Some of the biggest and boldest shows to ever hit Hamilton Kirikiriroa - all happening at the inaugural Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora ki Kirikiriroa 2023: 24 Feb-5 March.
With the award-winning Hamilton Gardens as its primary venue, the festival (formerly Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival) showcases the best of Waikato’s performing artists alongside a curated selection of some of the most compelling shows from across the country and abroad.
According to Festival Director Geoff Turkington, the 2023 programme is a joyous fusion of new works alongside some of the most eagerly awaited shows from this year’s Covid-19 thwarted programme.
“It’s all about celebrating human connection and what makes being Kiwi so special,” says Turkington.
From candlelit classical in the newly opened Egyptian Garden to the Soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! performed live on the Rhododendron Lawn by an epic rock-opera ensemble, Hamilton Arts Festival is teeming with world class arts experiences.
Next year’s musical programme showcases a diverse mix of musical stylings including flamenco, folk, rock ‘n’ roll and opera. A stellar line-up of the country’s top musicians will be gracing Hamilton Arts Festival stages, including Tami Neilson, Te Kaahu, Lawrence Arabia, Julia Deans, Tiny Ruins, Anna Coddington, Laughton Kora (Kora), Lou’ana and many more.
Kicking the festival off on 23 Feb on the Rhododendron Lawn is The Soundtrack from Bazz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! This concert spectacular brings together Milan Borich (Pluto), Lou’ana, Zoe Moon, Sebastian Holland Dudding and opera stars Samson Setu, Taka Vuli, Manase Latu and Ipu Laga’aia for a celebration of one of cinema’s most magical musical creations.
Intimate music performances include critically acclaimed indie folk band Tiny Ruins, who will be performing new material alongside fan favourites in the Chinoiserie Garden, and rising singer songwriter Theia is bringing her critically acclaimed reo rangatira project Te Kaahu back home for a special performance in the Te Parapara Garden (New Zealand's only traditional Maaori productive garden).
The Soundtracks From Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction features a star studded list of Kiwi musicians performing the soundtracks from two of cult director Quentin Tarantino’s best loved films.
Also taking place on the Rhododendron Lawn, Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace) brings together almost 100 performers from Hamilton City Brass and a Festival Chorus made of Hamilton and Waikato choirs to perform a moving anti-war piece.
Lovers of poetry and music can join some of the country’s best and brightest songwriters, including Anna Coddington, Lawrence Arabia and Julia Deans as they perform original music inspired by the poems of iconic writer Katherine Mansfield (Mansfield In Her Own Words - Unplugged). Falling on the centenary of Katherine Mansfield’s death, the event is made even more special by the setting of the charming Mansfield Garden.
An adventurous dance programme sees everything from ballet (Royal Ballet New Zealand’s Tutus on Tour) to breakdancing (The Great Kiwi Break Off) and local contemporary works (Trial & Tribulation) performed at Clarence Street Theatre, Victoria on the River and the Hamilton Gardens respectively.
The much loved Meteor Theatre will be hosting an eclectic mix of theatre shows, including children’s puppet show The Boy With Wings, Hanna, Big J Stylez and Hello Darkness.
Celebratory, camp and sexy - Hamilton Arts Festival’s selection of cabaret and comedy shows are indicative of the joyful mood of the programme. International shows include Australia’s Gary Starr, a self described comedian and ‘disgraced actor’, who promises to defy critics by performing “every genre of theatre possible, thus saving the performing arts from its inevitable extinction”.
Also from across the ditch, Sex, Lies & Betrayal is a story of broken dreams, carnal desires and forbidden love set in Hollywood.
Closer to home Rock Follies Forever brings together Kiwi showbiz icons Jackie Clarke, Laura Daniel and Jennifer Ward-Lealand in an ode to the fabulous (but fictional) cult British TV series Rock Follies.
After a sell-out season at the 2021 Auckland Live Cabaret Festival, Fever: Return of the Ula highlights the savage vogue stomps and luscious sways of of Pasifika trans and queer supernovas, with choreography by Amanaki Prescott-Faletau, winner of the FAME NZ Artist Award 2022.
Another highlight is Haus of YOLO, a party of a show jam-packed with extraordinary circus skills and sewing chaos. Truly a feast for the senses, this sexy multidisciplinary show from The Dust Palace (PULP, Top of the Heap) explores the modern middle class slavery of fast fashion.
With community at its core, Hamilton Arts Festival has a strong focus on free shows that provide local artists a platform to showcase their mahi, and audiences the chance to engage with emerging artists and musicians.
The Festival Hub is at the heart of the action with free and live entertainment celebrating local artists and musicians, starting at 5pm every night. Thanks to an exciting new partnership with Montana Food & Events, this is also the place to savor the sights and sounds of the festival, relax with a drink and enjoy some incredible locally produced food.
This Is Kiwi - Indigo Festival returns for its second iteration, a five hour long ‘festival within a festival’ taking place in the Enclosed Gardens and bringing together over 200 performers representing the many cultures that make up Hamilton Kirikiriroa’s diverse population.
Finally, nothing says summer in Kirikiriroa quite like the city’s most beloved free event, Sunset Symphony. For over 10 years, Sunset Symphony has brought Hamilton together to celebrate the best things in life... glorious orchestral music, whānau, friends, food and fireworks! All against the stunning backdrop of a Rhododendron Lawn sunset.
Throughout the course of the festival, there’ll be roving performances from local street theatre legends Free Lunch and a flag installation from festival veterans Doing Pennants.
“We also have some surprises popping up around the place… You might bump into a walking, talking, flute playing tree by the name of Woody for example, or come across a beautiful grand piano ready to be played,” says Turkington.
“It’s all part of the fun and magic!”
The Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora ki Kirikiriroa is made possible by our generous funders: Hamilton City Council, WEL Energy Trust, Grassroots Trust, Trust Waikato,Brian Perry Charitable Trust, Hamilton Gardens, The Lion Foundation, King St Advertising, ACLX, University of Waikato, Harkness Henry, Ministry Culture & Heritage, Longveld, Norah Howell Charitable Trust, CBD Association, Waikato Times, NZME, Go Media, Cleland Hancox and Friends of Hamilton Gardens.
Head to hamiltonartsfestival.co.nz to check out the full programme. Early bird discounts are available on most ticketed events until Christmas eve.