Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says funding will continue for school Shakespeare competition

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says funding will continue for a school Shakespeare competition after Creative New Zealand initially decided to stop it. 

Creative NZ declined the proposal of $31,000 which would go towards funding the centre from 2023 to 2025.

The organisation is behind an annual competition where high schools across Aotearoa perform scenes from Shakespeare's plays. 

The competition has been running since 1991 and has had more than 120,000 students participate. 

But the funding was initially denied because, according to Creative New Zealand, "the proposal did not demonstrate the relevance to the contemporary art context of Aotearoa in this time and place and landscape".

Ardern told the media on Tuesday funding will continue for the Shakespeare programme. 

"I know there has been a significant level of interest as to the future offering of Shakespeare in schools. I have been talking to our Minister of Education [Chris Hipkins] and he has been talking with his Ministry," Ardern said. 

"The Ministry of Education intends to reach out to the Shakespeare Globe Centre to work with them to find a solution that ensures the programme will continue to be offered to schools. 

"We expect to share a little bit more detail over that final resolution but [we want] to give that assurance we are committed to continuing seeing the programme continue."

Ardern said it was a Government led solution to find funding for the program.  

"Not every decision that gets made by an independent agency will we always agree with," she said. 

"It struck me that actually, this is one of those situations where it probably best sits with education anyway, so we've found a solution and that's what we are going to do." 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the Ministry of Education has agreed to work with Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand and provide some support to help them through their current financial difficulties.

"The Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival in particular has given thousands of young people the opportunity to be creative, and increase their confidence on stage," Hipkins said.

"It would be a real shame if those coming through their education today were to miss out on these opportunities for learning and performing."

Hipkins added over the coming week the Ministry of Education will work through the necessary steps to ensure the benefits to young people from the festival and the work of the centre can continue.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a Government led solution to find funding for the program.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a Government led solution to find funding for the program. Photo credit: Newshub

The original decision to deny funding for the program brought widespread criticism. 

A young Kiwi who travelled to London to perform at The Globe theatre thanks to the organisation was Mahanga Mitchell who told AM on Monday it was "criminal" not to continue funding. 

"I think it's a bit ridiculous. They've cut the funding to such a high calibre programme that sends some talented young individuals to the most famous theatre stages in the whole world and to strip them of that opportunity is criminal," he said. 

"I don't think there's really any other opportunity for young creatives in New Zealand to shine as they do through SGCNZ."

Ardern also criticised the decision not to fund the program telling AM on Monday it provided an opportunity for kids interested in theatre to compete with each other. 

"The way I would describe it is when you've got kids who are interested in theatre there aren't many opportunities for them to participate, other than versions of stage challenges and the likes. There aren't many opportunities to compete and that's what Shakespeare in schools became a vehicle for," she said. 

Ardern also said she performed in the festival as a youngster. 

The criticism from the Prime Minister and Mitchell was shared by Shakespeare Globe Centre of NZ CEO Dawn Sanders who told AM she was "gutted". 

"There are so many young people who have benefited. We've had about 120,000 students go through our festivals and other events and what they've gone on and done is phenomenal," Sanders said. 

"It is a really misplaced decision," she added.