Tauranga Arts Festival delivers ‘arts at home’

Ria Hall.

Tauranga Arts Festival has launched a web-based arts initiative for the COVID-19 lockdown period following the cancellation of the Escape! Festival which was set to take place on Queen’s Birthday weekend.

The festival's launch post on Wednesday, April 1 featured festival director and award-winning musician Ria Hall performing ‘Aotearoa’ with Stan Walker, Troy Kingi and Maisey Rika.

 “The video came out in 2014 for Māori-language Week,” Ria says, “but it has such wairua (spirit) and aroha (love) for our country that we thought it was a fitting way to start our online project.”

Audio recordings from the 2018 Escape! will be posted at midday on Wednesdays and Fridays with the first – Stroppy Women featuring award-winning writer Tracey Slaughter, former Green MP Sue Bradford and former Tauranga City councillor Mary Dillon – posted on Friday, April 3.

 Other arts-focused items will also be posted regularly.

“The conversations that take place at Escape! are profound, funny and full of soul,” Ria says.

 “We have had some of this country’s best thinkers take the stage so we’re thrilled to be able to showcase them all over again.

“We’ll also be catching up with what some of our past guests are up to and are asking members of our festival whānau to supply items of interest.

“We have quite a bit that is being produced locally through the lockdown and are so pleased that people are responding in imaginative ways to support our project.”

Ria says as soon as the first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in New Zealand, the festival trust board and staff were clear Escape! had to be cancelled.

“We had a first-class programme in place so that caused us some sadness for a moment or two but it was clear it couldn’t go ahead. We all took a deep breath and then we were away working on how we might try and bring some positivity into life in lockdown.”

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