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Nelson Arts Festival 2023

19 – 29 October 2023
From inflatable sculptures to doppelgängers, Irish Music legends to literary heroes, community celebrations to new discoveries, poetry coming alive on stage to dancers roaming our streets, join us for 11 days of incredible artists and events.
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Circus comedy trio Laser Kiwi will bring their off-the-wall humour and impressive stunts in the Rise of the Olive to the Nelson Arts Festival.

The Nelson Arts Festival returns at full throttle next month with a lineup that will bring the city’s theatres, stages, galleries and streets alive.

The festival will run from October 19-29 with more than 200 artists and 53 events, including the welcome return of the Mask Carnivale for the first time since 2019 because of Covid restrictions.

The programme was officially launched at the Suter Art Gallery on Thursday night.

Among the highlights are the packed literary Pukapuka Talks programme, featuring 29 authors including New Zealand literary legend Witi Ihimaera, 50 years after the publication ol Tangi, the first novel written by a Māori author to be published in New Zealand.

Writer and broadcaster Dr Emma Espiner, psychologist Alia Bojilova who has just published The Resilience Toolkit and other wordsmiths such as Guyon Espiner, Ruby Solly, Caroline Barron, Anne Tiernan and Mounty Soutar will be taking part.

PETER MEECHAM Tusiata Avia’s The Savage Coloniser Show, based on her poetry collection, will be performed at the Nelson Arts Festival.

The theatre programme features award-winning poet Tusiata Avia’s acclaimed The Savage Coloniser Show. Based on a collection of her poetry – and following her internationally successful Wild Dogs Under My Skirt – the show was a sell-out hit at Auckland and Wanaka arts festivals. It has been described as both confronting and joyous as it examines race and racism.

There will also be a topical world premiere of Motueka-based Donna McLeod’s work Tense, inspired by the historic Nelson Tenths land claim currently back before the High Court and combining Māori theatre with pūrākau, taonga puoro, waiata and poetry.

Bailee Lobb’s giant textile bubbles will be at the Refinery ArtSpace during the Nelson Art Festival with visitors able to climb inside.

Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, circus comedy trio Laser Kiwi will bring their off-the-wall Rise of the Olive show to the Theatre Royal, while choreographer Sarah Foster Sproull’s Double Goer has been described as a startling and ingenious piece of dance on the nature of doppelgängers. Choreographer Malia Johnston directs a show that will lead performers, and spectators, on a contemporary dance through Nelson streets .

The gateway to the visual arts programme is Elisabeith Pointon’s 7-metre inflatable monolith at Nelson Airport. At the Refinery ArtSpace, visitors can climb inside artist Bailee Lobb’s giant textile bubbles, while in her installation How Do You Sleep at Night? at the back of the gallery the artist will attempt to sleep aided by sensory items.

The Mask Carnivale makes a welcome return to central Nelson on October 27.

The contemporary music programme includes such diverse acts as Irish music group Gráda, playing at Neudorf Vineyard, Persian-New Zealand rapper Chaii, Wellington-based “must-see live band” KITA, indie darling Jazmine Mary and South African born hip hop artist Jujulipps. Classical music will also feature with the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the NZTrio and friends chamber group.

Jazmine Mary will be among those performing at the Deville music hub during the Nelson Arts Festival.

The return of the Mask Carnivale will take place on Friday, October 27, with a theme of rewilding/regenerating.

Festival executive and artistic director Lydia Zanetti said organisers were proud of the programme that featured “some of the most exceptional arts experiences one could have locally, nationally and internationally.

“Especially curated for this place and this moment, this programme is unique and spectacular and intimate, and we can’t wait to share it with our community.”

Zanetti said organisers aimed to build on a “fantastic response” to the festival last year, despite the remnants of Covid complications.

The success of its groundbreaking Pay What You Can scheme, which will be repeated this year, was shown by a rise in the numbers of people who went to festival events for the first time.

“We know how hard it is out there in the community with rising costs, and I think the arts is such an important opportunity for people to come together in shared experiences and connect that we want as many people as possible to enjoy it,” Zanetti said.

For the full programme see

Credit: Nelson Mail,

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