Mayoral candidates put on an entertaining show at arts forum

Perhaps they should do a season.

The Fortune Theatre was three-quarters full for last night's entertaining premiere of the Dunedin mayoral arts forum.

The forum, organised by arts advocate Transforming Dunedin, set the stage for the seven mayoral hopefuls to share their artistic vision for Dunedin, ahead of next month's local government elections.

Incumbent Dave Cull and challengers Hilary Calvert, Kevin Dwyer, Pete George, Aaron Hawkins, Oliver Lequeux and Cr Lee Vandervis offered some colourful ideas for enhancing Dunedin through art and culture.

The arts had a role in urban renewal and should be part of Dunedin's tourism strategy, Mr Hawkins said.

''A lot of our artists are more famous in Brooklyn than they are in Brockville. There is a lot happening in Dunedin, but it needs to be co-ordinated, so it can be used to market the city.''

Mr Cull said during his first term as mayor the council had ''overcome a lot of serious challenges and a lack of vision''.

''Now that we have turned that around, we can build even more on on the artistic and cultural heritage of this city. We need flexibility, innovation and creativity as the city goes forward,'' he said.

Arts and culture was ''potentially, an amazingly productive industry in Dunedin'', Cr Vandervis said.

''We have wonderful facilities and the people, passion and talent here; but not the investment. The only thing Dunedin lacks is streamlined local government.''

Ms Calvert said she ''wouldn't be prepared to lead a city that didn't take art and culture to heart''. The forum also had the theatrical, with Mr Lequeux donning overalls on stage to make a point.

''I have created a lot of culture in this city,'' he said, before listing three bars he had opened in Dunedin.

Mr Dwyer, who revealed he once worked as a self-portrait artist in a market, suggested hosting more international art exhibitions in the city ''and make Dunedin the arts capital of New Zealand''.

Not to be outdone, Mr George revealed he played the bass and was ''an award-winning poet''.

''Arts is the soul of a city, but we need a point of difference to other cities,'' he said.

Candidates Andrew Whiley and Steve McGregor were unavailable to take part in the forum, which was chaired by Otago Festival of the Arts director Nicholas McBryde.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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