Te tiro atu tō kanohi ki tairāwhiti ana tērā whiti te rā kite ataata ka hinga ki muri ki a koe:: Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you

We don’t know about you, but we came away from the pop-up version of Escape! at the weekend with hearts full of hope.

Throughout the weekend there was a joyous sense of coming together – something we’ve sorely missed since March – not only in a physical way, but a meeting of minds too, as some deep thinking was shared from both sides of the stage.

Our grateful thanks to all our ticket-buyers, swimmers, patrons, sponsors, venues and volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you. And a big hug to all our guest speakers who were, without fail, generous with their time, open to ideas, collegial and consummate performers.

Where did we Escape! to? For the group of 12 who gathered at the Tidal Steps on Sunday morning it was into the embrace of Tauranga Moana; for those at talks by Tom Scott (Charles Upham VC and bar), Annette Lees (outdoor swimming) and Te Radar, it was into our past; for those at Love Letters it was into a good many good books; for those at Up with the Birds it was into the bush and our gardens.

Novelists talked about writing with a heart of darkness; scientists talked about how nothing can replace the bountiful knowledge that stems from generations of observation by ordinary people; a medic, a minister and a mortician talked about the paperwork dying causes, how to come to terms with death and how we can comfort the living …

The Only Solutions panel on Sunday took a vote and decided to be ready should the Prime Minister call. So look out for Minister for Craft Beer (Shaun Hendy, promising a daily tasting at 1pm), co-Minister for Dumplings (Tina Shaw), Minister of Aspiration (Te Radar) and Minister of Funism (Karen Summerhays), with Rod Oram choosing to be the Prime Minister's number 1 limo driver.

There were magic moments aplenty, from the raw emotion of a love letter from Rod Oram to Swedish economist Dag Hammerskjold (UN secretary-general at the time of his death in a plane crash in Africa in 1961), to Tom Scott making us laugh out loud about his own shortcomings in the face of Charlie Upham’s bravery; from Annette Lees’ idea that we’re going about social welfare backwards, to Te Radar sending us away loving our country, quirks and all but especially the quirks.

If you couldn’t make it to a talk, here are some random things we heard that caught our fancy:

* Harvest kina when the pōhutukawa flowers (they’ll be fat) and leave them when the harakeke flowers (they’ll be thin and bitter).

* If you see a bird apparently singing but can’t hear anything, it’s because the song is in a register beyond our range of hearing.

* A cat, caught during the 1941 Libyan campaign, was cared for by C Company and named Mrs Rommel. After the battalion returned to Egypt she produced two kittens on the bed of Charles Upham who, when he saw the cat and kittens, promptly did an about-face and slept that night on the sand.

* Captive breeding of kokako is made harder because each population has its own song dialect and won’t interact with birds using another dialect – and some of these populations can be in relatively small areas. In Te Urewera, for example, each valley has its own dialect.

* The first aerial police search in this country was for illegal whisky stills in Southland – and, thanks to the pilot, was unsuccessful!

* Bernard Freyberg, another VC, swam for hours in a cold sea at night to set flares to divert the Turks from the Gallipoli landing, and still managed to find his pick-up * vessel in the dark. It was claimed that a life of swimming in Wellington Harbour made him the man for the job.

* Tūī and bellbirds mimic each other, just to make non-visual identification that bit harder!

If you have any feedback for us, we would love to hear from you. Please email info@taurangafestival.co.nz

Our ability to continue to bring top-quality festivals to Tauranga is dependent upon having a solid financial base for long-term planning – and the key support of Sponsors and Patrons. If you’ve thought about joining the Festival whānau but are unsure about what that entails, please feel free to get in touch, info@taurangafestival.co.nz and we'll be only too happy to talk you through it. There is also information on the Patrons page on our website.

We had a great time delivering Escape! 2020 and we can't wait to see you at our next Festival from October 21-31, 2021.


Your Festival Team