Testing Market Value

“Up and Away” by the Cubbin Theatre Company. Image supplied
“[Other]: Chinese” by White_mess. Image Supplied.
“Mr Red Light” will be shown in full as a showcase at the event. Image supplied.
How do artists get their work picked up? At the marketplace. But you won’t find paintings and sculptures here, as we look at an Arts Market with a difference.


There’s something magic about reaching that 21st milestone. For some it means a coming of age, officially jettisoning adolescent ideals and entering adulthood. For others, it’s simply a foggy memory of a yard glass and embarrassing speeches from your parents.

And 21 years is a moment to celebrate for countless Kiwi creatives who have benefitted from the Performing Arts Network of New Zealand (PANNZ) Arts Market, which is set to enter full swing once again in March.

Since the flagship event launched back in 1999, the doors have been thrown open to hundreds of shows to be seen on stages throughout Aotearoa and increasingly, internationally.  The concept of spruiking your work is not a natural one for many artistic forces, which makes the country’s sole marketplace for performing arts such an important step.

A Market Like No Other

The phrase marketplace itself is enough to make some shudder at the prospect, conjuring up images of competitive, brash salespeople doing what it takes to offload their goods - with shows writers, producers and performers have poured their hearts and souls into being put on the block like a glorified piece of meat.

But this market is quite the contrary. Set up as the opportunity to encourage relationships and new lines of communication in the performing arts industry, the Arts Market’s charm isn’t based strictly on the buying and selling of work. The four-day event prides itself in creating a sense of community and providing networking opportunities that otherwise may not occur. 

Regular attendee, White_mess director Alice Canton describes it as a “great chance to connect to the NZ performing arts sector face-to-face, hear what others have been up to and the current challenges our industry faces - from audiences and marketing through to funding and strategy.”

Melanie Luckman, Artist Director of Cubbin Theatre Company, agrees that it “makes for a stronger, more robust industry” as presenters and attendees alike “get to meet people behind the work, have conversations with artists and share goals and outcomes.” 

“[Other]: Chinese” by White_mess. Image Supplied.

Hotbed of Opportunity

From a full-blown pitch to chance meetings and casual conversations, the Arts Market is a hive of activity and opportunity for anyone working in - or with an interest in the performing arts. As Jason Te Mete of Tuatara Collective explains, “Being kanohi te kanohi with artists, makers and producers allows real connection, and allows genuine relationships to be formed immediately."

just from the conversations we had, we were picked up by two festivals and are in talks with numerous others.

Many test the waters by joining in and soaking up the atmosphere, putting them in a better position to present in the future. Luckman found her attendance last year to be “hugely valuable.” She elaborates, “just from the conversations we had, we were picked up by two festivals and are in talks with numerous others. 

“Seeing the many different opportunities presented (helped) us clarify what we wanted for our young company and consider which direction we want to take our work.”

Centre Stage

The prospect of promoting your work to break into a national or international touring network is even more heightened for those at the figurative frontline.

It forces the producers, so often at home behind the scenes, onto centre stage, utlising whatever means at their disposal - ranging from video, stills and even live performance - to peak the interest of venue and festival managers and touring agencies.  

This process is just as important to those watching as it is to those on stage making the pitch and telling their creative stories. Picking the right work is crucial for the presenters and creative managers as they aim to do right by their collective audiences by putting the best our country has to offer into their theatres up and down New Zealand.

“Mr Red Light” will be shown in full as a showcase at the event. Image supplied.

Six of the Best

every year I attend PANNZ (Arts Market), I learn something profound about an industry I’ve worked in my whole professional life

In addition, there are six shows that are ready for international presentation that will be shown in full as showcases throughout the course of the event.

One of those in the prestige position is Mr Red Light, a Nightsong production that’s toured the country in 2019 after being picked up by Tour-Makers. One of their dual Artistic Directors Ben Crowder reveals what this opportunity means. 

“It allows the work to be seen in a theatre and at its best. For a company that has a very specific vision for their work - this was clearly the way we at Nightsong wanted to approach this opportunity.

“New Zealand is a long way geographically from other centres - and the time of year when the most international presenters are in the country is over the Arts Market. It means when we chat with presenters we can actually say come to the show - or talk after they have seen it. Work needs to be felt and experienced. The support from PANNZ to make this happen is excellent, we see this market continue to grow as a vital part of the performing arts ecology.”

No matter if you’re a veteran or a rookie, under the spotlight or watching from the wings, the Arts Market is a place of potential, As Canton sums up, “every year I attend PANNZ (Arts Market), I learn something profound about an industry I’ve worked in my whole professional life. 

“It’s one of the few places where artists, venues, festivals and producers of Aotearoa come together, and a rare chance to actively shape our future together.”

Written in partnership with PANNZ Arts Market, 8-11 March. For details how to attend including discounts for out-of-town travellers and free entry to first time attendees on opening day, head to www.pannz.org.nz

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

27 Feb 2020

The Big Idea Editor

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