Petitions to bring back Stage Challenge

Mount Maunganui College won second place in the 2017 Stage Challenge: Photo: Dean Cohen.

Petitions have been launched to bring back the axed school Stage Challenge.

One petition, by Alison Wright, had gained 500 supporters by Tuesday night.

"Tell the Stage Challenge Foundation, the Ministry of Education, The Ministry of Youth and Chris Hipkins the Education Minister that we won’t stand idly by while opportunities for participation in the arts are dwindling away," two petitions state. 

Students across the country reacted with sadness and shock at the news on that the popular event had been cancelled.

When Nelson high school student Liani Paaka heard Stage Challenge had been cancelled, she was so distraught she started crying immediately.

Stage Challenge - an annual dance, drama and design competition - has been a highlight for artistic high school students for 25 years.

Liani, 17, was set to be one of two Year 13 leaders for Garin College’s 2018 Stage Challenge performance.

She had been participating in Stage Challenge since she was 14, and said being on stage with her schoolmates made her feel "fearless".

Paaka was both cyberbullied and physically bullied in her early teenage years. 

“One time I was walking down the street with a friend and people called out to me, boys from another college, and threw rocks and cans at us and challenged us to fight them. It really affected me."

At the time she had "never felt more depressed", but Stage Challenge helped to boost her confidence.

"I put all my emotion, rage and frustration into my dance. It was so good because I had never really had a healthy outlet for it. It made me feel so much better about myself."

Performing in Stage Challenge made her feel like she was part of a community, she says, and taught her not to care what other people thought about her.

"Half the time I don’t remember performing. I don’t think or stress. I’m just giving it my all. Once you’re used to being up on stage in front of heaps of random people, it makes normal life easier.”

“I can actually go into town by myself without having to cling onto my Mum now. Before, I’d be so stressed out about seeing people that had said stuff about me."

She felt "horrible" when she found out Stage Challenge had been canned - not only for herself but for all Kiwi students.

"When I read it this morning I just started crying because I couldn’t cope with it. I know so many people who also used it for an outlet. The fact that we’re not going to get that opportunity anymore sucks," she says.

Liani felt that sporting competitions seemed to be given priority in New Zealand, while artistic competitions often fell by the wayside.

"For students like me who are more artistic, it’s one of the only outlets offered for us to express ourselves. It makes me sad that [we] have one less outlet.”

"Hear my plea: New Zealand teens need Stage Challenge - I need Stage Challenge."

Garin College won Stage Challenge in 2015 with their performance, "The One Forbidden Thing".

The Stage Challenge Foundation emailed teachers and sponsors to say they were cancelling the competition because they could not keep up with costs.

In a letter to participating schools, foundation chairman Lester Taylor says: "The income generated from sponsorship and ticket sales in 2018 will be insufficient to produce the events to a high standard."

Wellington College arts director Kirsty Hazledine told Stuff a group of arts teachers were considering starting their own dance competitions.

"There’s a move afoot in Whanganui for them to do something with Whanganui and Manawatu, as there is in Auckland. We might look to do something similar as well," she said.

"We’re really sorry it’s happened."

 - Stuff/MEGAN GATTEY


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