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Festivals in New Zealand

There are Festivals of all sorts and for all tastes to discover on our Festivals page, from Music Festivals to Dance or Drama, Food and Drink Festivals and Country Fairs. With Festivals taking place throughout the year there will always be something to look forward to. Dates may vary each year.

Auckland Arts Festival

The Auckland Festival is a biennial arts and cultural festival held in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. The Festival features works from New Zealand, the Pacific, Asia and beyond, including world premieres of new works and international performing arts events.

The festival celebrates the distinct and unique characteristics of Auckland and its particular Pacific style. Its main objectives are to engage Aucklanders in the arts, to support New Zealand art and artists, and to reflect what is unique about Auckland.

It features more than 100 events including dance, music, cabaret, burlesque, theatre, ballet, visual arts, film and public forums, occupying most of Auckland’s theatres, galleries and concert halls.

In 2007, a dedicated music and cabaret environment (‘Red Square’) was created, which serves as a hub where artists and public gather during the festival, day and night.

The Festival is run by an independent not for profit trust, the Auckland Festival Trust.

Official Auckland Arts Festival website

Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand. It is a public holiday held each year on 6th February to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, on that date in 1840. Annual commemorations of the treaty signing began in 1947. The 1947 ceremony was brief and featured no M?ori.

The following year, a M?ori speaker was added to the line-up and subsequent additions to the ceremony were made nearly every year. From 1952, the Governor General attended and from 1958 the Prime Minister also attended, although not every year.

Celebrations at Waitangi often commence the previous day, 5th February, at the Ngapuhi Te Tii marae, where political dignitaries are welcomed onto the marae and hear speeches from the local iwi. These speeches often deal with the issues of the day, and vigorous and robust debate occurs.

At dawn on Waitangi Day, the Royal New Zealand Navy raises the New Zealand Flag, Union Flag and White Ensign on the flagstaff in the treaty grounds. The ceremonies during the day generally include a church service and cultural displays such as dance and song. Several waka and a navy ship also re-enact the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the treaty. The day closes with the flags being lowered by the Navy in a traditional ceremony.

In recent years, communities throughout New Zealand have been celebrating Waitangi Day in a variety of ways. These often take the form of public concerts and festivals. Some marae use the day as an open day and an educational experience for their local communities, giving them the opportunity to experience M?ori culture and protocol.

New Zealand International Comedy Festival

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival (NZ International Comedy Festival) is held annually in Auckland and Wellington with a travelling convoy visiting other parts of New Zealand. It is run by the NZ Comedy Trust.

The opening of the festival is the televised Gala, a showcase of performances by the top local and international comedians appearing in the festival. Until 2008 it was held at the St. James Theatre and in 2008 it was moved to the Auckland Civic Theatre. Past hosts of the gala have included: Jeff Green, Ardal O’Hanlon, Jimeoin, Greg Proops and Bill Bailey.

Alongside the large number of local and international shows, there are a number of events held annually such as the Class Comedians programme. This in an initiative set up to train talented high school students in the art of stand-up comedy and ends with a showcase at the Auckland Town Hall.

The RAW rookie competition is also held every year, with the national finals at the Classic Comedy Club in Auckland.

To conclude the festival is the ‘Last Laugh Awards’ showcase. It is the last chance for the nominees for the ‘Billy T Award’ and ‘Fred Award’ to perform before the winners are announced at the end of the show. Other festival prizes awarded at Last Laugh include: Best International Comedian, Best Local Show, Best Newcomer, Best Marketing and Spirit of the Festival.

Official New Zealand International Comedy Festival website

The Wairoa Maori Film Festival

The Wairoa Maori Film Festival is New Zealand’s premier Maori and indigenous film festival. It is held annually in the small coastal town of Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, during the Matariki celebration period.

The festival first occurred in 2005, with further festivals in 2006, 2008 and 2009. The festival is now an annual event. In 2008, the festival travelled to other centres in New Zealand, including Auckland and Wellington and now travels each year.

The Wairoa Maori Film Festival is held at the local historic Taihoa Marae and is supported by the New Zealand Film Commission and the New Zealand Film Archive.

Each year the festival presents a range of awards for best Maori and indigenous films. Short films are judged by the attending audience, with other awards decided by a panel of guest judges.

Official Wairoa Maori Film Festival website

Queenstown Winter Festival

Queenstown Winter Festival began back in 1975, when a bunch of locals decided that the start of winter was a great excuse to have a party. They organised races on the mountain and in town, refreshments for children and adults, a concert or two and a town-wide ball, all of which made the Festival a great success.

News spread quickly and the next year people came from further afield to join the festivities.

Since then the Festival has evolved into New Zealand’s biggest winter party and some would even say the biggest winter party in the Southern Hemisphere! It’s a 10 day celebration of Queenstown’s unique culture and community with street parties, fireworks, international and local acts, jazz, comedy, a Mardi Gras, family fun, Masquerade Ball, an Invitational Slopestyle event and plenty of Mountain Mayhem.

Official Queenstown Winter Festival website

The New Zealand International Science Festival

The New Zealand International Science Festival is a science festival which takes place for six days and involves participation of international keynote speakers.

NZISF-staff produce events, external event organisers and a range of local and national sponsors and funders. Up to 40 individual volunteers help run 200 festival events and thousands of visitors from all over New Zealand participate in festival events.

The festivals attract a significant amount of high-profile local, regional and national media coverage, in print, radio and TV.

The festival was first held in 1998 and its aim is to celebrate, promote and raise awareness of science, technology and the environment.

The festival encourages people and organisations (educational, research, business and community) to participate in the promotion of their work in science and its applications and contributions to society.

They also aim to highlight the excellence of achievements in these fields by Dunedin, Otago and New Zealand scientists.

Official New Zealand International Science Festival website

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