This year's Upsurge Bay of Islands Arts Festival promises something for everyone with acts ranging from a low-fi puppet named Bruce made from a block of foam rubber to writers' panels, an up-and-coming alt-folk musician and a world premiere by the New Zealand Dance Company.

Upsurge will run from April 2-7 with 27 events at venues spread across the Bay of Islands — including one on board a tall ship on the Bay itself — and as far away as Rawene.

The biennial festival, now in its third edition, is a revitalised version of the Bay of Islands Arts Festival, which was staged in Kerikeri until it ran out of funding in 2012.

The event was subsequently rebranded and external director Sophie Kelly, who ran the Nelson Arts Festival for 10 years, was brought in.

Advertisement
The NZ Dance Company will perform a double bill at Kerikeri's Turner Centre. Photo / John McDermott
The NZ Dance Company will perform a double bill at Kerikeri's Turner Centre. Photo / John McDermott

Kelly said changes to the 2019 festival included extending it to six days instead of five and the introduction of Upsurge Talks, a writers' programme featuring poets, journalists, doctors, a cook and a historian.

One talk would take place on the tall ship R Tucker Thompson, with historian Dame Anne Salmond retracing Captain Cook's route around the Bay 250 years ago; another, at Rawene's No 1 Parnell Gallery would feature Glenn Colquhoun, a poet and GP who used to live at Te Tii in the Bay of Islands, presenting a new work called Oral Poetry and Totems.

Other Upsurge Talks would include a panel discussion with Radio NZ's Guyon Espiner and NZ Herald writer Steve Braunias.

''I think that'll be a very entertaining rant,'' Kelly said.

The award-winning Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, theatre based on the poems of Tusiata Avia, is expected to be one of the festival highlights. Photo / supplied
The award-winning Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, theatre based on the poems of Tusiata Avia, is expected to be one of the festival highlights. Photo / supplied

One of the aims of the 2019 festival was to build audience engagement. As part of its brand-new piece The Fibonacci, for example, The NZ Dance Company would be recruiting local residents for a mixed choir to rehearse and perform with the dancers.

The festival was also offering more free events with roving street theatre in Kawakawa, Kaikohe and Paihia, and an interactive digital installation projected onto a globe suspended from a tree at Kerikeri's Kemp House.

Other highlights included the powerful Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, which is based on the poetry of Tusiata Avia and won awards for best play and best actor in the 2016 Wellington Theatre Awards; and alt-folk singer-songwriter Nadia Reid, who will perform in the old showgrounds hall at Waimate North, a venue which earned rave reviews in the 2017 festival.

Nadia Reid will perform at the atmospheric old showgrounds hall in Waimate North. Photo / Si Moore
Nadia Reid will perform at the atmospheric old showgrounds hall in Waimate North. Photo / Si Moore

As in previous years Upsurge was a collaboration with Wanaka's Festival of Colour, Kelly said. Sharing acts allowed the two festivals to split costs and attract overseas shows such as Bruce, which stars a low-fi puppet made form a block of foam rubber.

Advertisement

''Don't think of Bruce as a children's show. It's definitely for all ages,'' she said.

The full Upsurge 2019 programme can be viewed at upsurgefestival.co.nz.