A Youthquake is rippling through the country in political uprising and social activation. There’re young people rolling up their sleeves and getting active in every sphere and every region.  In the arts, youth are a strong focus whether it’s in funding, as a response to NEET figures, for the potential they hold or for all three.

The Hawke’s Bay Youthquake will be well met during the Festival with a full spectrum of ways to be a part of it. Seeing shows is the most obvious but richer rewards will be found through involvement in making work. An added benefit is that by hooking people in early as eager participants in the arts, the Festival is incubating appreciative, quality audiences, who will build a lifelong love of the arts.


To see a show for a fraction of the normal ticket price, 17 to 25 year olds can buy ‘Rush’ tickets one hour before the performance. These are available for shows at the Blyth and the Victoria Spiegeltent for $15. That’s the easiest and most basic ‘way in’ to the Festival. Real engagement, up-close, two-way and hands-on comes through active participation and collaboration – actually being part of the show.


The ‘taking-part’ starts three weeks out from the Festival opening with the Festival of Youth on 24 September.  Eighteen schools are coming together over a full day to create a collaborative response to the theme of Identity. Students have been buddied up with established dancers and actors to create elements that will form an evening performance in the Napier Municipal Theatre. Devising pieces, working with industry professionals and being supported by music students from EIT’s Ideaschool will give the young people involved a rich experience of being part of Festival Fever.

Alongside the Festival of Youth, HBAF has a programme of workshops and school performances that reaches out to students across Hawke’s Bay. There is also a raft of performances in the main venues specifically designed for school audiences. By opening up the programme to youth participation the Festival is ensuring a loyal fan base for many festivals to come, one that’s engaged and excited by new works and firm favourites.


This year’s Festival has three shows that feature young people as performers, in three very different genres. Battle of Hastings Hawke’s Bay Poetry Slam, in its inaugural showing last year, had a strong youth contingent and this is set to be repeated this year. Slam has taken the poetry world by storm over the last few years, particularly through Slam meet-ups and online with forms such as Button Poetry. It can be raw, hard-hitting, topical and political but also very funny. Youth taking opportunities to have their voice heard is part of the current zeitgeist and Slam is the perfect platform. Part of an international movement of spoken word, the Battle of Hastings is a relevant and accessible event for young people to get involved in as participants and as audience. It’s high-energy, big on yuks, often heart-breaking but always entertaining, a high-impact sport for the mind!


In the realm of contemporary theatre, HBAF’s Youth Ambassadors are involved in creating a sharing of work titled Beneath the Surface. Over the past few months the 22 15-20 year olds have been working hard with professional theatre makers to devise a piece that explores creative process and collaboration. The result will be shown during the Festival in the Victoria Spiegeltent.


Opera is an art form most often left to the professionals, except in Hawke’s Bay thanks to Project Prima Volta that offers programmes and opportunities to aspiring young performers. Scena (Shay-nah) is the annual showcase of PPV talent and is back with its second iteration. Scena takes short excerpts from well-known, and loved operas and makes them accessible to their young singers but also young audiences. Taking a form that is perceived as staid and making it uplifting, accessible and inspiring is a real gift of PPV and the Festival provides a prime opportunity to experience it.

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