Rachel initially came to the arts through her role as a brand manager at Cadbury’s in the UK, which saw her, through an ‘arts in business’ skills exchange, get the Flying Scotsman (a heritage steam engine) back up on the tracks and on display in the National Railway Museum. She worked as head of marketing at York Theatre Royal for a number of years, and after she came to New Zealand and met her Kiwi partner, worked on Nelson Arts Festival, CubaDupa in Wellington (or what was the Cuba Street Carnival then), and Capitol E’s children’s festival.
“My love is to see work on the stage. My motivation to work in the arts has been the transformative power that I’ve see…the impact that can have on people’s lives, on their ability to tell their stories and be heard and to have that played back to them through the stage.”
In 2015, fresh to Hawke’s Bay and with her youngest child just six months old, Rachel became involved in the inaugural Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival, coordinating the volunteer roster behind the scenes. The next year she came on board in an official capacity, implementing an inhouse ticketing system, amongst other things. Over the festival’s short history Rachel has helped bed-in processes, from box office to social media to looking after patrons and benefactors, to supporting the festival’s partnerships with sponsors, to marketing.
What is your role at the festival?
"My role has grown into looking after all of the marketing this year. But as much as yes, there’s a job title, it’s just seeing what needs to be done and finding a way to do that. A lot of it’s operational, on the ground stuff, or connecting with Pitsch’s vision, the bigger picture, going, ‘actually, there’s a gap here’. There’s lots of practical day-to-day things: dealing with the sponsors, a lot of the public, the creative aspect – graphic design, web designers – tourism agencies, media, partners.
"It’s quite a transient environment, so you have to be able to quite responsive. You may think you’ve got in your head what you’re going to do that day, but because we’re working to a very short time frame, it’s not like working in other environments. Being able to be responsive to what’s required and not holding strongly to what you think you should do, is important."
What are you most keenly anticipating in this year’s festival?
“The growth of the programme for young people, and the community that’s around that, and the work Dan and Puti are doing – Dan and I shared a vision for this, and as much as that was conversational, I did have some input, so I feel really excited about that.
"I feel excited for the diversity, that the programme is more representative of the place in which we live, on many levels, both locally and nationally. That we’re bringing produced work from around New Zealand, reflecting stories from this place in the world.
"I’m always excited to be able to be immersed for two weeks in theatre and performance. I enjoy that, because I miss it when I don’t see work.”
What are some of the shows you’re particularly looking forward to?
“Always everything! But to narrow it down to three:
"I’m interested in The South Afreakins, because I’m interested in migrant stories. It’s still pretty raw for me as a migrant – for me, it hasn’t been an easy journey. I maybe didn’t have the clarity, personally; didn’t realise how hard it would be. At the time the political situation was different – I could go back, and we did, we did go back together. But now with changes to the UK’s family immigration policy, it’s actually very hard.
"I love to take my kids to the Festival, so I’m looking forward to the children’s shows as a whole. I let my children (age 4 and 9) choose their own shows – they’ve chosen two for themselves: Ann-droid and Children are Stinky. The Spiegeltent has been a big part of my children’s life here, and the people that come with that as a crew. They know the crew personally, for them they are a big part of our community – that is what they’ve known.
"We don’t have a TV so for us live entertainment is really important as another way to expose them to story. Those stories become what they play out in their lives as well, afterwards. Last year my kids went to one of the circus shows – they then created a circus in our garage and played for months afterwards on it.
"I feel intuitively drawn to Wild Dog Under My Skirt. I wanted to see it at the NZ Festival in March and couldn’t make it. I just feel drawn to it – maybe the women’s stories, I can’t really explain it on a rational level, which is not very helpful when you’re trying to encourage other people to go to see work! But that’s often how I choose things. In any case, I feel very drawn to Wild Dogs and am very much looking forward to it.”