A huge vibrant festival of events spanning two weeks is debuting in Whangārei this month lighting up the streets and theatres and showcasing talent, both homegrown and from further afield.
A group of locals from the arts community have collaborated to bring Whangārei its first Fringe Festival and the exciting line-up has snow-balled from when Hayley Clark pitched the idea last year.
"After many sleepless nights and coffee-fuelled days, we were ecstatic to release our Fringe Programme. We have been, quite literally, overwhelmed by the number of amazing events and activities registered for the first official Fringe Festival inWhangārei, and can't wait to showcase them to the city."
A 26-page programme outlines the eclectic line-up of 88 creative events around the city including theatre, comedy, poetry, music, dance, circus, drag, visual and digital arts, workshops and creative activities. In addition, 'Hatea Me Hearties', a huge buskers' festival will take place around the Hatea Loop Walkway with activities, stalls and markets.
Hayley formed a discussion group late last year with various Whangārei art organisations to see if there was interest in staging a Fringe Festival. Once the event gained momentum this year thanks to support from Creative New Zealand (CNZ), along with further funding from the Whangārei District Council (WDC) community fund, the organising team of Hayley, Georgia May-Russ, Laurel Devenie, Oliver Scripps, Shannon Winn, Kaitlin Scott and Mary de Ruyter set to work.
The team were delighted with the funding saying it cultivates and supports the development of what they hope to be an annual event.
Says Georgia-May: "The CNZ support means that the festival is actually possible and is an acknowledgement of the amount of work and preparation that goes into this - the administration and management, design work, liaising with artists and venues, promotion costs, ticketing and box office fees, volunteer coordination and more. It is a huge job and we are really stoked to have some excellent support and people on board."
Adds Laurel: "The funding really indicates that Creative New Zealand recognises that Whangārei needs a Fringe Festival and that we can do it. We all feel like Whangarei is really ready for it and a fringe model is ideal. The idea is that we're creating a framework which a huge spectrum of work can fit inside.
"This is a festival that everyone can be part of. We want to celebrate local artists and run through the streets of Whangārei yelling this is 'our city and we love it'. We want to fill the nooks and crannies, the empty shops and dusty corners. We wanted to paint the town.
"A fringe festival creates a really exciting energy in a city and also provides a place for artists from all over the country to try out their new work to an audience."
So, the team invited people from near and far to bring their work, ideas and voices to create two weeks of fun-filled entertainment in Whangārei and Laurel says the artistic contribution to the festival is 'immense and astounding'.
With at least half of the events free or for koha, the festival is accessible, and the range of events caters for both kids and adults. Free events include 'The Big Draw', which involves an entire gallery wrapped in paper with a wide selection of media to use, and the 'Mud Pie Kitchen Extravaganza' for kids of all ages to get messy and muddy. In 'Free Art Friday', local artists create small, quirky artworks to hide in plain sight; the public can follow clues posted on the Facebook page to discover and keep the works.
Alternatively, 'Outer Nooks & Crannies' is an interactive geocache-style project in which Fringe audiences anonymously contribute words, small objects, drawings and media in containers hidden in nooks and crannies within 10km of the Town Basin.
There'll be a 'Big Sing Drop-in Choir' and a singing meditation workshop, along with 'Little Ripples' – a local family-folk duo who have been writing music for children alongside raising them.
At the 'Made In…' fashion show, local designers, students hairdressers and make-up artists present a mini-collection with an anti-fast-fashion theme. A range of stand-up comics will perform at a pop-up comedy venue, including 'Bald Man Sings Rihanna' – an Edinburgh fringe phenomenom as seen at some of the biggest comedy clubs in the world, along with a night of open mic offerings.
Back by popular demand is Smoke 'N' Mirrors 2, another instalment of Whangārei's finest mix of live performance and electronic sound. The line-up includes Mermaid Bait in Dub, DJ Jazzy B and DJs partying all night long at the Butter Factory.
Fringe festivals are a world-wide framework that began in Edinburgh in 1947 becoming popular all over the world. They provide spaces for artists to develop their work and also add to the vibrancy of a city and its local economy. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest in the world, sees the population of the city triple over the month of the festival with people coming from all over the world to participate and see the vast array of work.
Whangārei's fringe framework will be similar to the successful models in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin and the Auckland and Dunedin festivals have been supporting and mentoring the Whangārei team. The plan is that Whangarei will eventually become a strong part of the New Zealand fringe circuit.
"From a management perspective, we've already learnt so much so the next one will be a smoother process," says Laurel, adding that they have a growing amount of 40 volunteers who are essential to the festival's existence.
There are plenty more events to discover and further details can be found on the programme.
Says Laurel: "We encourage you to keep the programme with you at all times - write on it, plan on it, go see three shows in a night, gallery hop and see more shows."
The Whangārei Fringe Festival team believe that this is just the beginning: "Not many people here know what a Fringe Festival is but the response has been positive. We think, once they see what this one is all about, Whangārei is going to embrace it and it's only going to get bigger and better each year!"