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SPADA2017: Jacinda Ardern

SPADA’s first day was one of contrasts, between speakers, between models of traditional media and disruptive business models (or the disruptive absence of them), between established and up and coming industry members.

Richard Fletcher alluded to these themes in his emotional acceptance speech for the Industry Champion award. Jacinda Ardern’s opening address, largely delivered off the cuff after she abandoned prepared notes, also addressed new models.

Accompanied by her now famously recognisable bearded security presence, Ardern arrived early and engaged. In Opposition a regular attendee and intelligent contributor at industry conferences, it seemed her passion for the arts is not (yet?) being overtaken by the larger workload and responsibilities of Premiership.

Like Labour’s last PM, Ardern has retained the Culture and Heritage portfolio for herself, and she shared how seeing Gaylene Preston’s War Stories as a teenager inspired her to enrol at Waikato University in a film and television studies course.

Ardern spoke energetically, enthusiastically and passionately about Labour’s long-held conviction that the arts are as essential to our cultural well-being as any socio-economic factors. The significant contribution that the arts make to our GDP is another good reason for supporting them, but is far from the only reason.

She promised that there would be points of focus for the government in the arts over the next two years, and layered those on top of broader policy planks addressing poverty, accessibility and diversity.

Labour intended to increase access to arts practice for people, regardless of what demographic boxes they ticked. Ardern noted that creativity does not flourish in a garret, and that improving access would only be possible when linked with reducing poverty and inequality.

Creating the opportunities for people to flourish (in all walks of life) felt like a strong contrast with the previous government’s strategy of backing those who were already winners.

Ardern was also keen on people being able to have successful careers, in the arts as elsewhere, and she proposed more training and apprenticeships in the arts as a way to begin to achieve that.

Long time attenders of SPADA will recall how the Broadcasting Minister used to present, back in the day when the government’s interest in broadcasting still extended beyond collecting a dividend from TVNZ and picking the wings off RNZ.

Ardern spoke of the importance of public broadcasting, and the need to return to a place where we could encourage people to test boundaries, to experiment. She encouraged us to be more courageous in our storytelling.

Referencing conference’s 2017 theme of collaboration, Ardern noted that she wanted the relationship between the government and the screen industry to also be one of collaboration. She cited the ongoing discussions between Minister Ian Lees-Galloway and industry guilds over proposed revisions to (rather than the previously-promised repeal of) the so-called Hobbit law.



Ardern concluded by saying she was proud to be the Minister for the Arts and proud to be with SPADA today, receiving a standing ovation for her turn.

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