Award recognises theatre giving voice to the homeless

Press Release – Arts Access Aotearoa


An Auckland theatre company where most of the actors have experienced homelessness was recognised in Parliament tonight when it received the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Community Arts Award 2019 for its award-winning play called That’s What Friends Are For.

Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019, held in the Banquet Hall of Parliament, celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members.

Stephen Wainwright, Chief Executive of Creative New Zealand, said the Hobson Street Theatre Company provided a platform for people in the homeless community to tell their stories.

“What I love about this theatre project is the way it fostered understanding and conversations between the actors and their audiences,” he said. “The work of this company is a fine example of the power of the arts in our communities to connect us, inspire communication and offer new voices that otherwise might not be heard.”

That’s What Friends Are For was developed in partnership with The University of Auckland and directed by Professor Peter O’Connor. It won the Spirit of the Fringe Award at the 2019 Auckland Fringe Festival. It also toured to the Wellington and Dunedin Fringe Festivals.

The 50-minute highly interactive show challenged the audience to make friends with the cast. The performance in each city was supported by a local community choir, including the Auckland Street Choir, a community choir where many members are homeless or recently housed.

In March 2020, the Hobson Street Theatre Company will perform at the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The company began in 2010 as a weekly drama activity for people who use the services of the Auckland City Mission. Since then, it has developed into a professional company that’s so far performed ten shows in a wide range of venues. Any profits are shared equally among the cast.

For some people, attending the drama classes and taking part in the company’s productions has been a stepping stone to fulltime employment. For others, it has helped them find roles in television commercials and films. For almost all the participants, it’s helped boost their self-esteem and confidence.

There are two Highly Commended projects in the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Community Arts Award 2019. They are:

Gisborne International Music Competition in partnership with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Jolt, Gisborne, Highly Commended for a project at Gisborne Girls’ High School that enabled mainstream and learning support students to participate in a high-quality music and dance residency.

Te Whare Toi o Ngāruawāhia – Twin Rivers Arts Centre, Ngāruawāhia, Highly Commended for a collaboration with local schools that provided access to a high-quality project where young people explored environmental issues and cultural themes through the design and creation of large murals.

Arts Access Aotearoa receives core funding from Creative New Zealand.
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