A warm welcome to our new Executive Director

The Southern Lakes Arts Festival Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of Charlie Unwin as Executive Director of the Festival of Colour and Aspiring Conversations. This is a new position that replaces the General Manager role previously held by Laura Williamson.

Charlie grew up playing in the then-empty fields of Wānaka, and although he has lived and worked all over New Zealand, he still calls Wānaka home. Charlie has more than 26 years’ experience working in the professional performing arts as an actor, producer and director, and has successfully delivered more than twenty festivals around Aotearoa New Zealand. He has worked internationally with some of the biggest names in the industry (just ask him who…).

As well as his role as Executive Director of the Festival of Colour, Charlie is also the Director of the Dunedin Arts Festival and the Chair of The Performing Arts Network Of New Zealand (PANNZ).

He’s looking forward to working on his “home festival” and continuing to grow this jewel in the New Zealand events’ crown.

Charlie Unwin

Charlie with be working alongside Philip Tremewan, who is programming the 2022 Aspiring Conversation festival of ideas, and Sophie Kelly, the new Artistic Director of the Festival of Colour arts festival.

Philip says he is delighted with Charlie’s appointment.

“He brings his wide industry experience at Nelson and Dunedin festivals – and as chair of the national Performing Arts Network – back to his hometown of Wānaka. He has worked in the past alongside our Artistic Director Sophie Kelly for the Nelson Festival, and together these two provide a real energy to nurture the ongoing development of both the Festival of Colour and Aspiring Conversations.”

He will be supported by a brilliant Wānaka-based team, Abbey Lewis and Anna McConville.

Outgoing General Manage Laura Williamson says she is thrilled to be leaving the festival in such capable hands.

“We’ve made huge strides over the past few years, especially growing the Festival of Colour’s free community and street programme, as well as engaging with younger and more diverse audiences through both festivals. Sophie and Charlie are the right leaders to carry on with this work, and take our events to a new level.”

Laura says the festival fans will not have seen the last of her. “Our former GM, Lindsey Schofield, has been working in the Box Office, and I’m sure I’ll be back in some capacity too. Our festivals are fantastic events, and I hope to stay involved.”


Save the dates for the 2022 Aspiring Conversations

We are well into programming and planning for the 2022 Aspiring Conversations festival of ideas. We’ve had a date change since the initial announcement, so please update your calendars.

The Aspiring Conversations festival of ideas will now take place March 25 to 27, 2022.

Keep an eye out for ongoing updated, and get ready for our programme launch, set for January 31, 2022.


Climate matters

Aspiring Conversations regularly deals with the issue of global warming. Keep up to date with the discussion at the world’s major climate negotiations in Glasgow in November, COP26.

It appears the New Zealand media are sending just one journalist: Rod Oram, who will be doing daily podcasts for newsroom.co.nz

And also check out the New York Times Climate Hub for a series talks on how we can adapt and thrive on a changing planet. They also have a wonderful installation of a forest of 197 living trees for the countries that have ratified the climate change convention.

Follow the New York Times Climate Hub at nytclimatehub.com.


Love our festivals? It’s time to show your support!

Our Patron and Benefactor supporters are a crucial part of our funding mix – ticket sales only cover about a quarter of our costs. The rest of our expense are paid for through the support of grantmakers, sponsors and private supporters like you!

You can join for the next two years as a Patron for $600 or a Benefactor for $2500 and be a part of bringing two wonderful festivals to Wānaka – your Patron or Benefactor membership covers both Aspiring Conversations and the Festival of Colour.

It’s easy to renew or join online here on our website.

Or you can:

  • direct deposit your donation into our Southern Lakes Arts Festival Trust bank account with your name as a reference
  • get directly in with our team on info@festivalofcolour.co.nz, or on 443 4172.


Not sure if you need to renew? Check the list of 2022 supporters HERE on the Aspiring Conversations website.


Arts and events in our region

Ghost Trio
Lake Wānaka Centre
Thursday 7 October @ 7:30pm

Named for Beethoven’s famous work for piano trio, Ghost Trio is made up of Gabriela Glapska (piano), Ken Ichinose (cello) and Monique Lapins (violin). The group was founded in mid-2019 as one of Gabriela’s PhD recital projects. Ghost Trio is presented by Wānaka Concert Society and Chamber Music New Zealand. Tickets from Eventfnda.

2021 At the World’s Edge Festival: MATA-AU
The Rippon Hall
Friday 15 October @ 7:30pm

Three masterfully curated events. Three breath-taking locations. Three venues designed to capture the very beauty of sound itself. Designed for the young and the old, the new to chamber music and the long-standing enthusiasts alike, the AWE 2021 Festival is about forging connections and sharing experiences, providing a new stage for classical music in our beautiful region. Follow the journey of three exceptional composers Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms whose works intertwine throughout our three 2021 AWE Festival performances. Tickets from Eventfinda.

Toi Wānaka
15 -17 October, Wānaka

A celebration of creativity. A collective group of artistically-minded individuals, businesses and community coming together to champion creativity in Wānaka with a weekend packed full of events, featuring two days of workshops, exhibitions and performance. Visit www.toiWānaka.nz for more information and to register for workshops.

Wao Summit 2021
Tuesday, 26 October – Sunday, 31 October, Wānaka

A six-day event aimed at mainstreaming sustainability and fostering diversity, our Wao Summit is 360-degree approach to creating and fostering tangible, social and environmental change at every level. Whether you’re new here or been on this ride for a while, Wao has more than 40 different kōrero, workshops, films and tours – all designed to help you, help the planet. Info and tickets: wao.co.nz/summit2021.