Thousands of children take-over the Michael Fowler Centre for Artsplash

18 August 2015

Artsplash Festival kicks off this month and behind the scenes of New Zealand’s biggest primary and intermediate event is the energetic Mary Prichard who has been helping to organise and coordinate it for 28 years.

Part of the mass choir, children take part in Artsplash

Children take part in the Artsplash mass choir

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With over 8,000 children to organise in two of Wellington’s biggest venues, Mary has a few challenges to meet. But the hard work is nothing when you see those children perform on the Michael Fowler Centre stage, in front of a combined 18,000 strong crowd and one that is growing every year.

“From the dressing rooms to the stage the kids really get a buzz from the experience. It is the only event like it in New Zealand and presents an opportunity for a lot of kids from across the Wellington region to come into the city to perform in one of our iconic venues, on a big stage in front of a big audience.”

Mary Prichard was a teacher, then a lecturer and arts advisor for the College of Education. From humble beginnings, starting as a one-day visual art exhibition beneath the Oriental Parade Band Rotunda, the iconic festival has grown into a five-day series of 10 events and has become a significant event on Wellington City Council’s annual calendar.

Artsplash is completely accessible to everyone, it is all inclusive, the kids come from all different backgrounds and there are no auditions,” Mary says, “we have our second generation of children coming through now.”

Artsplash has been an incubator for many of our emerging young artists. International award-winning, concert pianist, Ludwig Treviranus will be the accompanist for this year’s performances with the Artsplash Festival band accompanying the mass choirs with up to 800 children performing in the Music and Wearable Arts concerts from Monday to Wednesday. Mary remembers Ludwig as a nine-year-old, playing concerts for senior citizens and is honoured to have him involved on the Artsplash Festival stage.

Virtuoso Strings will be taking the stage for both performances Tuesday 1 September, as part of the Music and Wearable Arts concert. In 2012 Elizabeth Sneyd and Craig Utting founded 'The Virtuoso Strings' string orchestra to help young kids in Wellington learn the magic of good ensemble playing. The orchestra is now run by the Virtuoso Strings Charitable Trust and is based in Porirua.

Through the Trust Elizabeth and Craig, and a number of dedicated volunteers, provide free instruments and ongoing free music tuition to students at decile one schools in Porirua. Their over-arching aim is to be ‘inclusive’ in every sense of the word and being committed to nurturing the stunning natural talent within the Porirua community.

Wellington Youth Sinfonietta Orchestra and Chilton Amadeus Orchestra will open each evening accompanying the massed choirs over three nights alongside the professional musicians that make up the Artsplash Festival band.

Students celebrate and perform in all of the Arts over five days, with four dance shows, five Music and Wearable Art shows and thousands of works of visual art exhibited in the Renouf Foyer.

Natasha Petkovic-Jeremic, Manager of City Arts and Events says, “it’s great having children from the Wellington region to showcase their incredible performances in one of our great venues in the central city. Most of all a wonderful experience for the children, one they never forget and a fantastic opportunity for audiences to enjoy arts presented by our talented young people.”

Artsplash runs from 31 August-4 September. View the full programme. Door sales are $5 a ticket.