The Napkin Diaries
By Paula Pistol - (Published in the Capital Times every Wednesday)
Last Wednesday was the programme launch of the New Zealand Festival 2002. This year swarms of people were plied with
sponsors' products at Te Papa, then piled onto buses and driven across the waterfront to Shed 6 for an evening's
Trays of mojito cocktails swept past as we listened to speeches from Festival brain Carla Van Zon and the Right
Honourable Helen Clark. The PM shared her festival preferences, and we watched the Festival's TV ad, in which she acts
alongside the naughty Festival icon – that kiwi with the nikau palm up its butt.
The programme is looking good – the usual excellent line-up of international dance, drama, opera, authors etc. I was
initially concerned by the fact that five new New Zealand works are sponsored by Air New Zealand. If it weren't for the
news late last week that Helen and her lot are seeing to it that we still have a national airline, I'd be worried for
the local content in the Festival.
But all business sponsorship of the arts gets a bit precarious when world markets are on the downturn. Personally, I
think that depressions and recessions are good reasons to keep sponsoring the arts – we've gotta have something to make
us feel good when the cable news networks are trying to convince us that it's all doom.
I'm not saying that art sponsorships should ever come at the detriment of housing, education, health or other essential
services, but I happen to think that arts are close to rating as an essential service as well. What is a country/city
without performances, exhibitions, festivals, dances, recitals, and a good old rock'n'roll gig once in a while?
I indulged in a little corporate sponsorship myself over the weekend. For just $20, I got to be a contestant in the
game-show "It's a Win-Win Situation" at Bats on Saturday. I came away empty-handed and Wanda Martini only managed to win
a Robbie Williams CD, but we'll all be winners when Bats gets the dishwasher it badly needs.
It was great to see Bats manager-programmer Sharyn up on stage during the show. She'll be off soon to other green
pastures, but she leaves the theatre in great shape, just in time for the Fringe Festival, and with clean glasses to
boot. Please join me in wishing her farewell. We'll miss you, but in the meantime, it feels like we're definitely in
line for a good bunch of arts this summer.