The Fringe Festival team celebrate launching the 2020 programme, from left: Scott Sumby, Laura Irish, JR Richardson, Roger Sanders, William Hannah, Deborah Brooks, Lisa Allan. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Nelson Fringe Festival takes flight


The Nelson Fringe Festival will next month become one of the first events of its kind to take place in New Zealand, post Covid lockdown.

Running from August 14-22, the festival has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past several months.

Covid-19 put the brakes on its previous dates in May, but luckily most local artists were still keen to come.

Festival director Laura Irish says the event will have an awesome impact on Nelson’s CBD and be a draw-card for people come out and enjoy some affordable entertainment – even during winter.

“Obviously, we are really sad that it means our international shows won’t be able to attend but to have such enthusiasm for Kiwi artists is really special,” she says.

The festival programme was launched on Sunday and there are now more than 30 shows and six workshops from August 14-22.

Highlights include a thoughtful journey through the whole of Joni Mitchell’s BLUE album, ‘The Saboteur’ by Australian performer Jim Fishwick which was winner of Outstanding Show at NZ Improv Festival last year and locals Roger and Bridget Sanders, who are debuting a new original work.

The shows will cover everything from gender stories, masculinity, war and dementia, as well as Wakefield School students telling the story of the 2019 Tasman fires through their eyes.

Along with heavier topics there is also music, improvised theatre, family-friendly theatre, puppetry and stand-up comedy.

“We stand strongly behind the message that ‘Art is for Everyone’ and we celebrate the bravery of the artists willing to share with us,” says Laura.

“We hope no matter your background or place in life, you feel welcome to join us for nine days of original theatre where we can laugh, cry, ask important questions about our world, learn more about each other and celebrate our differences.”

Despite its success the festival has continuously been turned down by Creative New Zealand for funding that would ensure its sustainability.

However, the tiny team of organisers has learned to evolve on a shoestring budget.

They are grateful for the support they do get from Nelson City Council, the Nelson Regional Development Agency, the Rātā Foundation and their first naming rights sponsor, Bay Landscape and Garden Centre, this year being able to piece together $45,000 in funding from various sources.

Laura says the festival is also running its ‘Adopt-a-Show’ scheme where local businesses can take a show under its wing and help promote it in return for show tickets, lots of love and “huge amounts of street cred”.

She says the festival is also proud of its ‘pay what you can’ ticket structure meaning people can choose what they pay for each show.

The Nelson Fringe Festival runs from August 14-22 and its can be found at Tickets from $13 + fees @ Eventfinda or NCMA.