The Great Escape
Escape readers and writers festival is finally back with a compelling line-up of storytellers, panels, live acts and more. Artistic director Gabrielle Vincent gives us an insight into “the little festival with big ideas”.
Escape readers and writers festival is finally back with a compelling line-up of storytellers, panels, live acts and more. Artistic director Gabrielle Vincent gives us an insight into 'the little festival with big ideas'.
“I have just been furiously reading!” says Gabrielle Vincent, the artistic director of the Tauranga
Arts Festival and Escape, its alternate-year offshoot, that’s back in October.
“All the new release books and all the reviews, just seeing what really resonated with me and
what I felt would be appropriate for Tauranga — the conversations we haven’t necessarily had
before that I think would be important to have now.”
Gabrielle’s referring to her preparation for the imminent festival that’ll focus on both “the writer
and the book lover”, with talks, panels, writing workshops, live performances, a podcast, poetry
slam and the Zinefest. There’s a mix of both local writers and storytellers, and those from a bit
further afield, but Gabrielle’s remit was more just about presenting the best of what’s current
and compelling to the Bay.
“I think we’ve been really lucky in New Zealand that so much incredible literature has come out
in the last one to two years — it has really exploded,” she says. “So yes, we’re bringing quite a lot
of writers in, but throughout the programme we also celebrate local voices and stories. We have
local writers and speakers and those that whakapapa back to Tauranga Moana, such as Chelsea Winstanley, who’ll be speaking on a panel of powerful wāhine alongside NUKU founder, creator
and publisher Qiane Matata-Sipu, and award-winning local investigative reporter and author of Gangland, Jared Savage.
“We also have two live events that platform local people — the Wham Bam Poetry Slam, which features rising poets, and we have a very special performance called News News News, which
will be co-created and performed by the students of Mount Maunganui Primary School.”
Auckland-based Gabrielle programmed Tāmaki Makaurau’s multi-use Basement Theatre for six years. She came on board with the Tauranga Arts Festival Trust as the first artistic director in early 2021
and was slated to visit the region once a month, but says it has often ended up being more frequent. “I travel down and spend half the week here, having board and staff meetings, and meeting with local people as well. Before this role I didn’t have any connections into Tauranga, I had one friend here… so it’s been really nice getting to know people.”
The response to this year’s festival, she says, has been incredibly positive, but Tauranga Moana
is a place that’s passionate about supporting the arts, year round.
“I think that people are really keen. I felt that after the 2021 Arts Festival launch — we got to launch our programme but it didn’t go ahead — people just seemed to be so alive and buzzing and excited about the arts,” she says. “There seems to be a hunger for this year’s Escape, because there hasn’t been a big arts festival for a while — but at the same time, I think year-round there’s a lot of really
cool artistic things happening in Tauranga.
“There’s an awesome local artistic scene but there’s also that great opportunity ... of bringing people in, from New Zealand or internationally, that Tauranga usually wouldn’t get a chance to experience.”
“There’s an awesome local artistic scene but there’s also that great opportunity that our festival
has of bringing people in, from New Zealand or internationally, that Tauranga usually wouldn’t
get a chance to experience.”
The festival team is focused on making sure the whole community has an opportunity to see,
engage with and enjoy some part of the programme. “Whether it’s the Arts Festival or Escape, we want to make it accessible for our whole community and, particularly with Escape, we want to spark a love of reading and writing. Accessibility and inclusivity is key for us, so we’ve got numerous free and low-cost events, such as the free Tauranga Zinefest that’s produced by Hannah Wynn, Elizabeth Easther’s reading of her play A Rare Bird and Rebecca K Reilly’s talk on her book Greta & Valdin,
which are each just $10. All our other writers’ talks are $20. We’ve got a diverse range of writers
that work across many genres.
“A new thing for us this year is that throughout our programme, we’ve noted which events are accessible for deaf and hard of hearing audiences, and all our venues are wheelchair accessible. We’re consciously trying to open it up so more people can experience the arts,” she explains.
“Also, I think I’m just very passionate about live performance and different ways of storytelling,
which can be seen throughout the curation.
“What’s also slightly different about this year is that there’s a larger family focus within the Escape programme. It happens across the school holidays, so we wanted to provide fun and educational experiences for the whole family.” Gabrielle says this includes News News News, Rutene Spooner’s Pīpī Paopao — a one-man-concert-band for preschoolers, writing workshop Owning Your Story
for 11–14 year olds, and Thom Monckton’s The Artist.
“Thom’s an award-winning physical theatre and circus performer originally from Pātea. He trained
in Paris and he was recently based in Finland for several years but has now moved back to New Zealand. He has performed in Tauranga before, many years ago, and I’ve been told by audience members how much they loved it — they still rave about it.
“The Artist is incredibly funny, different and has some amazing skilled theatrics and circus in there.
It’s a work that’s suitable for families, but it’s not just for families,” says Gabrielle. “When I attended
the show in Wānaka, I saw grandparents and grandchildren attending together, young parents
on a night out without kids, large groups of friends who just adore theatre and are ready for
a laugh… So I just feel this show appeals to everyone and is really needed right now because it
just brings joy and silliness.”
More Escape highlights...
Charlotte Grimshaw, author talk
Nominated for a 2022 Ockham NZ Book Award, Charlotte’s explosive and thought-provoking memoir The Mirror Book is a vivid account of growing up in one of New Zealand’s most well-known literary families: that of poet, novelist and memoirist C K Stead.
Nici Wickes, author talk and morning tea
Join chef, author and broadcaster Nici Wickes in kōrero with Sandra Simpson for Escape’s ever-popular morning tea event. In this session, Nici talks about her new cookbook A Quiet Kitchen
— a collection of recipes and reflections dear to her heart, and shares some delicious treats.
Gone By Lunchtime, live podcast recording
In an Escape first, The Spinoff’s popular political podcast, Gone By Lunchtime, will record an
episode live in Tauranga. In this delightfully acerbic session, they’ll peer into the turbulent times
of the Tauranga City Council, and discuss the current and future political landscape of our city,
joined by two special guests.
Mohamed Hassan, author talk
Award-winning New Zealand writer, poet and journalist Mohamed will speak with friend and fellow writer Rosabel Tan on his debut non-fiction title How to be a Bad Muslim, which maps the personal and public experience of being Muslim through a lens of identity, Islamophobia, surveillance, migration and language.