Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Immigrants Blog

James Wilson | From Q Theatre to Baycourt in Tauranga
19 July 2019
James Wilson | From Q Theatre to Baycourt in Tauranga

James Wilson's future was sealed the night he saw Jason Donavan star in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream' in London's West End.  A teenager at the time, he was captured by the drama and the bright lights; the spectacle of it all.  But he never wanted to be on stage. It was the drama behind the scenes that led him to study directing and to work as a producer in theatres across the United Kingdom.

He met his Kiwi wife, Katie, at the Tate Modern in 2003 and followed her to New Zealand in 2005. Settling into Auckland, he pursued the career he loved in his new country, stepping into more senior roles over time.

As the Chief Executive of Q Theatre, James Wilson loved the hustle and bustle of Auckland. But he couldn't help notice how relaxed and happy his colleagues who left Auckland and moved to Tauranga seemed. Drawn by the lifestyle and excited by the city's growth, he took on the role of manager of Baycourt Community and Arts Centre in September 2018, passionate about doing his part to grow a community strong in the arts and stories that bind us together.

This is his story.

James, what did you do you straight out of school?

I was very lucky to secure a place at Rose Bruford Drama School, which offered the only undergraduate degree in theatre directing available in the UK at the time. My experience there was hugely valuable for the career path I’ve followed since.  I learned a whole language of theatre making, and how to work collaboratively with people from all backgrounds and disciplines. 

Can you tell us your career story since then? 

On leaving drama school, I formed my own theatre company with a bunch of friends from college. We were known as ‘Elemental Theatre’. Having a theatre company was great fun but hugely risky. Without much funding it certainly wasn’t sustainable.

I was lucky to have a day job, managing the box office for the Lyric Hammersmith theatre in London, which was just an amazing place to work. I learned a lot about arts administration and I was fortunate to work alongside the producers on several projects. The Lyric was deeply connected to the local community that it serves. Much of what fuels my work now at Baycourt was learned at the Lyric. 

Over the years, I’ve worked for a range of performing arts organisations, both in the UK and in New Zealand - most recently at Q Theatre in Auckland. Although I was trained as a director, most of my roles have been as producer, either working with artists to create new work, or working in venues to help develop, present and tour works.

What prompted your move to New Zealand?

Whilst living in London, I worked for the Tate Modern, which was an incredibly inspiring place to be involved in. The most exciting thing about working at the Tate however, was that this is where I met my wife, Katie, a Kiwi who was in London on her O.E.

I followed Katie back to New Zealand in 2005 and never looked back. New Zealand is very much home for me now. So much so that my parents emigrated here about four years ago. 

How would you describe your career chapter at Q Theatre in Auckland?

Being part of the team that opened Q Theatre was an incredible experience - a real career highlight for me so far. Q has an independent spirit that comes from that creative community. I just loved the energy and passion that was behind the project. I joined Q initially as Head of Programming and Development and was responsible for the artistic programming of the venue, alongside all of the fundraising. It was an amazing place to work.  I became Chief Executive of the venue in 2012.

How did Tauranga end up on your radar? 

Through Baycourt really. I knew Baycourt well because I had worked very closely with the previous manager, Megan Peacock-Coyle. We co-chaired PANNZ (Performing Arts Network New Zealand), which is the industry body that connects venues, festivals and artists. Megan told me about the vibrancy and growth that was happening, both in the city in general, and specifically in the creative sector. I visited Baycourt to see Tauranga Musical Theatre’s spectacular production of Mary Poppins in 2017, and remember the wonderful welcome I felt as an audience member.

I stepped down from my role at Q in June 2018. I was planning on doing some contracting work to various arts organisations when the Baycourt role came up. I had met some of the team at Tauranga City Council during my time at Q Theatre. When an opportunity to interview arose, I wasted no time in signalling my interest.

What appealed to you about living in Tauranga?

