The Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent has arrived on the Village Green in Havelock North as we count down the days to the opening of the second Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival.

The 16-day festival beginning on Tuesday promises something for everyone, with 55 events ranging from theatre, dance, music, cabaret, comedy, literature and much more.

The programme was hand picked by festival director Pitsch Leiser whose vision, drive and passion for the arts made last year's inaugural festival such a huge success.

"Last year's festival was a big surprise in that it brought to the Bay a beautiful package of delightful shows, with work from all over New Zealand and our own local people in an intimate space like the spiegletent," Mr Leiser said.


"Both performers and audience discovered the delights and magic of the tent. People went to shows they might not normally have chosen and were richly rewarded with the quality, environment and care and attention that went into making the event such a success.

"I thought there was a desire for this type of festival and we had ample and generous support from Bay businesses. I just hoped that people would support it. It just proves to me that if we bring good things here Hawke's Bay people will support the arts."

Mr Leiser said the first event was run on a "hunch and going out on a limb".

"This time round you know what you didn't know and build on that legacy. My challenge is to top last year's success."

With some shows already sold out it looks like Mr Leiser is well on track to meet his challenge.

He says a number of people missed out last year so that's why they decided to include venues other than the Spiegeltent.

There will be performances at Iona College music theatre, Napier Municipal Theatre, Century Theatre, plus some art galleries. However, the heart of the festival will be at the Village Green and this year there will be a festival garden where you can meet friends for a bite to eat and a drink, or just sit and relax before and after shows.

"We have also gone deeper in terms of the offerings with theatrical experiences from people like Guy Masterson in Shylock to River Seeds Collective in Edge of a Raindrop. which is very topical at the moment. There's theatre pieces, great dance, cutting edge alternative dance ... it's all very exciting," Mr Leiser said.

Asked to pick his top three must see shows he thought long and hard. "First would have to be Daffodils." Others must agree because this show is already sold out. "Next would be White Guitar, the story of a grandmother's dream for a better life for her grandchildren. Third would be a fun night out at the Songs For the Fallen."

He also highly recommends Guji Guji for children.

"It's a beautifully crafted high quality work for children not often seen in theatre."

Mr Leiser says the reason he does what he does is that the arts festival allows us to offer a mixture of experiences in a safe set of entertainment venues.

"We want you to push your boundaries, broaden your palette in the arts, try something different - you will most likely be rewarded.

"I have been careful with my selections for the festival. We have chosen quality acts and of course its an opportunity for local acts to shine.

"We had people approaching us wanting to be part of it. There's been lots of interest.

"The festival will be an annual event for the foreseeable future and time will tell. But I believe that if Nelson can have an annual arts festival than so can Hawke's Bay. We have the population and the diversity."

- Tickets are selling fast so if there is something you want to see book now.