Living in Central Otago is a feast for the eyes with its natural beauty and is a lifestyle choice for many; but the isolation from opportunities and exposure to professional-level theatre, music, dance and performance art can be a negative if you have a child whose natural flair bends that way but doesn’t have much opportunity to pursue their dreams. Students in the bigger cities have access to professional directors, musicians, lecturers, orchestras and coaches, as well as a regular choice of art shows, musical theatre and immersion days and mentoring.
The Festival of Colour takes this problem seriously and is working very hard to fully integrate their performance schedule with a schools programme—taking their performers into all schools in the district for intense master classes and learning opportunities.
Laura Williamson from the Festival of Colour said that every festival runs a tandem schools programme which brings speakers and workshops into school. The festival also hold tickets for specific shows for students.
“Our students, who are studying the arts, are limited by where they live,” she said. “As a festival opportunity is what we bring to Wanaka—both for an audience to enjoy but also for students to have experiences. It’s a really big opportunity and we always get great feedback.”
All ages are catered for, from pre-schoolers to Year 13.
“Every area we offer at the festival, we offer to the schools; theatre, music, dance, performing arts, circus, clowning, visual arts, photography, painting and sculpture,” Williamson said.
The Festival of Colour, which runs biennially in rotation with its sister event, Aspiring Conversations, aims to bring a high-level of exposure to students. Earlier this year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at Mt Aspiring College. Two festivals ago, they bought Seymour Hersch, a pulitzer-winning journalist who exposed the My Lei Massacre in Vietnam, and the torture at Abu Ghraib, to speak to students at MAC. In 2017 the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra did a multi-day residency at Hawea Flat School.
“We bring scientists to speak to science class, historians for history class, politicians, journalists, writers, storytellers and the whole array,” Williamson said.
“Last year, as a performance for younger students, we did a beautiful show based on the book by Mem Fox, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. A puppeteer, Peter Wilson, did a live puppetry performance of the book. The puppets were the size of children which was really spectacular.”
For those who want to know how their child can participate in the April festival, a schools’ co-ordinator is employed for the festival and will get in touch with every school in the region in the beginning of term 1.
The Festival’s full programme launches on February 11 which includes a launch of the schools programme. Any questions in the interim can go to the schools’ co-ordinator, Liz Breslin at firstname.lastname@example.org.