Festival fields star-studded cast

Last updated 13:17 09/08/2014
sophie kelly

LAUNCH-TIME: Nelson Arts Festival director Sophie Kelly at the launch last night. ‘‘It’s a huge show for us to be presenting in Nelson,’’ she said.

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A dazzling Australian circus, literary darling Eleanor Catton, enduring favourite Tim Finn and the handsome, hilarious and harmonious Modern Maori Quartet are some of the drawcards of the coming Nelson Arts Festival.

The much-anticipated festival was launched at a special function at the Refinery Gallery last night.

This year marks the "marvellous milestone" of the 20th anniversary of the festival, the longest running regional arts festival in Aotearoa. Ticket sales opened last night and festival organisers are predicting some shows, including the session with Man Booker Prize-winning author Catton, will sell out in record time.

Festival director Sophie Kelly said the Nelson City Council-run festival grew stronger each year and was an event that celebrated creativity and helped shape the region's identity.

"We should all be very grateful that we live in a town that is prepared to invest in the arts in this way," Kelly said.

This year the festival runs from October 16 to 27 and boasts 86 performances from more than 140 visiting guests and artists.

Kelly said in recognition of 20th anniversary two special elements had been programmed. Nelson had shown it has an appetite for things that "shine in the night" through its support of light installation Piki Mai and festival Light Nelson.

This year the windmill at Founders Heritage Park will be lit up in an installation called Winds of Time. It is a free show that runs every night and aligns with the festival's philosophy of keeping arts accessible to the whole community.

Kelly said the "other jewel" in 20th anniversary crown was the spectacular performance of Australian circus troupe Circa's Beyond.

"It's a huge show for us to be presenting in Nelson."

Other highlights include musician Tim Finn's intimate new work White Cloud - a fusion of story-telling and music, 10-piece big band Sal Valentine and the Babyshakes, and the Modern Maori Quartet.

Nelson City Councillor and community services committee deputy chairwoman Gaile Noonan said the festival engaged with all walks of life through its free and ticketed acts, and it bought tangible social and cultural benefits to the city.

"It brings our community together to celebrate creativity and creates a real buzz in the city."

The Page & Blackmore Readers' and Writers' Festival is another immensely popular part of the festival, and organisers also expect other events, as well as Catton's session, to sell out. Highlights include crime fiction author Paul Cleave, host Central Otago artist Grahame Sydney, long-time peace activist Maire Leadbeater and Damien Fenton presenting his book on the nation-building carnage and heroism of World War 1.

Founders Heritage Park will be the festival base again this year, but other venues around the city and region will be again be used.

Tickets are on sale now and Kelly is advising festival-goers not to "muck around" and buy tickets early to avoid missing out.

To book, visit nelsonartsfestival.co.nz, the Theatre Royal box office or the festival ticket booth at the Saturday market.

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For more information pick up a festival programme or visit Nelson Arts Festival website.

- The Nelson Mail

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