Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister, requiring cancellation of upcoming major events, was a crushing blow to our plans for CubaDupa but now seems entirely necessary. Our organisation produces what might be New Zealand’s largest and most creative free outdoor festival. Our team and creative partners were ready to fill the streets of Te Aro with 1500 artists, 447 events, and celebrate cultural identity with tens of thousands of friends and neighbours. But in the name of public health and safety, and flattening the potential epidemic curve, going dark and keeping audiences and artists safe seems like the right policy.

Italy, Korea, Spain, and the United States are making a case for early and robust mass containment policies, even when they seem drastic or belated. An important observation (Michael Leavitt, a former US Secretary of Health) is that “Anything said in advance of a pandemic seems alarmist. After a pandemic begins, anything one has said or done is inadequate.”

CubaDupa are fully supportive of being drastic, of ensuring safer communities, of lessening the impact of contagion and illness. There will be no 2020 festival. But we also remain committed to our mission as a leading cultural organisation, a champion of artists, and a facilitator of creative responses to the the issues of the day. Whatever comes next, a few things are certain: we intend to find new ways to support artists, to celebrate our amazing community, to be a post-pandemic festival. Our team are currently figuring out how to postpone all the plans we’ve made for 2020, suspend what can be put on hold, and then keep on going. Then when times and community are safe, we’ll present CubaDupa in all its glory.

Even in the face of terrifying uncertainties and great unknowns, the arts and creative ideas will lead us from dark to light. So while our organisation is now concerned with public safety and lessening contagion, we will never lose our focus on artists, performers, storytellers, and the magical experiences they bring to our shared humanity. That too is entirely necessary.