Mini-festivals planned to broaden biennial event

Mini-festivals planned for capital

TOM CARDY
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014
wellington festival
JOHN SANN/Fairfax NZ

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHT: Composer Osvaldo Golijov's tribute to Spanish poet Federico Garcia played as part of this year's festival.

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Wellington may be in for a big boost with a series of new "mini-festivals" and special events every year, run by the New Zealand Festival.

The festival revealed today that it is to investigate the viability of developing new events, some which may be "mini-festivals", in Wellington every year.

The plan, backed by the festival's trust board, is instead of pushing for the festival - held in February and March every two years - becoming an annual event.

A feasibility study, commissioned by the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund and being considered by the region's mayors, had noted that there were other options for the festival than going annual.

Festival executive chairwoman Kerry Prendergast said the New Zealand Festival would continue to be held every two years at the same time. But the new events or mini-festivals would mean the New Zealand Festival could bring additional international and domestic acts to Wellington on a 24-month cycle.

A possibility was one mini-festival or event the same year as the New Zealand Festival in 2016, with at least two more events or mini-festivals each year the main festival is not run.

Prendergast said the mini-festivals could be at times when Wellington had fewer other events.

The mini-festivals or events would probably be tailored to grow new audiences and tap into niche areas.

She cited American indie band Bon Iver, who played two shows at the Wellington Town Hall in the 2012 festival.

"We suddenly got this amazing group of people come to that and it sold out. They are not normal festivalgoers and I'm not sure that they necessarily came to this last festival.

"The next stage of research is to find out exactly what our audiences want," she said.

Overseas, niche or boutique-style festivals were attracting new audiences, including Sydney's two-day Festival of Dangerous Ideas and Hobart's 11-day Dark Mofo, both held in winter.

The New Zealand Festival runs the four-day Wellington Jazz Festival in June, which was very successful this year.

It doubled the number of events staged in 2012 to 108 and increased its audience from 9000 to 15,000. Ticket sales to the headline international acts doubled.

Prendergast said more festivals would also help retain experienced staff. Under the present setup, the festival had up to 40 fulltime-equivalent staff for the three-week festival, but that dropped to seven once it finished.

"In the meantime we lose really good people and they get offered fulltime work - and we've grown them."

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- The Dominion Post

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