Watching the recipients of the six Big ‘A’ Awards receive their trophies and make their acceptance speeches is a “major moment” of the year for me. As a co-host (with Arts Access Aotearoa trustee Kendall Akhurst), I am on stage watching the whole show – feeling like I’m inside a TV monitor.
When the person or organisation’s name is announced, coloured spotlights swirl, the Real Timeliners band strikes up the award theme, and the excited and (sometimes) overwhelmed recipients make their way through the applause and cheers to the podium.
There has been all manner of build-up for the recipient to this moment in the spotlight. The nomination process, receiving “the phone call”, follow-ups about media releases, photos, interviews, transport from home, “what to wear” and questions about accessibility needs.
Suddenly, all the hubbub dies away. They face an audience of people from all over New Zealand packed into the Banquet Hall, inside the glass circle that skirts the base of the iconic Beehive building in Wellington.
Two-hundred and sixty people concentrate. What do you say at that moment when you have “up to two minutes please” to make an acceptance speech? You are a Big ‘A’ recipient. You’ve been told it means that this year you have been acknowledged by your peers as the person or group that best exemplifies the standard and achievement that helps people overcome barriers to their participation and inclusion in the arts. Now say something. (No pressure!)
Every one of the recipients (and I have seen three years of them now) proceed at this emotion-filled moment to speak about people and the art. Usually it’s people first and art (the work) second. They talk about their gratitude to others and the experience, and where it has unexpectedly got them. They talk about who they work with, about overcoming barriers presented by disability or what they have achieved together. It all makes one point – that what they do uncovers the human experience of creativity and communication.
Time suspends (was it really two minutes?), and humility combines with joy and (unusual) recognition. There is a warmth of goodwill in the space between the person holding the wildly unique Robert Rapson-designed trophy and the audience members who hear about extraordinary effort, talent, commitment and results.
You can be sure that the recipients are all back at work again today facing the same challenges and enjoyments that were there before the Big ‘A’ bright lights. Hopefully, the energy of recognition and celebration will be extra fuel to keep them going for some time to come.
Audience guests tell me they take away inspiration, appreciation and possibilities for their own work and lives. I expect the many Members of Parliament who attend get a very good grounding about the value of the community arts sector.
I hope that you will read about the Big ‘A’ recipients and follow their work and achievements. Perhaps there’s a way they can benefit from your support through a financial donation or your voluntary time? Is their way of including New Zealanders in the arts something that you could adopt or follow?
Grateful two-minute speeches (and increased access to the arts) become possible because of the support we all provide.
Read more about the Real Timeliners.