Voice Arts provides free access to drama-based creative programmes in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, but what makes them truly unique is their ethos of delivering to people within their own neighbourhoods and spaces. The programmes are led by theatre practitioners trained by Voice Arts in the use of applied improvisation, devised theatre, and storytelling. While they mainly work with older people, including those living with dementia, they also focus on supporting the cultural development of former refugees, new migrant youth and their parents and grandparents. Their aim is to give participants a voice and the opportunity to feel seen and heard.

Director of Voice Arts, Nicola Pauling, has many years’ experience developing people and communities through play and performance and has led more than 50 successful participatory performance projects working with children, teens, at risk youth, former refugees and new migrants, prisoners, seniors and elders.

Nicola cites research from 2020 that shows Kiwis aged over 70 were less likely than average to participate in the arts. This is despite research showing the arts can have a profound, positive impact on older people’s cognitive function, memory, and emotional, physical and psychological health. Voice Arts works to turn that situation around by making the arts accessible, fun and easy for older people, and with that comes the benefits of participation.

Voice Arts also works with refugees and young people to explore multi-generational opportunities to express cultural identity through theatre.

“The opportunity to join together, laugh, have fun and explore emotions through theatre can’t be underestimated and it’s great to be able to bring these programmes out to people and see the difference they make,” Nicola says.