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Behind the Scenes with our Music Curator, Bianca Bailey

Bianca Bailey is an event producer, musician, and songwriter based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Growing up in the throes of the all ages scene in Tāmaki Makaurau, Bianca moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara in 2018 and has been making music as Wiri Donna and working with organisations such as CubaDupa and Eyegum Music Collective ever since.

In 2023 Bianca continued her work with CubaDupa as Music Programmer, spending time making Wiri Donna’s next record, ensemble managing for contemporary classical group Stroma, touring Irish folk band Gráda, and most recently joining The Performance Arcade as Music Curator. 

Thank you for joining us, Bianca!

What is one of the earliest pieces of music you remember? Can you describe it? Where did you hear it, who were you with, how did it make you feel?

I grew up rural and my first introduction to music was through my dad. During all of our long car rides, he introduced me to all the best rock music from a young age. I must have been only five years old at the time, but my dad often reminds me of how demanding I was as a child. We would get in the car and I would say “Dad play that new song, play that new song!” I was referring to Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. It’s a simple song, but it’s powerful and emotive. I have always been a fan of Jack & Meg White, she’s probably the reason I started learning the drums.

What is your background in music? 

I started playing the drums when I was 10 years old, played in a lot of bands through high school, and got really invested in the Tāmaki Makaurau all-ages scene, playing shows and putting them on. We're lucky that we had a bunch of really awesome all-ages venues accessible to young people while I was growing up with places like the Ellen Melville Centre, Old Folks Association, UFO, and Zeal. Nowadays it feels like all ages spaces are few and far between. When I moved to Te Whanganui a-Tara in 2018, I jumped right into the independent scene here and started helping out with local events like Eyegum Music Collective and CubaDupa. Now I have my own music project Wiri Donna, which I've been focusing on over the last few years, releasing my first EP in 2022 and gearing up to release another next year. 

How did you get here to working with PA today?

Bianca Bailey onstage as Wiri Donna. Via @wiridonna

I love working on events that have a strong focus on connecting communities and supporting independent artists. Reuben reached out to me after starting his new (and very exciting) role over at Brewtown and said it might be something I'd be interested in. I jumped at the chance to become a part of The Performance Arcade team after watching him do such a stand up job over the years. 

If Performance Art could make one big change in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, what would you want it to be?

One thing I love about performance art is its ability to shape the future of our cities, what they look like and how they're used. The more parks and urban spaces we have that are open for communal use, the more opportunities people have to be creative with the way we utilise them.

The impact that events like Performance Arcade have on our urban design and future planning is so exciting. If we're able to take these spaces and turn them into something that engages and excites the public, we have a chance to impact the way that our city grows. I'd like to think that Performance Arcade has an impact on saving and maintaining these spaces and invites more attentive thinking towards how other spaces in our city might be developed.

What are you most looking forward to in PA2024?

My favourite part of these events is watching the reaction of people who manage to just stumble across our event. Thinking about the festival site as a little city within our cities with so many weird and wonderful things to be discovered.

I love the look on people's faces when they find something that they weren't expecting, they've been taken by surprise. I think there's so much joy in those people watching moments. 

Setting up for PA2024, 17 February. Photo credit: Tyler Clarke.


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