Festival proves a hit for escapists

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Nicky Pelligrino - Under Italian Skies at Baycourt. Photo/George Novak
Nicky Pelligrino - Under Italian Skies at Baycourt. Photo/George Novak

Escape! Festival attracted keen "escapees" from all across the North Island over the weekend.

The three-day festival drew more than 1000 attendees, with the free events attracting another 600 people to Tauranga CBD over the weekend, said Escape! Festival director Claire Mabey.

The bi-annual festival had something for everybody with discussions about current affairs, food, travel, reviewing and an insight into New Zealand writers.

Ms Mabey said for this year's event more than 300 additional tickets were sold than for the 2014 event.

The festival was a mix of ticketed and free events, she said.

The 2016 programme of 18 ticketed events attracted people from Wellington, Rotorua, and wider Bay of Plenty region, specifically to hear from speakers, she said.

"It was great to see such a broad audience, the ages, backgrounds and interests.

It made for a new amazing community of people who wanted to learn and be inspired over the weekend.

"Everybody I talked to was buzzing and stimulated by what they had listened to. People were also hanging around and heading to other talks after going to their first one.

"I think festival-goers were getting addicted to all the amazing people we had to speak to them. The feedback has been really brilliant."

Ms Mabey said the most popular event was by historian, anthropologist, environmentalist and leader Dame Anne Salmond.

"She was absolutely amazing to listen to and people really packed out the space to hear her speak. The other really popular event, by one ticket, was the single man show No Holds Bard by Michael Hurst."

Ms Mabey and Sandra Simpson pulled together the host of speakers, who were carefully chosen. There was something for everybody, she said.

"I think it's really clear that people want to learn more about things that matter to them. The sessions that were really popular were often discussions around topical subject matter.

"Things like the media, the state of New Zealand at the moment. The other really popular session was Steve Braunias and Judge Paul Mabey talking about the justice system and insight to what it is like to be inside a court room.

One of the more quirky event's was the Human Library where people "read" eight different human books.

"People could have a one-on-one or group conversation with a person with a really interesting life story."

Ms Mabey said she was already looking forward to planning the 2018 festival.

"Bringing in fresh stories and ideas. People are always wanting more and more stimulating live discussions to be a part of."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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