Meet: Andy Heast
With a successful business management career behind him, working in large corporate and not-for-profit organisations in the UK, Andy Heast first came out to New Zealand in 1997 on a motor-cycle tour of the South Island with his wife Annie. Andy sees New Zealand as his “spiritual home” with his heart firmly in Hawke’s Bay. Both he and Annie were exceptionally excited to have become New Zealand citizens this year.
He’s been involved in various local creative boards and arts initiatives, such as the Wine Country Winter Arts Festival and also the Winter Solstice Fire Festival in Napier in the early ‘noughties’ (which he learnt to swing fire poi for), and was appointed chair of Arts Inc. Heretaunga in 2014. Andy says his ambition was always “to put Arts Inc. Heretaunga at the heart of the arts in Hawke’s Bay.”
“Working with people like Pitsch, we realised we had unlimited vision in terms of what we could do as an organisation if we put our minds to it. We started talking about having a festival and making it a regional festival, championing it and taking it forward. We had our own strategy and that was what we were working towards. So when Pitsch came to me and said he could get hold of the Spiegeltent and bring it here, what do you reckon? I said, go for it. We pitched it to Hastings District Council, and it was very much right time, right place, filling the gap the Opera House had recently vacated."
Andy says that first year the festival was difficult to get off the ground, but the tough times were "so worth it" and the festival has gone from strength to strength.
Andy’s role and what the arts have done for him
“My role is to oversee and make sure the festival is well-managed, that it is sustainable and that it’s for the people of Hawke’s Bay. That for me is the real driver: to give cool stuff for people to do who live here. Albeit that it does grow as attraction to visitors, for me it’s about the people of Hawke’s Bay, about giving us all something to look forward to.
“My thing this year is about people stepping outside their comfort zones and trying something new. I’m promoting that as my call to action because I know what the arts have done for me, personally.
While I had a very fulfilled life prior to getting involved, I feel I’m a much more rounded individual, more engaged in things I might not have even thought about if I had not had exposure to the arts.The example I always give: who knew I’d like contemporary dance? If someone had mentioned that to me 15 years ago before I came to New Zealand, I would have said ‘no way,’ as I swigged down my beer and rode off on my motor cycle! It was one of those things, I went to one or two performances, and realised, wow these people are good. That control over your body, the beauty, it was just amazing. It completely took the veil off.
“There are lots of things that tested me arts wise since then. Sometimes you come away and think ‘I don’t get that’. But I can appreciate the skill and artistry and thought process behind it. And that’s the beauty of art, it makes you think of things you wouldn’t in the usual day-to-day.”
Andy’s festival picks
I love music – I always have done, so I revert back to type
“The music content is very strong this year. My absolute pick would be Carnivorous Plant Society and Hopetoun Brown. I’ve seen both bands play live, multiple times. When I walked out of the Carnivorous Plant Society gig, I thought if I were to be knocked over by a bus now I’d die a happy man.Their music is so enriching, different, beautiful; the musicianship’s astounding. I particularly wanted to see those bands play together, so I worked to facilitate that, them coming together to play something special for Hawke’s Bay.
“But I’m also looking forward to Delaney Davidson – it’s a given he’ll be great and different, his own man. George and Noriko – they’ll be a blast. And Balkan Elvis: Mikelangelo was the unexpected at the 2016 festival – he’s brilliant, a consummate showman, just gorgeous. Whether you like the music or not, you can’t fail to love what they produce.”
The show I’m going to that makes me squirm
“Rising to my own challenge, Jane Doe will probably be the show that I’ll find uncomfortable. But it’s a subject that needs to be spoken about – not ignored. As a society, we haven’t moved ahead as much as we like to think we have and we need pieces of work like Jane Doe to stand up and get noticed.
“I hope it sparks a wider conversation across all divides and gives people the power to support those that have been through this in a better way; for decision-makers to be guided by what they see. I would love to see that the audience isn’t just made up of women but also their partners, the men in their lives. It’s a subject we should rightly feel strongly about and this performance promises to be an emotive experience.”
Trust me, just go with it and go to this show!
One of Andy’s top picks of the festival is Freedom is Behind My Breath. “It’s an unknown seeing work that’s never been shown anywhere else before. It takes trust. But Puti’s last two pieces have been critically well-received, and they were so beautiful and insightful they took my breath away, literally.
“In the past, they’ve played in quite intimate spaces with smaller audiences. This year we’re taking it to the Blyth. For us it’s because we trust Puti and her collaborators and know that they’ll produce something absolutely breathtaking. This is a must see performance and if it’s anything like Puti’s last works, you will be talking about it for years to come.”