I loved living in Auckland, so the Tauranga move was never about wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland life. I had however seen a couple of colleagues make the move from Auckland to Tauranga. I noticed that they had this new sense of energy and adventure. Their Facebook and Instagram feeds were suddenly filled up with amazing photos of the landscape. They seemed to have much more time to enjoy the place they were living in. This was very much front of mind when I considered the move to Tauranga.

I was also excited by the idea of moving to a city going through such rapid growth. I’m deeply interested in the idea of cities and communities - what makes them work, how large groups of people live, work and play together. I was excited by the opportunity to be at Baycourt at such a time of growth for Tauranga and was keen to explore the role that the venue could play for the city.

How would you describe Baycourt to someone new to town?

Baycourt Community and Arts Centre is Tauranga’s home for the performing arts. The venue is right in the heart of the city, and plays a vital role in hosting a wide range of arts and entertainment experiences for people living in Tauranga and the Western Bay. The community part of our name is hugely important. So many schools perform on the big stage here, and we are hugely lucky to be many young people’s first experience of live theatre. 

With no town hall in Tauranga, we also play host to things like the city's citizenship ceremonies, so as a venue we are a connecting point for our communities. More and more national and international touring promoters are making sure that Tauranga is an important stop on their touring itineraries. We have seen great growth in the number of shows that come to Tauranga, meaning local audiences can see the very best in performing arts right on our doorstep.

What do you enjoy about your role as manager?

We are lucky to have a venue such as Baycourt in the heart of the city. It has been very well looked after, and there is a strong sense amongst our staff team that we are kaitiaki, or guardians, entrusted with this community asset.  As manager, it’s my job to make sure that we throw our doors open as wide as possible and welcome as many people as we can to come and enjoy Baycourt - whether that is as an audience members, or as artists performing on the stage.

What do you enjoy about living in Tauranga?

Katie and I had grown used to living in a small apartment in Auckland, with no garden.  Moving to Tauranga we have gained a sense of space, which has been fantastic.  We live in Matua in a house a with a proper garden and stunning views back across the inner harbour.  There is something very special about seeing Mauao every morning. I’ve loved getting out and exploring the Bay, visiting new places and learning about the place we now call home.

What do you do for fun/to relax here?

I’ve loved exploring the amazing café scene we have in Tauranga. I’ve quickly found my firm favourites - The Nourishing Baker on Willow Street in the CBD, and Love Rosie Bakery on Ninth Avenue.

What was your perception of the arts and culture scene in Tauranga prior to moving here?  Has that changed ?

I was aware that Baycourt was thriving as a venue, but I didn’t realise quite how strong the community arts sector was in the city. 

We have more dance schools in Tauranga than any other city in New Zealand and a thriving musical theatre scene, with two local societies making large scale work regularly. There are also venues such as Detour Theatre and 16th Ave Theatre, along with a well supported biennial arts festival, so arts and culture is very much alive in Tauranga.

Our Art Gallery has incredible education programmes that connect young people to professional artists, and encourage creativity. At the Incubator and the Jam Factory at the Historic Village there is a non-stop programme of happenings, exhibitions and concerts that create some amazing opportunities for young people in our region. These are the kind of things that we should value as a growing city.

What has moving to Tauranga meant:

For your career? An opportunity to play my part in making sure that we value the creativity of regional New Zealand, and that media coverage of arts and culture in New Zealand doesn’t end with what’s happening in Auckland and Wellington.

For your wellbeing? A sense of space, a chance to really value what makes life important

For your relationships? Our whole world is about to change. We are about to welcome our first baby into the world. I can’t think of a better place to bring up children than in the beautiful Bay of Plenty.


Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

No-one can tell you when you're ready for a change of lifestyle...but when you are, we'd love to have you in Tauranga!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager


Contact Priority One

Contact Priority One

Need help?

Send us your 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesses who are on the lookout for good people! info@priorityone.co.nz

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


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About Kathryn

About Kathryn


Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  She chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 

CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!


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