Story: Arts festivals

Page 4. Arts festivals take off, 1960s onwards

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By the 1960s there was a growing audience for arts and cultural festivals. Educated urban dwellers expected to be able to experience cultural events in their own cities, as they had when visiting overseas. The introduction of jet travel meant that performers, sets and artworks could be more easily transported.

Whistlers and vintage cars

The Pan Pacific Arts Festival of 1965 included a vintage car display, an American jazz band and a display of Japanese floral art. Japanese master potter Shoji Hamada’s work was also exhibited. The 1968 festival featured whistling virtuoso Tamas Hacki and the Fiji military band.

Becoming international – the Pan Pacific Arts Festival

Christchurch held a festival of the arts in 1965 and 1968. Aiming to ‘foster and promote good will and understanding of the peoples of the great Pacific Basin’, the Pan Pacific Arts Festival mixed traditional arts festival fare with some more unusual acts.1

New regional arts festivals

Regional arts festivals waxed and waned from the 1960s to the 1990s, with many cities’ festivals being held irregularly. Wellington’s Summer City began in the 1980s while Dunedin’s arts festival was held irregularly from 1963 to 1999, when it was redeveloped.

The 1990s saw a proliferation of regional arts festivals, including the Taranaki Arts Festival (established in 1991), the Nelson Arts Festival (1994) and the Christchurch Arts Festival (1995). Others were established in the 2000s, including the Auckland Arts Festival in 2003 (a new incarnation of the earlier festivals), the Southside Arts Festival (previously the Manukau Festival of the Arts) in 2008 and the Festival of Colour in the Southern Lakes area (2003).

New Zealand Festival

The first New Zealand International Festival of the Arts was held in Wellington in 1986, inspired by Adelaide’s festival. Despite initial financial difficulties, the successful staging of Wagner's opera Die meistersinger in 1990 cemented the festival’s international reputation. This made booking international performers such as the Frankfurt Ballet and the Royal Shakespeare Company easier. The festival has continued to be held biennially, and in 2012, 275,000 people attended its events. Known as the New Zealand Festival from 2014, it was the biggest arts event in New Zealand.

Other performing arts festivals

Other performing arts festivals include the World Buskers Festival, which began in Christchurch in 1994. The New Zealand Fringe Festival, originally part of the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, has a nationwide programme. The New Zealand Comedy Festival began in 1994 in Auckland and Wellington.

There are two main dance festivals. Christchurch’s Body Festival began in 2002 and includes both competition and performance; Auckland’s Tempo festival began in 2003.

Footnotes:
  1. Christchurch Pan Pacific Arts Festival souvenir programme. Christchurch: Christchurch Pan Pacific Arts Festival, 1965, p. 7. Back
How to cite this page:

Marguerite Hill, 'Arts festivals - Arts festivals take off, 1960s onwards', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/arts-festivals/page-4 (accessed 22 May 2019)

Story by Marguerite Hill, published 22 Oct 2014, updated 5 Aug 2016