19 Feb 2021

Auckland Arts events go ahead, postponed due to Level 3

From First Up, 5:14 am on 19 February 2021

The performing arts community across Auckland felt their hearts drop as news of an alert level 3 lockdown broke on Sunday.


Max Tweedie, director of the Pride Festival. Photo: Dan Cook

Although they said they were relieved to be in alert level 2 now, they were not out of the woods yet.

The latest level 3 lockdown has interrupted the Pride and Fringe festivals, with thousands of events quickly moved online, rescheduled or cancelled.

Auckland Pride Festival director Max Tweedie said when he watched the announcement, it was a shock. 

"The adrenalin just kicked in, and my head just kicked straight into contingency plans, and I don't think it really sunk in at all at that time until a couple of days. 

"It was our worst nightmare."

Tweedie said after the lockdown in August last year, they realised they couldn't be complacent when it came to Covid-19, and so they put a detailed contingency plan in place which was rolled out in a matter of hours. 

Auckland Pride Festival had 26 events scheduled for the three days the region was locked down. Of those planned, two were able to go ahead online, three were cancelled and the rest have been postponed to a later date.

With the city now at level 2, gatherings of no more than 100 people are allowed.

Tweedie said the move to level 2 was better but still had its challenges. 

"There's still a pretty significant impact at alert level 2, but obviously the fact that it's only for five days with a pending extension and some good signals from the prime minister does give me a bit of hope."

Pride Festival has a further 56 events scheduled to take place between 18-22 February. 

Of those 16 will continue, four have moved online, 25 have been postponed, and 12 have been cancelled.

Tweedie said they would decide on Monday whether the Pride March and Pride Party on 27 February would go ahead.

The Auckland Fringe Festival also felt the impact of the snap lockdown

It opened on Sunday morning only to close again that night after the government announcement.

Fringe Festival director Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho said it had been a hard time for the arts. 

"I mean it's quite a lot of shifting, changing, communication and I guess from our perspective from a more administrative space it's been quite weighty. But from an artistic space, I think the weight has been coming from the uncertainty." 

Borni said the venues and artists were in charge of deciding whether their event went ahead or not.

"Some of them have decided that it's best for them not to move forward and some have decided to postpone later in the year and some have decided to just do a shorter season."

Auckland Live's performance of 'Fringe Town' - a set of events scheduled to run until this Sunday night at the town hall - had to make the tough decision to cancel all their events.

Auckland Live programmer Anders Falstie-Jensen is the brains behind the show. 

They were in the middle of their final rehearsal when they got the news that the city was moving to level 3.

"Your heart kind of sinks a bit and then after that you start going into planning mode and thinking about what are implications for this and where do we go to from here on a purely operational level," Falstie-Jensen said.

"It just becomes really, really difficult. You go 'is it actually better to potentially postpone and then do it properly at another time instead of trucking through and putting a lot of people under a lot of pressure'." 

Falstie-Jensen hoped for the best but was prepared for the worst.

"It's a mix between doing a lot of planning but also just being able to be really flexible and roll with the punches when something like this happens."

Auckland Live has also announced they have cancelled the 'Summer in the Square' events scheduled for this weekend due to being in alert level 2.

These events are; Rise and I am Greta, live screening of The Prada Cup, Towel You What!? and The Latin Fiesta.

Auckland Live said they were monitoring advice from the Ministry of Health and would provide further updates on the remaining 'Summer in the Square' events scheduled for this month as soon as information was available.