Artistic entrepreneur sees opportunities in Christchurch

OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK: Michael Bell, 25, always has many artistic projects on the go.
OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK: Michael Bell, 25, always has many artistic projects on the go.

While some young people fled Christchurch after the earthquakes, many talented and determined people have decided to stay and help shape their city's future. Over the next two weeks The Press will profile 12 under-30s making a difference. GEORGINA STYLIANOU talks to them.

Michael Bell started learning music at the age of three and completed his degree at the CPIT Jazz School when he was 18. He has since started two businesses, made a feature-length film, written jingles, composed film scores and produced music videos.

His theatre company, New Zealand Playhouse, employs actors who travel around the country performing at schools.

The group stages about 300 shows a year and will soon begin touring Australia.

He also owns Orange Studio, an outfit that now operates from Bell's garage.

"Orange was one of those things that just snowballed . . . we recorded and produced about nine or 10 albums, mostly this year, and before the earthquake we were doing about four or five."

Bell said he was "a little fearful" at first about the impact of the quakes on the arts.

"It had a huge effect, obviously. Personally, all my recording gear and instruments were stuck in the red zone and we all struggled to find venues to put concerts on."

However, Bell said it was the "people, not the buildings" that made the arts sector in Christchurch "so vibrant".

"I think we still have those people . . . and it's been a fantastic opportunity for businesses to completely change the way they do things, and everyone has gone about things in a way they wouldn't have if it had not been for the quakes."

Speaking about the recovery from the quakes, Bell said there was a "time and place" for the arts but homes, new buildings and infrastructure "needs to come first".

"The importance of the arts in Christchurch should be left up to non-artists to dictate. If they decide there is a need for us then we will fulfil that . . . but there are a lot of people doing a lot of cool things though, that's for sure."

Bell felt his business ventures helped to "fulfil a need".

He said he enjoyed helping other musicians and the people he worked with "get the best result".

With "heaps of exciting projects" lined up for 2013, Bell felt confident he would stay in Christchurch for the foreseeable future.

The Press