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WHO got that job? Auckland Arts Festival Publicist

Sarah Wilson
Behind the arts stories that reach the media and masses are hard working publicists including Sarah Wilson.


Sarah Wilson has the festival bug! Her recent role as publicist for Auckland Arts Festival is her twelfth festival across five different organisations in Australia, Scotland and New Zealand.

Originally from Nelson, Sarah has worked for leading Australian arts organisations including nine years as Sydney Festival publicity manager. Her new role was perfect timing for her move back to NZ, and Sarah is thriving on the fast-paced introduction to the arts scene via the fest.

Sarah tells us more about her role in our latest 'Who Got That Job' series profiling creative sector appointments.

Qualifications/Training: Initially trained in handwoven textiles, retrained in museum administration.

Tells us a bit about your background and career

I have a complete passion for the arts, and absolutely love that my job puts me at the centre of the industry. I’ve worked for a whole range of companies including commercial producers (musicals), government-funded arts organisations and festivals, as well as presenting houses such as Sydney Opera House.

What’s a highlight of your resume/portfolio?

Definitely my time as Publicity Manager at Sydney Festival – I learnt so much on the job, working with three different Festival Directors, and with many hundreds of international artists and companies. And most importantly, the job challenged and pushed me forward at every step.  

Tell us about your new role

I’ve come on board as Publicist for Auckland Arts Festival – this will be my twelfth festival across five different organisations in Australia, Scotland and New Zealand – I’ve definitely got the festival bug! 

Tell us about the Auckland Arts Festival - mission and vision

Auckland Arts Festival is a vital arts organisation for artists and audiences alike. Taking place annually in March, the Festival celebrates people and culture, showcasing NZ artists alongside the very best of international artists and companies. I was here in 2016 with a touring company and really excited to be here on staff for 2017.

Why did you want this role? What was a perfect fit? 

Having just moved home, this role was perfect in timing and opportunity. I’m thriving on the fast-paced introduction to both NZ’s fantastic arts industry, and the NZ media.

What did you need to adapt or learn?

It’s mostly about learning the media landscape – NZ has a really healthy media sector, ranging across arts specialists to boarder mainstream media – it’s very exciting.

What combination of people, partners and resources do you work with?

One of the best things about festivals is that there has to be a strong team ethic to cope with the high-pressure event deadline – otherwise we’d all implode! So although I am based within the marketing department, I’m in regular contact with my colleagues in programming, technical, development and education.

What’s your short and long-term goals?

Short-term goals are all about Auckland Arts Festival and making sure we can generate the most extensive coverage as possible – we want everyone to know about the festival and come along. In the long term, it’s about engaging and immersing myself into the New Zealand arts sector.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar creative career or pathway?

When I started out, I used volunteer work to get to know people, and more importantly, for people to get to know me, so when a job came up, I was in the right place at the right time. So much of the arts industry is about networking and cross-pollination – both for artists and administrators.

What's your number one business tip for surviving and thriving in the creative industries?

Don’t be afraid of change. Be open to different opportunities. No matter where you are in your career, look out for those unexpected detours! A new job gives access to new people, new skills, new challenges and new rewards.

What are the challenges and opportunities in your sector? 

The arts have always had to learn to thrive on obstacles – it has made the industry resourceful and wonderfully nimble. It’s also incredibly supportive – I love the collegiate bond between arts organisations.

What’s your big idea for 2017?

It’s more a case of incubating and nurturing a whole range of ideas that I can shape into something truly wonderful. I try to keep my options open, and look for lateral inspirations rather than putting all my eggs in one basket!

Auckland Arts Festival is on 08 - 26 March 2017

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Written by

The Big Idea Editor

7 Mar 2017

The Big Idea Editor