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Print Version
Convened by the Theatre Arts Charitable Trust (TACT)
Facilitated by Peter Biggs

at Circa One, Wellington
8 Jun 2013

Reviewed by Hannah Smith, 11 Jun 2013

Art and wine go together, it is known. Their relationship has a long and noble history going back to Ancient Greece, and last weekend the Wellington arts industry was offered a new take on potential parallels between the two.

‘The lessons the regions arts industry can learn from the wine industry' was the subject of a forum, convened by the Theatre Arts Charitable Trust, and held at Circa theatre Saturday 8th June.  This was attended by policy makers and invited members of the arts community.

Philip Gregan, CEO of the New Zealand Winegrowers Association, was the chief speaker at the event, explaining how the New Zealand Winegrowers Association adopted a flexible model of collaboration and competition in the 1980s in order to increase profitability for the entire wine-producing sector. 

The day was ably facilitated by Peter Biggs, former Chair of Creative New Zealand and CEO of Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, and other speakers included MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson, Hon Chris Finlayson, Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage, and the Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown. 

The speakers expressed general acclaim for the quality of the Wellington arts scene and varying degrees of concern for its future. Linda Clark, lawyer and one time political reporter, had some of the more challenging insights, stating that from the outside it appears the Wellington arts industry wants some external party to come to its rescue. Clark urged the room to “Think like an industry,” making the economic and employment value that Wellington's arts scene gives to the city visible.

In the afternoon the floor was given over to an open discussion of the points raised by speeches of the morning. Lengthy debate regarding a ‘manifesto' for the Wellington arts scene, and the potential practical applications of the day's discussion was had.

Change is in the wind in the Wellington arts industry these days, it would seem. While the parallels between the arts and wine sectors as moneymaking enterprises have obvious limitations, the Circa hui was a commendable initiative. Like similar initiatives around the city in recent months (the recently formed Big Live Arts Group springs to mind), it has presumably arisen from a sense of uncertainty about the future of the arts in this city given the shifting structures around an ever-shrinking pool of available funding, and the tough economic climate. 

How to develop new markets?  How to grow, or just maintain a necessary level of income? The wind is chilly, the future looks bleak. By the end of the day there is a sense of apathy about moving forward. Material is hashed and re-hashed, and no one volunteers to step up and rescue the Wellington region arts sector with an inspirational suggestion of how to turn this conversation into action. Perhaps this was due to the broad structure and loose scope of the initial gathering, and more focussed meetings in the future will be more productive.

A further meeting is mooted for in a few months' time, and hopefully this one will be attended by a diverse range of Wellington creatives which may see this discussion reach toward a more affirmative course of action.
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