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We're on our Own

World of WearableArt Award Show. Photo: File.
The Lowdown looks at what emergency support the creative sector can expect during Lockdown, the resilience of Aotearoa events and the controversial NFT issue.

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For those outside of Auckland, Alert Level Three brings the slightest of respites. Those inside Tāmaki Makaurau of course have it worse at Level Four, beyond just jealousy of the opportunity for a takeaway feed and click and collect shopping, 

As we cross our fingers and hope that the Alert Levels begin to drop, make no mistake - the creative community is effectively in shackles until we return to ‘normal’: Level One.

Given so much of the sector relies on attendance or the ability to physically show their mahi, all other levels take an extraordinary toll on both the ability to share their creativity with the public and the ability to sustain their livelihood. Even the jobs so many creatives have to help fund their artistic endeavours are currently feeling the pinch.

But unlike the initial Lockdown hit of March 2020 - there’s no sign of specific financial support coming to the creative community from Government.

Given that funding is still being allocated from Manatū Taonga’s $374 million Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme, The Lowdown has been told that nothing additional is being considered at this stage.  

Essentially, when it comes to emergency relief for the sector, we’re on our own.

Creative New Zealand has signalled as much in CEO Stephen Wainwright’s latest blog titled Wayfaring through this Delta COVID uncertainty. “As we drew heavily on our reserves last year to support the sector with our COVID-19 response ($16 million in the first wave of the emergency package), this year we don’t have as much pūtea (money) to do anything new – you can only spend your reserves once!”  

Of course, the circumstances are different this time around. As opposed to the blindsiding of Lockdown version 1, many practitioners and organisations have back-up plans and policies in place, including the good old digital pivot.

The usual channels of financial support remain open to all New Zealanders including the wage subsidy via WINZ and Inland Revenue’s COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment - but that’s of scant consolation to those needing to cancel or postpone their events.

In the last week alone, the hugely popular and profitable World of WearableArt (WOW) Award show has been put on ice until later in the year,, Whangārei Fringe Festival went from getting set to announce its 134-event programme for October to scrambling for new dates and Otago Polyfest has shuffled its timing back by a month.

Whangerēi Fringe delivering the bad news on their website. Photo: Sarah Marshall.

It has a huge impact on theatre companies as well. ATC’s world premiere season of Things That Matter has been postponed - while countless others including Arts On Tour NZ’s My Mother the War Hero, Palmerston North’s Act Three Productions We Will Rock You and Nelson Musical Theatre’s Mary Poppins has been cancelled.

The latter two have turned to Givealittle pages to try offset the costs already poured into these productions, which are substantial sums for organisations of this size especially after suffering through previous lockdowns. The focus is once again on staying afloat. As Act Three board member Allan Nagy told Stuff of the cancellations, "everyone was shot to pieces.”

That’s not to mention the countless music gigs around the motu - including Salmonella Dub’s Auckland leg of their national tour bumped from this month to early November. The combined Lewis Eady National Piano Competition and National String Competition was due to be staged in Auckland this weekend but has been shifted to December.

WOW Founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff summed up the feeling of many trying to dust themselves off and get back on their feet, “at times like this, celebrations of creativity and the human spirit are even more important than ever.”

That small snippet of examples is proof that the sector needs all the help it can get in these tough times - and one idea comes in the form of Government-backed event insurance.

It’s been implemented in the UK - the British government is being both praised for the $NZD1.4 billion scheme and criticised for taking too long to deliver it. The BBC reports the new scheme will see insurance companies provide cover for live events, with the government agreeing to act as a reinsurer - guaranteeing that any pay-outs will be funded.

ACT leader David Seymour - not exactly renowned for his support of the arts - has proposed a $50 million Major Events Insurance Fund “so event organisers can go ahead and plan the events our communities’ value so much, without the fear of financial ruin.

Seymour’s plan would see the fund available to events that host 500 people or more, only paid out upon cancellation.

Let’s hope it is listened to, so to provide encouragement for event organisers - and attendees - to keep the course in such uncertain waters.

 

Not waving the white flag

The bleakness that we’re currently surrounded by can still be pierced by determined rays of sunshine on the horizon.

The first drop of events for next year’s Aotearoa Festival of Arts (Feb-March 2022) has been released - the biennial creative celebration already looking like one to get excited about. Along with Lisa Reihana as the headline artist bringing a number of free works, the month-long event has also announced the show’s spectacle event, BELLE – A performance of air is being choreographed by WOW show director Malia Johnston.

Stuff has covered the early announcements, with the full programme due out next month.

Closer on the calendar, the NZ International Film Festival’s announced its first movies for its October launch. Among the six confirmed so far, Fiona Clark: Unafraid, Lula Cucchiara's documentary on one of New Zealand's most celebrated photographers, known for her early work documenting the burgeoning K' Rd queer scene in the 1970s. 

Still from Fiona Clark: Unafraid.

Taranaki Art Festival Trust's Reset Festival is pushing ahead despite COVID’s unwelcome resurgence, announcing its return from 4-14 November, with acts including singer Tami Neilson, comedians Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore and widely-travelled play The Haka Party Incident (also part of the Festival of Arts lineup).

