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Semi Permanent Aotearoa is back in 2020 – and it’s free for everyone

One day, ten hours, 27 speakers and performers. Semi Permanent Aotearoa is New Zealand’s longest-running creative conference. And this year, for the first time, it’s completely free. 

On Thursday 12 November at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, 27 of New Zealand’s leading creative practitioners will showcase the breadth, depth, diversity and potential of the creative industries.

Held annually for 18 years, Semi Permanent has brought global creative leaders working across the sector’s broad disciplines to Aotearoa New Zealand to inspire, engage and connect creative professionals.

This year, however, with the creative sector seriously affected by coronavirus pandemic fallout, the event has been repurposed to meet new objectives, including to inspire and help ‘reboot’ the combined creative industries.

To that end – and thanks to new sponsors Alt Group, Special Group and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) – Semi Permanent is free to attend; it’s a way of giving back to the creative communities that have provided support over the years and to inspire a new generation to take up creative careers. 

It will also be livestreamed in full (another first), making it freely available to anyone, anywhere. 

The lineup is a stellar mix of New Zealand’s brightest talents and most influential figures in design, technology, art, architecture, advertising and screen production.

They include leading contemporary artist Lisa Reihana, fashion icon Kate Sylvester, Billy Apple – New Zealand’s greatest artist, Wallpaper* Designer of the Year 2020 Sabine Marcelis, ex-Apple industrial designer Danny Coster, multi-disciplinary artist Coco Solid, and serial entrepreneur Greg Cross, whose latest venture, Soul Machines, is changing the face of human-digital interaction.

There will also be live performances – from the legendary contemporary dance group Black Grace, poet Tayi Tibble, rising rapper and producer Vayne, and Troy Kingi, a multi-genre musician and 2020 Silver Scroll finalist. Associated events include an exhibition at Objectspace, Ponsonby, dedicated to the work of NOM*d, the fashion label founded by Margi and Chris Robertson 35 years ago.

Tickets by ballot; livestream provides access to all

With demand for the live event expected to be huge, a ballot system has been put in place to ensure fair access to tickets. An allocation of tickets has also been reserved for schools, to help increase the visibility of creative industries careers for young people, especially in communities where creative industries are under-represented.

Growing our Creative Industries

Semi Permanent 2020 is able to be hosted for free thanks to the generous support of three organisations: Alt Group, Special Group and ATEED.

Each has offered support not just because the sector has been impacted by Covid-19, but because of a collective recognition of the value the creative industries bring to New Zealand, and the important role these professional disciplines are playing as the world adapts to the technological challenges and changes of the future. 

Ben Corban, Managing Director of Auckland-based design company Alt Group, describes Semi Permanent as a way to illustrate the national and global influence of our leading creative practitioners, and draw attention to the sector’s economic, cultural and societal value.

“The Creative Industries is a significant and growing global sector, prized by cities around the world and critical to Auckland and New Zealand’s economic diversification agenda. Its value for our country is immense, and growth potential from an export perspective is limitless. This event is a showcase of the depth and diversity of the sector – to illustrate its value as a contributor to economic development as well as culture and identity, and most importantly to inspire new forms of entrepreneurship for new economies.”

Tony Bradbourne, Founder and CEO of Special Group, New Zealand’s leading independent design and advertising company that has now expanded globally, says: “We wanted to give back to an industry and community that has supported and given Special so much. We’re living through a period of change and uncertainty. To solve the challenges we collectively face, we need creative individuals and creative industries, with fresh ideas and optimism about what our future can be.”

For ATEED, supporting Semi Permanent reflects the importance of the region’s creative industries to the wider Auckland economy, quality employment for its people and regional identity.

“Our creative economy employs more than 53,000 Aucklanders with preliminary forecasts suggesting there will be more than 17,000 new and replacement jobs in Auckland within the creative sector from 2022 – 2025,” says Pam Ford, ATEED’s General Manager Economic Development. “It represents five percent of our regional economy, and has one of the highest annual growth rates across all sectors in the past five years.

