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Winter workshops a boon for Arts Council

August 11th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

The Motueka Arts Council's winter workshop series is proving a boon for both the council and the town, with a huge jump in enrolments this year and a bonus performance by three groups at the council's AGM last night.

The Arts Council decided to make the annual general meeting more attractive to potential members by adding in wine and cheese and some highly entertaining performances by music and writing groups. It worked, with nearly 60 people packing the Band Rooms venue.

The group (catchphrase: 'Celebrating community arts in Motueka') is supported by grants from TDC rates, Creative Communities Tasman and Canterbury Community Trust, along with donations and commercial help from many local businesses and organisations. Their most prominent activities are mounting the Winter Workshops and Welcome to the Godwits, but they have also been actively involved over the past year in community art events and projects including streetscaping and the Art Walk brochure.

The AGM heard from chairperson Shirley Frater that this year's Winter Workshops (not yet finished) have been attended by almost 300 people so far, a huge leap from 210 last year which itself was already a record for the series' 13-year history.

"These are a very good service to the people of Motueka," Shirley said. "They are appreciated by the public and tutors in developing skill levels to beginners or experienced participants for benefits in the arts and crafts fields. Many people go on to extend skill levels by other means. Some have become tutors or developed confidence to become part-time self employed."

She said the workshops also have benefits to the economy in local businesses, with the use of services and supply of materials. People travel from Nelson and Golden Bay to take part. "With the cancellation of Adult Education in colleges, the Arts Council workshops play a very important part in community learning and mental health."

The council's finances showed a surplus for the year, although it was emphasised that the June end-of-year date made this an inaccurate picture as grants came in earlier but many expenditure payments are being made since that date.

The value of the winter workshops was seen after the business section of the AGM was over. Three workshop groups gave highly entertaining and impressive performances of material that has arisen out of their workshops. Two groups - the Creative Writers Group and the Ukes of Hazzard - started out as workshops but have carried on to become groups with regular year-round meetings and performances.

Four members of the Creative Writers Group read their short stories or poems - all well received for their creative construction and story-telling. Then about 15 members of the Ukes of Hazzard performed six well-known songs.

The group, founded and led by Jiggery Folkery's Paul Bond, now have a repertoire of over 100 songs. One performed last night to great amusement was a number written by Paul about the Rugby World Cup, with the chorus line: "Bugger me days, this ruggerby craze drives me crazy". They finished with an appropriate song, "Something tells me I'm into something good".

Finally the 25-strong choir which formed through the workshop "Singing for Pleasure" gave six songs from the "world music" genre, all with different languages and some with unusual rhythms. Given the group, led brilliantly by tutor Barbie Cole, have only had five workshop sessions together, they displayed outstanding quality in four-part harmonies and clarity, and left the audience smiling. Of note was the strength and quality of the males, traditionally a weakness in small community choirs.


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