The site has been blessed, the Spiegeltent is on its way up and excitement is in the air as we count down the days to the opening of this year's Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival.

Festival director Pitsch Leiser everything was going to plan and he was excited and confident that the festival, opening on Monday, would be a huge success.

"I'm really happy with where we are just a few days out from opening," Leiser said.

"The setting at the village green, which is the hub of the festival, is wonderful. We have an awesome team who have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly."


He says this year they have invested time and money into ensuring more schoolchildren have access to shows.

"Thanks to our major sponsors, Furnware and Harcourts, we will get between 4500 to 5000 kids from CHB to Wairoa to shows and workshops. It's a deliberate move to create audiences for the future and is a great example of a partnership between businesses and the community.

"The sponsorship removes the barrier for families without the means of getting their children there.

"I'm passionate about getting children to shows. I speak from my own experience seeing my first live show. I was 7-years-old and went to a puppet theatre show. It really brought to life for me how magic the performing arts are.

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"I think young people in today's environment are exposed to fast changes and are influenced by technology and digital devices that dominate their lives.

"If we can assist to add analogue, support theatre and encourage children to see real people on a stage and not through a screen, that's pretty special. As time moves on, that is going to become more and more important."

The festival also includes a free show, Pango/Black, which will be on stage at the Napier Municipal Theatre.

"We have done a lot of work to ensure we broaden access to the community. This is a top-class show. You do have to go online and book a seat but there is no cost involved."

The festival includes a wide range of shows and partnerships.

"The Waiohiki Creative Arts community is throwing open its doors inviting the public to spend time with this thriving hub of artists. We have strong Pacifica, Maori and women's stories along with comedy, music, cabaret, theatre — something for everyone."

Asked to pick his top two shows, Leiser took some time to answer.

"It hard but I have to say Jane Doe, who talks about the rape culture in communities. The show is basically a trial, with interaction from the audience.

"Every parent with a teenager should take them along to this show. It's more relevant now than ever. It's about consent, no means maybe and unconscious means yes. It's beautifully produced, it's cheeky, cheesy, funny and at the same time harrowing.

"The other show has to be Freedom is Behind My Breath, the story of a family from right here in our community — it's a universal story of how families cope. One of the actors is just 11 years old. This show is out of the ordinary, it's not sensational, it's human and relevant to our place.

"The reason I chose these two is that they touched me. All the shows are beautifully crafted. By A Thread is a fantastic family show that is beautiful to watch, with people flying through the air — it's amazing."

Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival
October 15-28
Village green, Havelock North, plus venues throughout Hawke's Bay
For more information and to buy tickets