Excitement builds in festival countdown

Published on 28th June 2012

Annabel Norman’s sneak preview of one of the acts scheduled to appear in the Pacific Festival of the Arts has whetted her appetite for the main event, which kicks off in Honiara on Sunday.


Annabel, who is on a six-month assignment as a festival adviser, lives two doors away from where acclaimed Solomon Islands band Narasirato have been practising during the lead-up to the festival.


The band, whose members come from the island of Malaita, make and play giant pan pipes using techniques that date back 75 generations. They were part of the line-up at this year’s Womad in New Plymouth, and also played at the Glastonbury Festival in 2011.


According to one English reviewer, the band shows the funkier, bluesy side of pan pipes.


Annabel Norman (on the right) with her host Madeline, Hannah Quigan (also a VSA volunteer) and local women during a village stay in the Solomon Islands.


For Annabel, who was director of the Nelson Arts festival for 16 years, hearing Narasirato practising has given her taste of what lies in store during the 14-day festival.


“I can’t wait,” she says. “There will be some really unique art forms and performances coming together at the festival – really traditional stuff from places like the tribal hinterlands of Papua New Guinea, and from isolated islands like Tikopia in the southern Solomons, where people still live the way they have for centuries.”


More than 2000 performers from 23 Pacific countries are expected to perform at the festival, including 121 Maori and Pacific artists who arrived in Honiara from New Zealand on 25 June.


Annabel has been working on the festival with VSA UniVols Lucy Dryden and Hannah Quigan. She says their roles have been largely logistic, helping the organisers make sure the programme runs smoothly, and that the different teams communicate effectively before and during the event.


Most of the funding for the festival has come from the Solomon Islands government and unlike New Zealand arts festivals, entry is free to all events.


“It will be accessible to everyone who wants to rock down and see a show.”


The festival village.


The influx of performers and visitors is expected to put a lot of pressure on Honiara’s  often temperamental infrastructure; even ensuring an adequate water supply for the festival performers and staff has been a major exercise.


And while Annabel had hoped that it would be possible to introduce a bulk supply of drinking water, rather than relying on bottled water, that has not been possible.



“We will be recycling aluminium cans but unfortunately at this stage Honiara doesn’t have the facilities to do plastic recycling, so we will just have to deal with all the extra plastic bottles.”


One thing visitors will be able to enjoy is 20km of newly built footpaths that connect the city to the festival village, which boasts three main stages and more than 100 traditional leaf huts.


They will also get to see Honiara at its best.


“City officials have been busy clearing away rubbish and sprucing the place up. It’s all helping to create a real sense of anticipation and excitement.”


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