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“… I also believe deeply in the power of sport, heritage and the arts to contribute to stronger communities.”

The transition from council control has been smooth, he says. “The mayor and councillors Noonan and Courtenay, in particular, have been approachable and supportive.” While the trust is independent, it obviously has to align with the council’s wider goals and work with staff to create events. Brent admits to a hectic first few months – “we’ve pretty much been setting up a new business from scratch.” A series of community workshops has given board members a better understanding of what Nelsonians want from their showcase event – ‘more visibility’ for the festival, particularly in the CBD, and more broadly, that it would be “unmissable to everyone in our community”. On the back of this feedback, the trust has just launched its first strategy. “We’ve also begun talking to other funders and, of course, planning for this year’s festival.” Brent sees no sense in

Above: Clockwise - Brent trekking in Milford; Brent at the Centre of NZ with his family pet; Brent and his partner Felicity Connell; Brent and his father Graeme and grandfather Stanley Opposite page: Clockwise - Brent in front of previous Arts Festival posters; Brent with his father Graeme and his sisters at the family home in Mapua (early 1970s)

re-inventing the wheel. That said, he heeds the plea to make the festival “more engaging and relevant for the whole community”. He’s building from what he calls a ‘fantastic’ performing arts scene. “Things like WOW, the arts festival, the music school, Bay Dreams and Rockquest were pretty much unimaginable when I was a kid … I’d still love to see more, especially the diversity.”

The warmth of home

Re-acquainting with his roots has been easy. Brent’s partner, Felicity Connell, works for Wakatu Corporation and “they have been such a warm and welcoming whanau for us both”. Felicity’s mother and Brent’s dad and step-mother are also local, “so being able to spend more time with them was a huge part of moving home,” he says. Between work, board roles and family, Brent has little spare time, “but when we can, we take time out to reconnect with the sea, rivers and hills of the region.” 19

Profile for WildTomato

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...