetti, about being at the helm of such a magnificent beast.


Self described as a producer, publicist, choreographer, production manager, arts activist and now Auckland Fringe Festival director, Lydia Zanetti says, “Most people in the arts do all those things and more.” 

Working as the producer in residence at Basement Theatre, Lydia was loaned out to assist with Auckland’s 2015 Fringe Festival, and then stepped into the director’s role for the 2017 festival.

It wasn’t an easy time to take on the position, with anticipated funding not coming through at a critical time, the festival’s future was under threat. In addition to funding challenges, there was also a lot of newness around the festival last year, which had rebranded, as well as implemented a new website and structure – providing even more of a challenge for Lydia stepping into the role.

Combatting the funding shortage, the arts community came together and generously gave of their time to keep the festival on its feet - delivering a programme of 123 shows featuring 536 artists, across 39 venues.

Acknowledging that the festival took place through phenomenal generosity, Lydia says that operating model was a “once-off, born of the belief from everyone involved that the Fringe is of significant value to our city.” She comments in the report from this year’s Fringe, “We stand by and for artists, administrators and producers being paid what they are worth (or indeed, paid) and intend to play a leadership role in the industry towards sustainability and living wage opportunities within the arts.”

The Fringe Festival has proven to have such significant value to the city, that inline with the Auckland Arts Festival, it has become a yearly event with the 2018 festival scheduled to take place from Feb 20 – March 4. “Off the back of such an anarchic and fabulous festival in 2017, it is a great honour to bring Fringe back to Auckland in 2018,” says Lydia.

With the success of the 2017 Fringe, funders have also taken notice, with Foundation North, Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council and Waitematā Local Board supporting the next stage of the festival’s growth. “It is a great mark of appreciation and respect for all the work that has gone into the festival.” 

Lydia hopes to expand the festival beyond the traditional spaces and bring suburban venues onboard as well.  Among others to date, Artworks Theatre in Waiheke Island, Federal Delicatessen in the city centre, Nathan Homestead in Manurewa and Te Pou Theatre in New Lynn have registered as venues for the 2018 festival.

Incubating emerging talent, Fringe is an open access festival – open to anyone from any art form – and provides a supportive platform for artists to hone their craft and go on to performing at larger festivals throughout the country and wider afield.  As part of the process, Fringe provides publicity and marketing support, as well as development workshops covering things like touring and marketing.

In her own production company, Zanetti Productions, Lydia chooses to focus on work that invigorates social change and celebrates otherness. “I’m personally very invested in art that creates conversation and shifts perspective,” she says. “It’s really exciting those kinds of works are happening here from a uniquely New Zealand perspective.”

Asked if these are the types of works she is seeking out for this year’s festival, Lydia says that they welcome anyone and everyone. “We’re after a real mix, we’re not tied to a particular art form. Anything can happen at Fringe!”

As the director of Auckland Fringe, a real highlight for Lydia is being exposed to new and emerging artists of whom she was previously unaware. “It’s really expanded my view.”

“I get excited to see artists pushing the edge of their experience, occupying space in a unique way, seeing people shift to a slightly more risky space – for both audience and artists. “

Registrations for the 2018 festival close on 10 December.

For more information visit www.aucklandfringe.co.nz

Written by

Christine Mackintosh

28 Nov 2017

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