The rescheduled WORD Christchurch has settled its revised dates, 10–13 November which most Cantabrians will tell you falls in the very popular Show Weekend. With the venues locked in, organisers are now in the process of putting together the new schedule. Programme co-director Rachael King says “this new programme may be slightly scaled back, but as much as possible will retain the events that our audience has booked for, so there will be as little disruption as possible.”

Joy division

Not all avenues for enjoying Kiwi creativity are shut to us.

While hamstrung under the current climate, there are - of course - many exceptions. 

Creating is still happening among Aotearoa’s arts community - some given more opportunity to do so with other commitments shut off. Social media is testament to that.

Sharing digitally isn’t just a possibility, it’s a new way of life for many.

It’s certainly Loading Doc’s bread and butter - and the timing of Lockdown will hopefully lead to more eyeballs on their newly-launched and locally-driven short documentary collection.

Last night (Thursday), in a first-ever collaboration with another leading supporter of Aotearoa documentary making the Doc Edge Festival, they put on an online watch party for Tūmanako / Hope, with the eight filmmakers taking part.

They’re available and free to view online, including Wind Song and Rain, directed by the talented Matariki Bennett - a moving tribute to “New Zealand’s most famous Māori poet” Hone Tuwhare through the eyes of his 18-year-old granddaughter Manaia, continuing her whānau’s legacy. 

 

With some deeply personal and difficult topics traversed, there’s some levity in the collection as well, with Self-appointed ‘cultural warden’ John-Perry Porter Te Anini tackling the issue of cultural appropriation with humour in HAKA haha (covered here more seriously in NZ Herald).

Others are becoming adept at adapting to the circumstances. That includes the award-winning Circability shifting their Social Circus Classes online, which has a major focus on accessibility with 75% of their classes designed for people with disabilities. 

Their new online campaign - Joy Market - has put forward a range of live classes and short videos to help students and others stay connected through Lockdown. Circability’s told The Lowdown that in the first day alone, 2 new schools and one more disability group signed up. If it’s of interest to you, email details are here.

 

Ka rawe!

Stan Walker. Photo: Rāwhai Wetere.

With Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori fast approaching, get set for some of the country’s leading musicians to help make Māori Language Week stand out more than ever.

Fresh off last week’s reaction from the performers involved with two bilingual songs making history as APRA Silver Scroll finalists, Stan Walker’s announced his first-ever te reo Māori album Te Arohanui will be released on 17 September - including both new tracks and te reo versions of his best-known hits like Take It Easy and Thank You. 

Walker’s told Newshub “I feel like our reo is like poetry and waiata. It's something that teaches, educates, heals, uplifts, breaks down and gives people permission to feel in ways that they couldn't feel.”  He refers to this album as “a legacy fulfilled.”

The return of the hugely influential Waiata/Albums initiative will also prove special for the artists involved as they look to showcase the beauty of te reo.

The songs of more than a dozen artists will be launched from 6-12 September, including Paige Tapara, Anna Coddlington and Hollie Smith, as previewed in NZ Herald’s Kahu section.

 

NFTs: Glorious or garish?

If you don’t really get Non-Fungible Tokens - or even if you do and are against them - you still have to recognise they’re making a big mark in the digital arts world.

So big, even entrepreneurial All Black Dan Carter’s getting in on the act.

He’s the heavily promoted name in the launch of NZ-owned NFT studio and marketplace Glorious - but there are plenty of well recognised and highly regarded Aotearoa creatives already signed up. They include musicians Neil Finn, Six60 and Nathan Haines, and artists Dick Frizzell, Lisa Reihana, Heather Straka and the estate of the late Rita Angus.

A lengthy Newsroom piece on the new venture outlines Glorious plans to “deal largely in high calibre, exclusive works for collectors and art and music lovers” and describes NFTs as “increasingly being seen as a credible way for artists and musicians to fund their creativity in a digital era.”

As we’ve explained before, the whole NFT process is based on cryptocurrency and blockchain - and it’s seeing works go insane amounts of money. But as the reaction from sections of the creative community to that article directly showed, there is a dark side both ethically and environmentally that many find unpalatable.

It’s hard to imagine those who oppose them will be thrilled by this latest endorsement, with those concerns not addressed in this article.  But there is certainly a growing market for people prepared to pay for digital art that they can’t actually hold in their hands.

The debate isn’t going away - and neither are NFTs.

 

Star on the rise

The Panthers star Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi. Image: TVNZ.

If you haven’t checked out TVNZ’s The Panthers yet, make it part of your lockdown watchlist (it’s available on-demand, link in our Lessons for Lockdown guide). The important and timely depiction of the role of the Polynesian Panthers in the socially and racially divided, dawn raid era of 1970s New Zealand is proving a hit.

Not just on our shores either.

After being the fiirst Aotearoa television show to be accepted into the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, actor Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi has been singled out as one of the festival’s Rising Stars, which offers him access to a special programme for up and coming actors. 

It can be a ticket to recognition - fellow New Zealander Vinnie Bennett, who was part of recent Hollywood blockbuster Fast and Furious 9, achieved TIFF Rising Star status in 2017.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

3 Sep 2021

The Big Idea Editor

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