Women to the fore at arts festival

Nigel Zega.
Nigel Zega.
More young people than usual turned out for the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour this year, but where were the blokes?

In the wash-up from the largely Wanaka-based arts festival in April, organisers noted 18% of the total audience was under 40 (compared with 10% in 2011) and 78% was female.

The proportion was similar to the last festival two years ago.

Festival director Philip Tremewan told the Otago Daily Times yesterday there was nothing particularly unusual about low male attendance at arts events.

He said festival organisers always kept in mind the need to appeal to young people and to men, but the core audience was traditionally women.

The Aspiring Conversations event, featuring discussions with prominent New Zealanders, drew a bigger male audience, as had musical events men attended with their partners.

ODT festival reviewer Nigel Zega considered the festival had done a good job catering for younger people but was puzzled by the low turnout of men.

''It is probably true that women do tend to spend more time and effort to go to these things. You've still got the traditional Kiwi thing for guys of 'I'm not going to a dance performance'.''

Mr Zega said festivals gave everyone the chance to do something they would not normally do.

''Women might be more willing to give things a go. They might be a little bit more open-minded, a little bit less set in their ways.

''All very sexist, I'm afraid. But the figures appear to be suggesting that,'' he said.

Mr Zega recalled the Kiwi way of men doing one thing and women doing another he encountered when he first arrived in New Zealand 25 years ago.

''But it still applies today. It's still a hangover from the old Kiwi way.''

Favourite performances listed in a survey of festival-goers were Michael Houstoun's Beethoven sonatas, the early settlers play On the Upside Down of the World, the poetry and song from Bill Manhire, Hannah Griffin and Norman Meehan, and Lloyd Geering's Aspiring Conversations session.

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