Day 1

Above: The Festival team - crew, ambassadors and volunteers - the day before.

What a stunning start to the festival! We had a full house and a full standing ovation for Ali Harper's incredible performance tonight. Some of our audience comments: "Blown away"; "Phenomenal"; "Amazing, such talent"; "I can't believe we're in Havelock North, I feel like I've been somewhere else, entirely." "We are so, so lucky."

You can read The Hook review of Songs for Nobodies here.

The feeling is Jazz Club; real intimacy with clever lighting that focuses us in.


It's a beautiful calm evening here in Havelock North, the gas pyramid heaters in the marquee are lit, the chandelier and lamps. People have found the bar, the cafe-style corner. It's looking cosy in here, while the punters queue peaceably from the entrance through the teepees to the Spiegeltent tucked behind like a secret. They make their way to their seats for Ali Harper's Songs for Nobodies, which begins in just a few minutes.


High in the giant gum beside the Columba Church car park, Chloe Loftus in a white dress, white sand shoes, dances suspended by a rope. The blue ribbon is cut; the festival declared open; a chatting throng of people enters the festival garden. A glass of bubbly, a gourmet slider, speeches, as a spectacularly dressed Jamie Macphail invites us warmly to step forward in to the hospitable heart of the Festival. We are treated by Ali Harper to two songs from her repertoire.


Down at the Village Green, there’s a happy afternoon hum of busyness as preparations continue for the festival opening in less than an hour. The coffee machine is whirring, lights are being strung, floors swept. The festival security guard, leather on tie-dye rainbow and sequins, is strolling the scrim-fencing.  “Time to do the health and safety check,” says stage manager Jonathan, as he whisks up his clipboard. “Exciting!”

If you’re still wondering what to book for this week’s offering, master of ceremonies Jamie Macphail and house-concert maestro shares his picks for the next five days below.

Jamie's festival picks for Week One

 Sooo… I keep getting asked about my picks for the Festival.  I find that so hard to answer because often, in the past, it’s been the unexpected shows that have blown me away. That said, the shows in the coming week that I expect to make a deep impression on me are:

Louis Baker

Louis Baker has a huge international following. He has a superb voice and is writing songs from the heart. A live session with him in the Spiegeltent will feel intimate and soulful.

 The South Afreakins

A hilarious one-woman show. Exploring ageing, retirement, immigration … and home. An intensely personal story based on the author/actress’s own family story, this one will resonate so well with so many of us who are migrants or the children of migrants to New Zealand.


A theatre piece with music that delves into the core of what family means to us. On one level you’re going to be really entertained by great music and a truly impressive theatrical show.  On a deeper level you are going to be challenged; this piece really delves into our inner psyche … at times hilarious, at others harrowing. It’s going to be poignant and beautiful.


A zany, edgy, uber-groovy family show.  The kids’ theatre shows at previous festivals have won me totally ( I guess that says a lot about my emotional maturity!). I am really looking forward to this one, it looks funky and funny and clever.

 Poetry Slam

Poetry has been re-energised in recent years by a youth-led, YouTube-spread explosion in high energy, witty poetry that expands the boundaries of the poetic form.This will be a blast.

The Shuffle Demons

Madcap, raucous, funny … but at the same time with wickedly skilled musicianship, this touring Canadian band will rock the Spiegeltent with end-of-the week revelry. It will be a lot of fun, and the late-night shows in the tent do have a very magical feeling to them. Set up your Labour Weekend in true party style!


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