Those wanting to run away and join the circus, dance with nobody watching, unwind with a morning yoga class or learn to shimmy burlesque-style are all catered for at Whangarei's newest arts festival.

The Fe Fi Fo Festival runs until February 19 with daily events ranging from lunchtime readings of Dickens, free gigs by Northland bands and a "happy hikoi" bike tour around the city. There will also be drop-in dance classes, a pop-up Valentine's Day cinema, a circus skills workshop, beginners' burlesque and the return of No Lights No Lycra, a communal "dancing in the dark" event.

Organised by theatre collective Company of Giants, the festival is a way of getting people through the doors of a formerly disused church and youth centre in the centre of Whangarei, where the company has promised to run youth and arts-based activities.

The company has a peppercorn rental agreement with Whangarei District Council on the Bank St building after plans to sell it fell through.


"We all felt like Whangarei could do with a bit of an arts festival," said Company of Giants' Laurel Devenie.

"Usually arts festivals are really really hyper-funded. At the moment because we're operating with zero money we're having to pretty much call on every favour all of us have."

Twenty-five volunteers were helping to organise events, some of which would become regular events.

"It's a bit of a testing ground as well," Ms Devenie said. "We're trying to create a space with values of inclusion and diversity with that youth and arts focus ... I hope we get hundreds of people through the doors."

The full festival schedule is at All events at 116 Bank St, Whangarei.