HaBYT has secured its future with a restructure, a new board of trustees and a return to charitable status for the youth theatre company. 

For the past five years it has been financed and operated by Peter and Juliet Cottrell under their Drama Workshop company that has since ceased operation. 

“We want to ensure that HaBYT continues as an entity for many years to come, no matter who is at the helm, within a well supported, sustainable model that is accessible to all youth across Hawke’s Bay,” says Juliet Cottrell. “We felt it was necessary to return the organisation to charitable status so that whoever takes charge in the future has a substantial platform, policies and procedures in place to continue growing the organisation and be able to seek the appropriate funding to do so.” 

Under the newly established Trust, HaBYT will continue providing the same opportunities to youth interested in drama performance and production with the added benefit of providing these opportunities to those who would otherwise be unable to participate through financial hardship.

HaBYT was established as a charitable trust in 2003 by director and teacher Ken Keys, also well known as the founder of the National Youth Drama School (NYDS). 

Between 2003 and 2013, Ken produced and directed over 50 productions for HaBYT while teaching Hawkes Bay’s fresh young talent advanced theatre skills. A number of former HaBYT members have gone on to train as actors and technicians at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School and other tertiary theatre training providers, as well as finding other pathways in the Arts and applying their skills in all manner of professions.

The new Trust’s Founding Board members are: business consultant Tony Desmond; Liffey Rimmer, GP and past HaBYT parent; musician and past HaBYT student Aslan Rowlands; arts administrator and past HaBYT student Waitawhara Tupaea; drama/theatre educator Juliet Cottrell. Theatre maker Puti Lancaster has been seconded as an advisor. 

The Trust runs a year-long theatre training program with (currently) three groups starting at year 7 through to year 13. For the past few years, senior students have raised funds to travel to Australia to perform in schools, attend professional performances and participate in workshops with performing artists. 

Last year they performed in the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival mainstream program and will do so again this year. Juliet Cottrell acknowledges, “Getting the support and recognition from the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival has been such an important milestone for us and we are incredibly grateful to Pitsch, Kelie, Andy and the team for not only including us, but for recognising that we are committed to producing a high standard of performance work in a professional theatre setting.” 

The Board’s goals include: gaining recognition and acknowledgement from Hastings District Council as a valid youth program able to access Council facilities, funding and involvement in projects; attracting donors to the program to sponsor bursaries for students who would not otherwise be able to afford the fees; gaining funding to support the production costs of performances; offering in-kind sponsorship opportunities in printing, office equipment and merchandise. 

HaBYT’s tutors, Peter Cottrell, Champa Maciel and Juliet Cottrell have developed a training program that encompasses vocal, physical and actor training, but also involves students in aspects of running a theatre company. With the support of the Keirunga Theatre Collective, students now have the opportunity to train in front of house and technical support roles. HaBYT students also help out at community events right across Hawkes Bay. 

“HaBYT is so much more than theatre training. It is about developing and practising important life skills: communication, problem solving, team work, persistence and giving generously both on stage and off,” says Cottrell. 

Fundraising for 2021 has begun with a huge winter warmers raffle, but the biggest impact will be gained through the Variety and Auction Night to be held on Wednesday, 8 September. 

Local Artists are donating their time to perform on the night and a special ‘song sale’ will take place where audience can commission a song to be written and performed during the evening. HaBYT is relying on a big community turn out to this event. 

Details to be released soon on the HaBYT Facebook page www.facebook.com/hbyouththeatre

Contact: juliet@habyt.co.nz ph 0274585438

Photo: Founding Board members from left: musician and past Habyt student Aslan Rowlands; drama/theatre educator Juliet Cottrell; arts administrator and past Habyt student Waitawhara Tupaea; GP and past Habyt parent Liffey Rimmer; business consultant Tony Desmond.

Photo credit: Simon Cartwright

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1 Comment

  1. Yay for HaBYT! Such a vital part of the Hawke’s Bay and wider arts scene. It’s exciting to see what opportunities this move back to charitable status will offer. Well done!

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