Hot on the heels of 100 Maori and Pacific artists visiting Guam for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, Salisbury - in the south of England - is the next destination for a contingent of New Zealand artists.

This year's 16-day Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival focuses on NZ and includes comedy, dance, kapa haka, theatre, literature, music and visual art. It ties in with a four-year plan by the festival to use the arts to explore the cardinal points of the compass.

Festival director Toby Smith said it was an opportunity to look more closely at NZ, describing it as "a distant land defined by Maori culture and its fusion with European and contemporary Pacific Island traditions".

The invitation followed the 2014 NZ season at the Edinburgh Festivals, when Creative New Zealand spent around $780,000 to take 200 visual and performing artists to the world's largest cultural event.


Those invited include the NZ String Quartet, the bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu and the violinist Benjamin Baker.

It was the first time such a large group from a single country was invited and Mr Smith saw our art works and performances there. He then visited NZ through CNZ's international visitors programme Te Manu Ka Tau.

The Ageas festival opened with a Whakatuwhera at the Salisbury Cathedral Close featuring UK-based kapa haka group Ngati Ranana. The programme, which continues for another 10 days, also includes a NZ film festival screening Whale Rider, An Angel at my Table, Boy, The Dark Horse, In My Father's Den, Abandoned, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, River Queen, Eagle vs Shark and The Piano.

CNZ senior manager for international Cath Cardiff says it shows the ongoing benefits for NZ and our artists from the original investment in the NZ at Edinburgh season. Ms Cardiff says such international exchanges can create on-going opportunities for artists and fuel the development of new work.

It means New Zealanders get to see a greater range of more varied work, both from local performers and international companies who may be inspired to visit.

"I really don't think we grasp the importance of these types of international engagement," she says. "The benefits are incalculable."

CNZ contributed $90,336 to flights and freight for some New Zealand-based artists to get to Salisbury while others received support through further funding programmes. CNZ will host a group of UK presenters at performances to continue to develop relationships and touring networks.

Ms Cardiff says following the NZ at Edinburgh season, several individuals and companies were booked to tour and perform around the world. They included dance company Java Dance, the band The Troubles and Little Dog Barking theatre company.

Royale Productions was perhaps the highest profile, developing its Generation of Z zombie-apocalypse interactive theatre show for a London season where 70,000 tickets were sold to 200 performances.