“These industries generate high skill, high value, future-ready jobs, entrepreneurial new companies and intellectual property. We need to ensure our young people have visibility, pathways and opportunities into high-skill sectors such as film, technology, design and other creative industries that reward individual creativity and entrepreneurial talent. Auckland’s youthful, diverse population has a lot offer and we’re pleased to be working with Semi Permanent Aotearoa to get young people who might not have had much exposure to these industries along to the event.”

Semi Permanent Aotearoa 2020
Thursday 12 November
Aotea Centre, Auckland

For more information, visit www.semipermanent.com

To register for the free ticket ballot and livestream, go here.

Media contacts

For more information and editorial requests, please contact: 

Nikki Harmsen

[email protected]

+64 21 454 501 

Mike Barrett

[email protected]

+64 21 88 44 58 

About the speakers


Special Group works across almost every channel including – digital, communication, design, experiential, PR and content – and has shown that New Zealand creativity is a viable export commodity by opening offices globally.


Chris Jack (Jasmax) and Dean Poole (Alt Group) were integral to a mana-whenua-led strategy that has ensured that Auckland's three new CRL stations are functional pieces of art encompassing place, geology and mythology.


Lisa Reihana is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished contemporary artists. Her work in Pursuit of Venus [infected] was the centrepiece of New Zealand’s exhibition at the 2017 Venice Art Biennale.

Billy Apple (ONZM) is New Zealand’s greatest living artist. Along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney, he is a Pop Art pioneer.


Danny Coster spent 20 years at Apple designing the world’s most recognisable devices and has also been VP of Design at GoPro.

Jamie McLellan is an industrial designer and head of design at Allbirds, a sustainable footwear success story.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances general manager of design Mike Jensen is integral to the company’s people-centric design approach.

Bay of Plenty startup UBCO’s new electric motorbikes are creating an exciting new export market.

Rotterdam-based interior and furniture designer Sabine Marcelis is the Wallpaper* Designer of the Year 2020. 

Kelvin Soh provides brand and design leadership to inventive companies and is creative director of the new Metro.

New Zealand fashion is full of inspirational, can-do stories. Liam Bowden and Steven Boyd have taken Deadly Ponies from a garage startup to wide acclaim. 

Kate Sylvester has built one of the strongest brands in New Zealand fashion and is also co-founder of Mindful Fashion, a collective promoting long-term sustainable growth.

Kiri Nathan (ONZM) has built her fashion label on Te Ao Māori principles. Beyoncé, the Obamas, Jacinda Ardern and many others own and wear her garments. 


Lula Cucchiara is one to watch – a Curious Films director with a strong, stylised and experimental aesthetic.

Anita Fontaine is a digital innovator blurring virtual and physical through collaborations with Tate Modern, Louis Vuitton, Wieden + Kennedy, Google and more.  

Performing Arts

Jessica Hansell, a.k.a. Coco Solid, is an incomparable creative artist working across art, illustration, music and film.

Vayne is an up-and-coming rapper, singer-songwriter and producer.

Poet Tayi Tibble, (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou) is the author of Poūkahangatus, winner of the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award at the 2019 Ockham NZ Book Awards.

Genre-bending musician Troy Kingi (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) is a finalist in APRA’s 2020 Silver Scroll Awards.

Black Grace is a legendary modern dance company founded by Neil Ieremia (ONZM), whose choreography draws on Māori and Pacific dance, as well as contemporary styles and hip hop.


Serial entrepreneur Greg Cross is co-founder of Soul Machines. His‘digital people’ are the new face of human-digital interaction.

Dean Hall is founder of Rocketwerkz, an independent game development studio making the move from indie to “triple-A” games projects.

At the forefront of digital strategy at Wellington’s Springload, Bron Thomson has guided many inspiring organisations into new digital futures.

Creative. Digital. Marketing. Recruitment.

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