Outgoing boss suggests changes for arts festival

23:58, Nov 05 2014
sophie kelly
Nelson Arts Festival director Sophie Kelly at the launch last month.

The Nelson Arts Festival should be taken out of council control and instead put into a trust, says its outgoing director Sophie Kelly.

Today is Kelly's last day in the job before stepping away to manage smaller arts projects around the country.

Kelly, who has been involved in the festival for a decade and director for the last four, said the present governance structure left it vulnerable to political machinations and meddlings.

Kelly said it was easy to get caught up in time-consuming bureaucratic "process" which did not directly affect the festival.

"I respect there has to be process and ways of doing things for accountability but it can be over done in council and that creates barriers to move through and make things happen."

Her view was that it should join all other arts festivals around the country in being put into a trust.


"It needs to have the support of a group of trustees that have the skills and knowledge to guide it in the right direction," she said. "It can get lost in a big organisation where there might not be the support or knowledge to help guide it."

She said while there was financial security in council there were also constraints.

"You can be quite vulnerable to a changing council who might not be as supportive of it."

Kelly helped oversee a growth in the festival - in ticket sales, audience numbers and sponsorship but she thought it was time for a fresh injection.

She also thought there should be consideration about whether the festival should only run every two years rather than ever year.

"By going every second year you have the opportunity and creative mental space to work on your project and invest more time into it."

She said it was hard rolling straight into another festival after the last one finished. It was also a big expectation for local sponsors to give support every year.

However, she saw the benefits of both options.

Nelson city councillor Pete Rainey said he was keen for the public to consider the future of the festival quite carefully. He hoped both its governance structure and whether it should be biennial would form part of the council's Long Term Plan discussions next year.

He thanked Kelly for her work and was glad she was staying in Nelson. "Her skills are really strong and she is going to be a benefit to a lot of other festivals around the country."

The new festival director will be Axel de Maupeou, Palmerston North City Council's community services team leader. According to his LinkedIn profile, de Maupeou has been responsible for the city's social housing, arts and culture, not-for-profit organisations, Maori and Pasifika communities, arts and social funding schemes and council-controlled organisations.

The Nelson Mail