Winter is coming, but so is a hot line-up of words, circus and cabaret.
The Right Royal Cabaret Fest is set to turn up the heat as it returns to Taranaki after last year's Covid-19 related cancellation, and it's not the only hot ticket in town that week.
This year's event will be a collaboration between the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust's (TAFT) Right Royal Cabaret Fest and Puke Ariki's Festival of Words, resulting in a smorgasbord of nearly 40 events spread across four days and nights between July 29 and August 1.
Right Royal Cabaret Fest naming partners Tandem Group Chartered Accountants are excited about the upcoming festival, says company director Dion Herlihy.
"We are delighted to be a part of the Right Royal Cabaret Fest and to support the very hardworking people who deliver these events. These events are reigniting the vibrancy of our community after a year or so of lockdowns, postponements and cancellations."
New Zealand's leading cabaret artists, comedians, authors and acclaimed guest speakers will perform at a varied range of venues, including TSB Showplace, NPDC's Puke Ariki Museum and Library, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Ōākura Regional Hall, Kakaramea Hall, Poppies Book Store and the Inglewood, Waitara and Ōākura Community libraries.
Puke Ariki Libraries manager Dyane Hosler says she is thrilled to coordinate Festival of Words with TAFT's Right Royal Cabaret Fest over the same four-day period.
"Festival of Words and Right Royal Cabaret Fest is a great opportunity for us to jointly deliver programmes that recognise Taranaki's role in the proliferation of literature, arts and cultural events within Aotearoa."
She says audiences will be exposed to some great talent over the festival.
"We are delighted with the calibre of authors, poets and illustrators we've been able to attract to the festival."
The Festival of Words starts with a special evening with award-winning writer Witi Ihimaera on Thursday, July 29 at Puke Ariki Museum.
Ihimaera's writing career started nearly 50 years ago when the first collection of short stories by a Māori writer was published, leading to a bibliography of more than 40 titles, including The Whale Rider and his two-volume biography Māori Boy and Native Son. He will be joined at Puke Ariki by sound artist Kingsley Spargo for an evening of melodies and spoken word.
TAFT chief executive Suzanne Porter says she is looking forward to bringing the festival back to the region this year.
"TAFT has survived and thrived here in the region for 30 years. The creative foresight of founders Roger King and Grant Kerr helped instil a healthy cultural appetite for our people. We are certainly looking forward to showing everyone that arts do thrive here in Taranaki, even more than ever while celebrating our history, the festival and the calibre of New Zealand artists."
While international border closures have made a notable impact on being able to bring artists in for the festival, there will still be an international flavour to this year's event, she says.
Modern-day chanteuse Mandy Meadows returns to New Zealand with her Piaf: The Legend, which was a sell-out success in 2018 in venues including the Royal Albert Hall and the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh.
Piaf: The Legend is a stunning cabaret show featuring Edith Piaf's iconic torch ballads about love, loss and sorrow. Described as being a celebration and reflection on Piaf's extraordinary view on love, tragedy, and joie de vivre, the show is expected to fill the theatre on the opening night of the festival.
Fans of comedy won't be disappointed either, as this year's line-up includes award-winning comedian Chris Parker. He is bringing his quirky comedy and infamous DAISO Japan felting kit to town for How I Felt, a show that is possibly New Zealand's, and quite likely the world's, very first live comedy felting show.
The show was well received at the NZ Comedy Festival and is set to leave the Taranaki audience in stitches.
Another familiar face on the comedy circuit is "Snapchat guy", comedian, impersonator, and author Tom Sainsbury who will be at Puke Ariki Museum on the Saturday to chat about his new book. New Zealanders: The Field Guide is a compilation of Sainsbury's favourite Kiwi archetypes, which he believes all habitual people-watchers will know and recognise.
The biggest show of the festival's programmes is Haus of YOLO, by The Dust Palace, which is premiering for the first time at an arts festival.
This exhilarating, visually stunning cabaret circus experiment, featuring splashes of fashion and a great party soundtrack, is a stage spectacular not to miss, says Suzanne.
"HAUS of Yolo is our WOW factor show. The team saw this at this SPLORE festival in March, and it was unanimous. We all knew it would be a great fit for the cabaret fest."
Taranaki tamariki won't miss out on the excitement of this year's festival, with performances taken out to schools as part of the Schools Programme, she says.
"We've always believed we have a responsibility to give as many school children as we can access to performing arts.
"Exposure to arts and culture has many positive effects on the community's wellbeing and the future of our next generation, and over the last 30 years, our Schools Programme has given thousands of school children the opportunity to experience the arts who may not otherwise be able to."
This year ticket purchases are encouraged to "Pay it forward, keep arts thriving", an initiative that's been popular globally across arts organisations. Suzanne says TAFT encourages everyone to make a $5 ticket donation at the end of their checkout on the website.