The Mask Parade was one of the events cut from this year’s Arts Festival. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Arts Festival shakeup on cards


The trust that runs the Nelson Arts Festival is amid a shakeup after the director resigned after only a year in the job and three of its seven board members have also signalled their intention to leave.

The normal festival was cancelled this year due to uncertainty in Covid alert levels.

It was meant to be running properly now but the board made the decision in early September to cancel all normal events before Labour Weekend.

Nelson Festivals Trust chair Brent Thawley confirmed to the Nelson Weekly that festival director Padma Naidu had resigned, along with board members Sarah Sharp, Caroline Marshall and Debbie Hannan.

“We have all been unsettled for the past months and certainly we haven’t been delivering the sort of festival we all expected.”

The arts festival has instead been running smaller events in the city.

Brent says that with all the uncertainty people are feeling, some are questioning what the future looks like.

“People are reassessing what’s important.”

Brent says that the finances of the trust are looking OK and the decision to postpone early put it in good stead.

Earlier this year the trust requested a reduction in its funding from $565,000 down to $305,000.

It was also granted an extra $100,000 to run the Mask Parade but then the trust made the call to cancel that.

The funds will be returned to Nelson City Council, minus the costs already spent, says Brent.

He says the decision to cancel the majority of the festival was made on the information they had at the time.

The factors were reducing the trust’s financial exposure and protecting ratepayers, Brent says.

Outgoing director Padma Naidu, who came to Nelson from Auckland last year to run the festival, says it has been a challenging year.

“It’s been an interesting time… it’s certainly not what I expected in the first year of the festival.”

She says she will see out the festival but is reassessing her priorities and is not sure what the future holds or where she might base herself.

Debbie Hannan was also resigning from the board saying it was time for new energy.

“It is time to get some young faces, some mana whenua. It would be great to give some of those people a chance.”