Omicron Impact: Wellington’s Homegrown and Auckland Arts Festival events canceled

Wellington’s Homegrown Music Festival and dozens of events at the Auckland Arts Festival are the latest cultural victims of Omicron’s impact on New Zealand.

Siva Afi at the Auckland Arts Festival last year. A free, online recording of performances scheduled for the Siva Afi Festival will still be available this year.
Photo: FAA/provided

All 51 live events and performances in halls, theaters and outdoor spaces at the Auckland Arts Festival will no longer take place.

Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki/Auckland Arts Festival announced their decision this afternoon. The festival’s live events were scheduled to take place from March 10 to 27 at Tāmaki Makaurau.

Some online performance will be retained.

Organizers of Wellington’s annual New Zealand music festival, Homegrown, have also canceled their event which was due to take place on March 19.

Homegrown typically attracts more than 22,000 festival-goers and was poised to sell out early despite the current Covid-19 climate, organizers said in a statement.

They are offering to refund or reschedule tickets for the 2023 event.

Auckland Arts Festival artistic director Shona McCullagh said it was not an easy decision to cancel all live performances at the festival, however, the priority was “the health and safety of our artists, the public , staff and team”.

She said organizers had considered many different scenarios and setting options in anticipation of another year with Covid-19 disruptions.

“While we are delighted to have been able to maintain brilliant online and gallery events, as well as free outdoor installations, this [Omicron] The outbreak has impacted our ability to hold our beloved annual festival in full, for the third time.”

She said organizers were aware of the impact cancellations would have on artists and the wider arts sector, both short and long term.

“This outcome – in which we cannot come together in person around a program filled with joyful live performances and brilliant shared artistic experiences – is deeply saddening.

“However, the festival team and our artists are resilient and endlessly creative, and we will be delivering a very special suite of safe events for our audiences in March, as we look to 2023 with optimism and excitement.”

McCullagh thanked artists, sponsors and colleagues for their patience as organizers worked out the best course of action.

Performances that will still take place include:

  • the live-streamed world premiere of Nightsong’s A Stab in the Darkwith Joel Toebeck and Alison Bruce
  • two free outdoor facilities, United for the truth Amanda Parer’s beach installation and inflatable humanoids, fantasy planet
  • two international works online – Complaint for Sheku Bayou and The Super Special Handicap Roadshow
  • Spoken Walls – A City in Verse poetic experience in the streets of Tāmaki Makaurau
  • a free online recording of performances scheduled for the Siva Afi Festival
  • all visual arts exhibitions

Other online presentations are still under consideration and will be announced separately.

Plug unplugged at a music event in Wellington

Homegrown chief executive Andrew Tuck said organizers had waited as long as possible but advice received in recent days left them with little choice but to cancel.

“We’ve been blown away by the incredible support in these crazy times and hope that by calling early people don’t lose too much on their flights and accommodations,” Tuck said.

It was only the second time in 15 years that the event could not go ahead. It was canceled in 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 lockdowns in New Zealand.

“We are devastated, we thought at the start of the summer we were going to sneak out, but it seems right to call it now for everyone’s safety. Also, now we can breathe and regroup and see how we can make next year’s event even better.”

He said they would apply to the Event Transition Support Program so artists and affected vendors can get compensation.

“Hopefully this will lessen the blow to our suppliers and performers. This is a really difficult time for everyone in the events industry and our thoughts are with everyone involved.”

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