Festival offers a tasty lineup for everyone

22:57, Apr 03 2014
Mel Parsons
Mel Parsons and Emma Newborn, right, take on canine characteristics in Bitches' Box.

It's exactly 20 days until the Southland Festival of the Arts bursts into life, bringing song and dance, comedy and theatre to the region. Lauren Hayes takes a look at the programme.

Rugby and duck shooting - for many in Southland, they're akin to a religion.

Wedding anniversaries and birthday parties are rescheduled to fit around the hallowed fixtures, two of the most important on the southern calendar.

But this month, as the diehards brush the mud off their boots and stock their supplies for the maimai, another major event will unfold across the region.

The Southland Festival of the Arts, with a programme chock-full of theatre, dance, art exhibitions, comedy, a medley of music and public workshops, is back for its sixth year.

With performances happening in shop windows, in rural pubs and in the brand new stadium, it's going to be difficult to ignore.


Festival director Angela Newell is, naturally, quite excited about the month-long event.

"It's going to be like a massive box of chocolates that we can gorge on," she says. "I think it's going to be very exciting."

This year's festival encompasses a wide range of arts, and while most people will like some 'chocolates' more than others, Newell promises everyone will appreciate the flavours on offer.

"It might not be exactly what you're into, but you can enjoy the experience. There's something for everyone's tastes."

The director is reluctant to name her hot picks of the festival, protesting all events will be amazing. However, eventually, she reveals a handful she is personally excited about.

Near the top of her list is the music and theatre combo Bitches' Box with Mel Parsons, the puppet theatre Paper Sky and the intimate show Hotel, which is performed in a guest room at the Ascot Park Hotel and limited to audiences of only 20 people.

Newell is also interested to see the fusion of local talent and national leaders at work in the collaborative performances of the festival.

There's Yo Future, where choreographer Jo Randerson and a group of young Southlanders together produce a piece about millennials, and Many Voices, One Heart, a massive concert where dozens of community groups perform together, under the leadership of musician Matthew Salapu.

As well as multiple free shows, allowing all Southlanders to be part of the festival, the programme is also getting into the heart of the province through the festival outreach, with performances in Riverton, Lumsden, Winton, Tokanui and Stewart Island.

Getting arts out into the Southland community is a principal aim of the event, Newell says.

"I wanted to make sure that the festival went beyond Invercargill, because it is a regional festival.

"If there's support for it, we'll continue to build that programme." The sixth annual Southland Festival of the Arts opens on April 24, with performances in Invercargill and throughout Southland, and runs until May 24.


The Southland Times