Arlena Teiho for HER Festival. Photography / Lula Cucchiara
We’ve been fans of legendary events producer Ella Mizrahi since first attending Art in the Dark, the psychedelic, neon splashed night festival in the heart of Ponsonby she co-produced some years back.
In the intervening years, she’s honed her skills working for Auckland Council on excellent large-scale public events like Matariki, Diwali and Proud Centres as part of Auckland Pride - and is now branching out on her own again, with the announcement of HER Festival to be held in Tāmaki Makaurau in March 2022.
The two week festival will serve as a celebration of community, by and for women and people of marginalised genders sharing their experience through music, art, performance, play, and learning to influence change.
Ella specifically wants it to be wide reaching - for young girls plugged into social media and 80-year-old second wave Feminists - and accessible across Tāmaki Makaurau (including North, South, East and West; not the usual Central focus).
It was officially launched on Thursday night at Auckland's Ellen Melville Centre (named after the first woman to be elected to the Auckland City Council and the second New Zealand woman to become a lawyer), hosted by Kura Forrester and featuring a poetry reading by Kayla Rotsteen and performance by Lomina Araitia.
“HER will provide a platform for women to connect, create and celebrate the length and breadth of what makes us, us,” said Ella in a statement.
“After having a daughter and loving the newfound motherhood tribe, I realised how much stronger women are when we lift each other up. It feels incredibly important to create a space for us to do that.”
Ella cites the extra pressure placed on women through Covid, which saw them disproportionately affected by pandemic related unemployment and an increase in the gender pay gap, as extra impetus to get HER off the ground.
As well as fostering community, creativity and conversation, the festival will also generate employment opportunities. Events will be delivered by women teams where possible, with a sponsor, Oceania, holding workshops later this year to upskill women in learning audio visual technologies, sound and lighting rigs. All profits from the festival will also be donated to Women’s Refuge.
HER will run March 8-20 2022 (March 8 being International Women’s Day), with the ambitious goal of being the largest platform for all who identify as women in New Zealand.
Ella intends for the next 11 months to be one of reconnaissance and crowdsourcing of ideas, with an open call for people to submit ideas about what they’d like to see in the festival.
Women’s festivals are big business overseas, including Women of the World (or WOW) in London, All About Women in Sydney and Black Girl Fest online. But Aotearoa has never had its own, at this scale. With Ella’s experience and expertise at the helm, HER is set to become an adored, thought-provoking and fun fixture on the calendar.