Festival mood ... Excited about the Waitaki Arts Festival, which is being held next month, are festival organisers (from left) Matthew Wicks, Jane Thompson, Mel Jones, festival director Frances McElhinney, Chloe Searle and David McFarlane. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Waitaki Arts Festival organisers have their fingers crossed for a shift to Alert Level 1 before October 15.

As a two-yearly event, the festival was not affected by last year’s lockdown, and festival director Frances McElhinney is hoping this year’s event will be able to go ahead as planned on October 15-24.

“I am thinking positively,” Mrs McElhinney said.

The festival features a range of exhibitions, performances, plays, tours, talks and street mural creations.

More collaborative than ever, the festival has merged with other events such as Meet the Maker and a beer and wine festival fundraiser for the Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival, and institutions such as the Forrester Gallery and the Waitaki Museum & Archive.

“The community has really come together,” Mrs McElhinney said.

Having such a collaborative festival had been her vision since its inception in 2017, she said.

If the South Island did not shift to Level 1 by the start of the festival, some of the bigger events and shows would not be possible.

“The majority will be able to go ahead.”

Meet the Maker organiser Jane Thompson said the second annual event’s studio tours could still run under Level 2.

“I’m really excited about the festival,” Ms Thompson said.

This year’s Meet the Maker had grown from its humble beginning of 15 artists last year to about 40, spreading across the district from Oamaru to Kakanui, Waianakarua, Palmerston, Duntroon and Five Forks.

“It’s just a celebration of the people that we have locally,” Mrs McElhinney said.

“We have really talented artistic people here and we want to expose that.”

Waitaki District Council business attraction and recovery manager Mel Jones said the festival was a great way to highlight the “creative spirit in the district” and profile it in a different way.

She was also excited to see how different local spaces would be transformed and used for the festival.

Most events are free and the festival’s full programme is available on the Oamaru Opera House website.