By: Luke Kirkness
New Zealand’s school Stage Challenge and J Rock events are no longer.
Organisers say economic conditions have led to the axe falling on the events.
Stage Challenge – and later J Rock – have been highlights of school performance calendars since 1992.
The Stage Challenge Foundation told the Herald that income from this year’s planned shows would not have covered costs.
The charity relied on Government and corporate sponsorships, grants, participation fees and ticket sales to cover the cost of producing the events.
Foundation chairman Lester Taylor said a number of factors came into the decision.
Major production costs such as venue hire, staging, lighting and sound had increased over the years, he said.
“The current economic conditions would make it extremely difficult for the corporate sector to sponsor the event,” he said.
Taylor wrote to schools, sponsors, venues, judges, contractors and others after Christmas to inform them of the news.
Although disappointed that neither Stage Challenge or J Rock could continue, he was proud of their history.
“We are proud and honoured to have had more than 500,000 students benefit from the opportunities provided by their participation during this time,” Taylor said.
The foundation had been part of New Zealand’s youth culture since 1992.
Stage Challenge incorporated performing arts such as dance, music, design and drama within an eight-minute performance.
J Rock provided primary and intermediate students the opportunity to express their creativity through the same artistic channels.
Each year about 200 schools, 16,000 participants and an audience of 25,000 people would turn out for the events, held at more than 10 venues around the country.
Taylor said the foundation was “most grateful to the sponsors who have steadfastly support the events for so many years”.
Pauline Cleaver, acting deputy secretary early learning and student achievement of the Ministry of Education, said the news was disappointing.
The ministry had a contract with the foundation from 2016 to 2019 and gave them $267,000 a year, she said.
“We understand this covered about a third of the total annual cost.
“Late last year, the Stage Challenge Foundation informed us that they were going to end their contract with us.
“We know that this will be extremely disappointing for the thousands of young people, their parents and the wider community who have supported these events,” Cleaver said.
Stage Challenge was based on the Australian Rock Eisteddfod Challenge.
In early 2010, Rock Eisteddfod was axed after 30 years because reduced support pushed tickets higher.
Taylor said the foundation would have loved to continue the event so future generations could have experienced the same thrill as thousands of others before them.
Foundation producer, Helen Sjoquist, said it was disappointing to make the decision not to proceed with the events.
“There has been a steady increase in the cost of producing the events without a corresponding increase in revenue from sponsorships, grants, participation fees and ticket sales.
“Many of the teachers, who put so much time and effort into producing and assisting their students’ performances, are not being supported by parents and family members by buying tickets to the events,” Sjoquist said.
The ministry encouraged students and schools to continue to take part in other national events such as the Smokefree Rockquest and the Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival.
Source: NZ Herald