This year the Harcourt’s Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival introduced a Youth Ambassador Programme. It is an opportunity for young creatives to get up close and personal with established professionals in the New Zealand arts scene. It also gives the ambassadors a broader outlook on what a career in the arts could look like. Places were limited, with 14 chosen to represent the youth of Hawke’s Bay at the festival, and I was privileged enough to be included. The programme took place over two weeks and was an amazing experience for everyone involved.
We met several New Zealand artists – Roger Hall, Hera Lindsey-Bird, Linda Changwai-Earle, Michael Hurst, Gregory Kan, Bill Manhire, Kristyl Neho, and Charlie McDermott. These creatives have made it on their own merits in the New Zealand arts industry with careers that allow them to express their artistic self on a daily basis. The programme allowed us to meet these artists and watch them perform which was inspiring. It gave us an insight into the strength of character and self-belief required to be successful. However, while it rang true that talent and passion are important, the connections you make with other creatives growing up, and essentially right now, are important for sustaining a creative career and having a constant stream of work and income.
I thought it was evident that the most powerful stories were those which were personal to the actor. As these stories were close to the performer’s heart they touched the audience with their integrity and honesty. Performances such as The White Guitar and Daffodils. I found that a story didn’t need to be pretty or have a perfect ending to make the audience feel connected to the work, which is something I will take into account should I create theatre in the future.
This experience has opened my eyes as to what working in the industry actually means. While acting is my passion right now, this programme has shown me that I could go into media, writing, stage management, technical work, directing or journalism if I apply myself and work hard. So, instead of trying to be specific and focus solely on acting I should try as many different disciplines within the arts as possible to make my skills more versatile and adaptable for future work while I am young.
A large proportion of the people accepted into the ambassador programme are also involved in H@BYT, the Hawke’s Bay Youth Theatre Company. This year H@BYT toured a devised piece of theatre to Brisbane, Australia which was an amazing experience for the 12 young actors that went. Not only, were we involved in the devising process and felt a huge sense of ownership over the work, Tahi Ao, we also got to share our passion in another country. We toured the show to a number of high schools in the Queensland area as well as professional and amateur theatre company spaces.
One of the most rewarding experiences was performing at Murgon State High School, situated in an aboriginal community three hours from Brisbane. As well as performing in Murgon, we visited the Ration Shed which was home to many of the children’s ancestors during the time when the aboriginal people of Australia were isolated and controlled by the Australian government – as recently as the 1960s.
The Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival and Australian tour have taught me to be open minded and grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I have had the pleasure to be involved in.
Lizzie Harvey, Year 11