Festival of ideas and kōrero

3 minutes read
Posted 4 April, 2024
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The Drinking Game will feature Lotta Dan, Guyon Espiner (top) and Paddy Gower

The Aspiring Conversation programme is returning to Wānaka this week. It will feature a number of speakers and artists across four days who aim to inspire. They believe that in these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to gather, discuss, listen and reflect on the issues that affect all in our community and the world at large.

Aspiring Conversations runs every second year, with the Festival of Colour running in between. Sophie Kelly, the festival director, says it’s an important event to keep the community engaged. It came about as at the time there weren’t as many events happening in the community as there are now and the audience was hungry to see more sessions and performances from the Festival of Colour.

“It was a means to provide a platform with a smaller, manageable programme of events that would keep a strong association with the festival alive and keep the audience engaged,” Kelly says. “Our vision with it is really to create a creative platform that continues to inspire, entertain and challenge audiences.”

After two cancelled events due to Covid-19, the organisers are delighted to be bringing the programme back. Kelly says they’re always looking for topics that are relevant to the times we’re in, as well as looking for opportunities to hear from people who are experts in their fields to speak about those important issues.

“We’ve also got some things that are totally for entertainment as well, like our music session that we have called Tower of Song, which will be delving into the art and craft of song writing with some of our celebrated New Zealand musicians. It’s a conversation focused on their practice but also an opportunity to hear them share some of their most loved songs with the audience.”

At this year’s Aspiring Conversations they’re expanding the venues that they use for sessions. Most will be held at Lake Wānaka Centre, but they’ve also added Federal Diner for Sam Low’s talk and Rhyme x Reason for Dirty Passports, which will feature poetry and spoken word artists.

“We’ve got Sam Low, who’s published a wonderful book called Modern Chinese, he’s a recent winner of MasterChef New Zealand. He will be speaking to his book and also a bit about his childhood, growing up as Chinese and New Zealand, and learning to cook contemporary Chinese dishes.”

Other talks at the festival include Chancing It, which is based on the True Stories Live format. It features four diverse and inspiring females who will share their stories of when they took a chance on something and how that panned out. Another is The Drinking Game, which will include Guyon Espiner, Lotta Dan and Paddy Gower sharing their personal stories and decisions behind giving up alcohol. There’s also Ko Kāi Tahu Me Te Triti, where kaimahi from the Ngāi Tahu Archive and representatives from the three marae nearest the Kāi Tahu signings will talk about how events in Te Waipounamu shaped those at Waitangi (and vice versa) before and since 1840.

“I think at the moment we all get quite caught up in the echo chamber of social media and the media as a whole. We just really see this as a critical way to bring people together in real time to hear speakers who are experts in their fields. It’s really great to encourage and see people taking the opportunity to reflect and listen to these important conversations. At a deeper level, I think to open our minds to see different views – there’s a lot of everyone’s got an opinion on something these days, so it’s important for us to be challenged and think about having a different perspective or seeing something differently,” Kelly says.

The 2024 Aspiring Conversations will run from Thursday, 4 April, until Sunday, 7 April. It features 14 sessions at three different venues – Lake Wānaka Centre, Federal Diner and Rhyme x Reason Brewery. There will be a limited number of door sales available for shows that aren’t already sold out. Check out the full programme and grab your tickets at festivalofcolour.co.nz


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