Thousands of people have expressed their sadness following the news that the annual Stage Challenge has been cancelled due to economic conditions, with one setting up a petition to try to save it.

Organisers of the Stage Challenge and J Rock events said the charity's income this year would not cover the costs of running shows nationwide.

Members of the public have been reminiscing on social media about old performances they took part in while others are calling for action to be taken.

A petition was formed hours after the Herald broke the news of the foundation cancelling the shows.

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Titled "Keep Stage Challenge in NZ" it will be delivered to New Zealand's Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins.

The petition calls for Hipkins and the Ministry of Education to step in and save the foundation so that Stage Challenge can run for its 26th year.

The cast from Whanganui Girls' College perform for Stage Challenge. Photo / Stuart Munro
The cast from Whanganui Girls' College perform for Stage Challenge. Photo / Stuart Munro

Petition creator Alison Wright is the head of department at Hawera High School in the Taranaki and has been overseeing the schools Stage Challenge since 2010.

She said she only found out about the events cancellation after the Herald article broke.

"We are just gutted to find out about it - so many students get involved.

"It's one of our only big performing arts events, we only do it every second year when they come to our region," she said.

Wright was disappointed for all the kids that were going to miss out on participating in the event.

At 5.30pm today the petition had 260 signatures.

However, Hipkins said in a statement to the Herald that he understood corporate sponsorship and funding from other sources was the main reason behind the decision.

"When the organisers informed the Ministry of Education of its intention to end its contract, it did so in the full knowledge that ministry funding of $267,000 a year was still available for another 22 months – up till 30 November 2019.

"Ministry of Education funding is still available should the event organisers find a viable way forward or should someone else decide to set up a similar event," he said.

Dr Emma Willis, a senior lecturer in Drama at the University of Auckland, was aware of the Stage Challenge and it was a shame to lose it.

"It's a shame when any opportunity for students to develop creativity, self-expression and collaborative skills is lost.

"Because of the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, the arts are having to work harder to assert their value," she said.

Hipkins - who participated in the event in the 1990s - said he would like to see other events like Stage Challenge and J Rock continue.

"It's sad when iconic events such as these stop running.

"We all learnt a lot from the experience and I'd love to see events like this continue."