Christchurch Arts Festival revitalises central city

Christchurch Arts Festival revitalises central city

The Christchurch Arts Festival has opened, and for the first time since the earthquakes it's back in the central city.

Punters are thrilled to be back in parts of the badly damaged arts centre, which has been unused for the past five years.

The Christchurch Arts Festival has once again set the central city, ablaze with colourful performances attracting big crowds last night.

"We've had shows in the centre of the city in previous festivals but it's been spread out. It's been really hard to get a hub of activity and this time we're actually back in our home of the arts centre," says festival director Craig Cooper.

The festival spans four weekends and has shows this year focusing on Christchurch stories such as much-heralded musical That Bloody Woman about Kate Sheppard, who rode around Christchurch on a bicycle before winning women the right to vote.

Most of the arts centre buildings are still damaged, but the gymnasium is being used for the festival and a Spiegel tent has been set up to house some of the major shows.

"We rely on those temporary venues at the moment because we're still lacking drama theatres, concert halls and those sorts of things, so they really have to be bought back online," says Mr Cooper.

Home to some of the most historic buildings in the city, the Christchurch Arts Centre was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquakes and repairs are estimated to cost nearly $300 million.

The buildings will reopen in stages, with the last set to open in 2019. But for now, the city's residents are happy to be back.

"People are loving the fact that we've got a hub back again and it's something that people in Christchurch have really missed because there's not a lot of reason to come back into the centre of the city at night," says Mr Cooper.

Festival directors say using the arts to tell the city's stories has been a big help for a place and a population that have been to hell and back.

3 News