The latest updates

E noho rā and farewell from our Kaitohu Toi · Artistic Director, Shona McCullagh

05 Apr 2024
E noho rā and farewell from our Kaitohu Toi · Artistic Director, Shona McCullagh
Shona and friends enjoying Bernie Dieter's Club Kabarett at AKLFEST 24. Photo by Jinki Cambronero.

We farewell Shona McCullagh, our Kaitohu Toi · Artistic Director, who has led the past four Festivals. Shona expresses her wholehearted gratitude in a personal note below:

It’s been an honour and privilege to serve as Kaitohu Toi · Artistic Director for Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Arts Festival. The visioning and curation of four annual programmes has been an absolute joy, working with themes of aroha, truth, courage and resonance.

The works we have been fortunate to present have been effervescent, challenging, uplifting, progressive, magical, full of passion and sublime artistry. I know how vital Festivals are for artists to be able to present work of scale, risk and innovation. I am thrilled with the range of NZ artists we have been able to support, but also hopefully inspire with some of the best of international work.

The vision has been committed to holding at its centre the Toitū Te Reo programme and to have te reo Māori seen, heard and spoken every day, passionately led by the inimitable Ataahua Papa.

There are so many standout moments and works for me over this time – simply too many to single out, much as I would love to! Together with the wonderful team at the Festival we’ve navigated pandemics, floods, cyclones and freight delays all in the name of bringing you, our audience, vibrant, fresh, entertaining and immersive experiences.

I’ve been delighted to see the continued growth of our Access and Inclusion programme, with 2024 being the largest to date, with all four Festivals featuring work by disabled artists and creating inclusive experiences for all. Our Creative Learning programme this year offered hundreds of free tickets to a range of works, enabling extraordinary new experiences for our tamariki and hard working teachers.

My greatest passion in the role has been to support artists. They are taonga and we need innovative, visionary, progressive and bold thinkers, strategists, funders, venues and festivals to support our emerging, mid-career and much-treasured senior artists to create great New Zealand work.

When this festival originated as a Music Week in 1949, it was not envisaged that by even 1968 it would become the largest annual festival in the Asia Pacific region, and remains the oldest. Through these 75 years, including a hiatus between 1982 and 2001, the Festival has survived and thrived to present the best of our local, national and international artists, and show manaakitanga to our manuhiri that AAF is renowned for globally.

A Festival director has the absolute privilege to shine their programming vision on just a tiny portion of its overall history – but these four years have developed some of the richest relationships, connections and experiences to date, both locally, nationally and internationally.

Between 2021 and 2024 we have commissioned 11 dance, theatre and music works, presented 26 world premieres, 10 Australasian premieres, 20 NZ premieres, 10 Auckland premieres and seven NZ debuts, despite more than 60 forced cancellations.

I am enormously grateful to all of the artists, audiences, venues and partners who have worked with us and a special thanks to the amazing Festival whānau, a group of extraordinary people.

I will continue to champion New Zealand artists wherever I go…so shine on Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki!

Shona's Signature.png

Nō reira, e Shona, haere rā. Kia kaha, kia manawanui hoki ki ngā mahi e whai nei. Haere i runga i ngā whakaaro aroha.


You will be taken directly to Ticketmaster’s site for payment processing