A thank you from Taranaki Arts Festival Director Megan Brown

July 10, 2022

SPEAKEASY Writers Fest Team

Kia ora koutou,

I’m Megan Brown, the Artistic Director for Taranaki Arts Festival.

What I love about the arts, whether reading a book, attending a play or an exhibition – is the response it creates. How it inspires us, what we can learn, and how we can act in response to what we see or hear, these experiences will impact us all.

Here at TAFT, you might be surprised to hear we’ve been incredibly busy – we’ve planned and unplanned, sold tickets, refunded tickets, booked artists, and cancelled shows.

And so understandably, presenting our first festival for the 2022 Speakeasy Writers Festival, a weekend celebrating our Writers from across Aotearoa, gives me great pleasure. Arts Festivals are all about bringing people together, building connections and sharing live experiences, and that has been a difficult thing to do in a pandemic.

I want to acknowledge the role that we all play in creating a vibrant and culturally rich community. Every single person who attends our festivals talks to their friends about the experience and follows our social media and digital platforms help with that.

We have a number of our Patrons that support us, and it’s their generosity that continues to support TAFT,  to have existed for three decades and continue with our ambitious plans for the future. Thank you.

Every time you purchase a ticket to a performance, it supports us – it enables us to keep doing what we’re doing.

As we emerge from a challenging few years, we believe arts and culture will play a vital role in invigorating social connections and community wellbeing.

We know a vibrant region is essential. We are fortunate to partner with BERL, whose economic impact assessment following each festival demonstrates the number of visitor nights generated, the new visitor spent in the region and the GDP generated.

The 2020 RESET festival injected a $0.7m new visitor spend and the RRCF in 2021 a $0.4m spend.

Both injections at crucial points over the past two years in between lockdowns – provided much-needed opportunities for our audiences to come into the CBD, attend shows, and spend in hospitality venues as part of their festival experience.

The arts contribute powerfully to individual and community wellbeing. They enrich our everyday lives and connect our communities.

This isn’t just words – it’s backed up by research both here undertaken by Creative NZ NZers and the Arts 2020 – found that as a country, we’re more optimistic than ever about the vital role the arts play in our lives, particularly navigating life in a pandemic

The research found that the arts help more of us explore and build our sense of identity and grow our connections with other NZers.

We are committed to creating a vibrant and flourishing region – the same research found that NZers agree it’s important where they live is recognised as a place that supports excellence in the arts. As we talk with Venture Taranaki and vital corporate partners, we know that TAFT’s events play a role in attracting a new workforce to the region, particularly from the main centres.

Looking overseas, such as a recent study from the University College of London, commissioned by the UK government, found that regular engagement in arts and culture was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, lower mental distress and better mental functioning. We firmly believe the arts matter.

When we know the arts bring so many benefits, we have a responsibility to increase access. Our popular school programme runs alongside every arts festival, including subsidised tickets and free buses for low-decile schools.

They are our audiences of the future. Our growing accessibility programme aims to reach members of our community who often miss out – and our free events are designed to broaden our reach. We want the festivals to feel like a part of Taranaki woven into our community.

So what exactly are we doing? We have ambitious plans. TAFT took a brave, bold move moving from our traditional biennial festival to four smaller festivals. COVID has disrupted our plans, yet we’re confident we will create greater impact and positive outcomes for our community and partners through this new format. We are planning now with great confidence.

In November, we bring back the long-awaited Crystal Palace Spiegeltent to Puke Ariki landing.   The Spiegel Fest lineup includes 16 different performances, squeezed into ten days of non-stop entertainment. The programme combines international and national performances with an ambitious community project and local shows. We announce a couple of performances in August, unveiling the entire lineup in September. It’s the end-of-year party that we all rightly deserve.

In 2023 we welcome back the popular Right Royal Cabaret Fest in June and our brand-new inspiring Festival in the Spring. Our final event of the four festivals is Winter Fest in 2024, including our Writer’s programme.

A huge thank you to everyone here for supporting TAFT to thrive. This is our opportunity to acknowledge the support and say thank you. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved and grateful for the critical role our patrons, sponsors and audiences play.

Part of TAFT’s success is thanks to the diversity in our funding sources – we knock on everyone’s doors. Creative NZ, Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, grants, gaming trusts, our local Foundation, and Corporate partners.

After a challenging few years and a spike in living costs and inflation, we remain committed. We genuinely believe in what we do.

Each donation, big or small, directly supports the arts festivals and our artists, enabling our community across the region to engage, connect, participate, and celebrate. We hope our Patrons, Sponsors and Supporters are collectively proud of what we achieved.

If you’d like more information on how you can join our Arts Festival family and get more involved in the arts, please speak to me, Suzanne Porter or CEO, or one of the team. We’re excited about the future of the arts festivals and look forward to connecting and sharing experiences with you.

We hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Ngā mihi

Megan Brown, Taranaki Arts Festival Director.



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