Festival for the Future is now a Wellington staple, having returned firmly to the nation's capital, and once again being hosted at TSB Bank Arena on the Wellington waterfront- and now boasting more than 1,200 attendees.
They say nothing beats Wellington on a good day and that was certainly the case on day 1 of Festival for the Future 2019. Attendees arrived to the sun shining along the waterfront and none of that infamous Wellington wind.
With a lot of new faces on the Inspiring Stories team, and a couple of Festival veterans, the team was energetic to see Festival weekend unfold. By all accounts, the 2019 Festival was a huge success, many calling it our best Festival yet! More than 1,200 people from across the nation, and several international delegates made their way to Wellington on July 24th-26th. The room was filled with enthusiasm and passion, people were ready to listen and ready for action. Hundreds of people were filtering through registration and the marketplace was filling up with people, eager to engage with the not-for-profits, education institutions and movements represented. Soon enough attendees were invited to take a seat in the arena for the opening of Festival which would begin with a very moving Powhiri.
This post is a summary of the Friday night opening at the Festival. Having 1,200+ people turn up to your party is a hard thing to describe, and nothing quite prepares you for the buzz of the opening night!!
Friday night theme...
The future is ours to create!
Mayor of Wellington, Justin Lester, took to the stage first. “Our vision is not just to make Wellington the coolest little capital in the world but also the fairest little capital in the world.” Justin spoke about his frustration as a young person growing up with a lack of compassion and understanding from those in office. Having grown up in a single income family, receiving benefits, he was angry at the stigma attached to accepting government assistance. He shared his vision of leadership, “When you’re a leader, you’re supposed to lift people up.” He encouraged young people to become more active in government at any level, in order to give more perspectives and serve the young people of New Zealand more effectively.
Next up was Stacey Morrison, well-known TV and radio broadcaster of Ngāi Tahu and Te Arawa and member of Massey University’s Te Pūtahi-a-Toi/The School of Māori Knowledge. Stacey spoke about culture and identity and what that meant to her. She spoke about stewardship of the land and conserving Te Reo for future generations. “Uncover your voice, reclaim your voice and heal your voice”. She spoke of the incredible bonds iwi feel towards their ancestors, and used the analogy of moonwalking: looking to the past for guidance but moving forwards.
Then Member of Parliament Golriz Ghahraman took the stage. A human-rights lawyer and New Zealand’s first former refugee MP, Golriz brought a unique perspective to the audience. She spoke about individuals’ ability to represent people who share their experiences. She spoke about the importance of lived experiences and bringing those experiences to the table to be heard.
Next up we heard from TJ & Greer Perenara. TJ, a player for New Zealand’s national rugby team and his wife Greer a talented performer and actress, shared their passion for a more inclusive society both in sports and in the arts. TJ shared honestly conversations he had had with his mum and sister that helped him recognise how discrimination had become ingrained in his thinking and in his sport. “Influence your environment. Consistently and positively- because that creates a culture. Infect your environment first and then that spreads.” Greer spoke about performance as a way to express your concerns, and influence change. “Often you feel like you’re one small voice, but if all these people who feel like they are a small voice, spoke up- that’s when you’d get change.”
Wrapping up our closing ceremony we had Talei Bryant, a catalyst for the Whakatane Future Leaders program and founder of the Find your Fish Movement. In 2018, she sat at Festival for the Future for the first time and was motivated to help young people find their passions and make a career out of it. She spoke about all the people around who had helped her come this far, and how she was using their encouragement and support to encourage and support others. “What I’ve always wanted to do is help people.” This was an amazing way to close the first night of Festival, reflecting on the impact the event can have, and the difference a year can make.