Many local businesses have felt the financial strain after two months of lockdown and Hamilton's Meteor Theatre was one of the many organisations facing dark times (quite literally).

Annual compliance and operational costs needed to be covered, despite two months of closure and an annual events programme hit hard by cancellations.

No strangers to fundraising, The Meteor team hit the ground running, opening the theatre for events as soon as they were able and launching Reignite: The Meteor fundraising campaign.

Beginning on June 6, when the theatre reopened its doors to the public, the Reignite initiative aimed to not only fundraise for the theatre but to help reinvigorate the city's arts sector and get Hamiltonians going to events again.

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"When we reopened to the public it was a strange experience," says theatre manager Deborah Nudds, "on the one hand we were working hard to book and promote events but on the other, we didn't know if we'd still have audiences willing to come out and sit in a dark room with strangers."

The community responded to the theatre's call for donations and The Meteor went on to reach 108 per cent of the target. Photo / Supplied
The community responded to the theatre's call for donations and The Meteor went on to reach 108 per cent of the target. Photo / Supplied

It turned out that The Meteor community was indeed ready and waiting to help the theatre reignite. Attendance numbers for public events have been promising, with several sell-out shows over June and July.

"So many of our audience tell us how lucky they feel to be able to come and see a live show, of how great it feels to get out and be in a big audience. And we are all very aware of how unique that is in the world right now."

When the Reignite: The Meteor campaign launched on crowdfunding platform Boosted the public response was overwhelming.

The Boosted campaign began on June 17 with the goal to raise $12,000 in 40 days to help the theatre survive in a post-Covid world, keeping their lights on and their doors open.

The community responded to the theatre's call for donations and The Meteor went on to reach 108 per cent of the target, raising a total of $13,070 for the theatre.

"We are so grateful to the 131 people who donated to our Boosted campaign," says Nudds "we call them our 'Arts Heroes' because their belief and support champions our creative community space."

Recently The Meteor was given funding from Hamilton City Council's Community Response Fund, along with Clarence Street Theatre and Riverlea Theatre.

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The grant was given for operational costs, and an acknowledgement of how non-profit arts organisations such as The Meteor impact on people's wellbeing by supporting their cultural and social needs.

"HCC gave a combined total of $85,000 to support the independent theatres in Hamilton and we're so grateful to have received $20,000 of that total," says Nudds.

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"The HCC's support of The Meteor fuels a vibrant, diverse and busy creative space, a place for our audience to gather and connect as a community. We celebrate their vision in this year of uncertainty"

The Meteor also received a Creative New Zealand Arts Continuity Grant, which funded the filming and live-streaming of local shows Sorry For Your Loss, Ihirangaranga (vibrations) and Hood Street: The Musical as part of Reignite.

Looking ahead, The Meteor is, as always, focusing its energy into being "a space for the community to share creative experiences". And the future is indeed looking a bit brighter with a healthy line-up of events until the end of the year.

Full details on upcoming creative experiences can be found at http://themeteor.co.nz/

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