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25 Apr 2024

Creativity and Counter-Austerity Measures 

Now what are we all to do
When the money’s got a hold on you?

Simply Red, 
lyrics for ‘Money’s Too Tight to Mention, 1985


Times of uncertainty create a need for hope.

Changing systems, recessions, restructures and layers upon layers of government acronyms (LTP, GDP, IRD, etc) feel like a never ending storm of information. Our spaces of connection can feel less connected, and financial pressures can become a process of governmental austerity. These financial measures historically have a disproportionate focus on community pūtea first – and often that means the investment in arts, culture and creativity in our local spaces.

These things can be true, and we can also choose to ‘Forget that!’
At least just for the amount of time it will take you to read this.  

Active engagement in creativity can drive positive change. We know that creativity can be an access point to a counter-austerity hope wave that flows out with force in the face of prevailing winds. 

Applying our creativity to our day is a gift we can give to ourselves, and if we are brave enough, to others.

We don’t need reminding about what we don’t have. But we do need reminding that we are individual and collective owners of unending creative and intellectual wealth. That’s not being glib, it is an immutable fact.   

Moments of creativity, even in small bursts, can be a catalyst for refreshing our spirits. This playful glimpse can be a way to refresh and replenish our creative wealth. The moment of stillness. The time spent looking for beauty in overlooked places. Awe is a wonderful thing when we remember to explore what is around us. Our senses are a pathway to new perspectives, and engaging them is a free-of-charge thing to do. Look, listen, smell and touch – each of us can find that pathway for that exploration that connects with us. 

Look up! Look around? Open up your ears!

Feel the trees, the shape of an apple or the tiny bumps of orange skins. Do you enjoy looking at the sky? Cloud formations, thunderous clouds, blue skies, different hues on the horizon or how the clouds sit just above the hills and trees. What sounds can you hear? Can you hear cars, the neighbours shouting, a rooster crowing, the thumping bass of a passing car? What can you smell in the air, is the smell of the rubbish truck going past, burnt toast, coffee, feijoas freshly cut or just the smell of your last meal on your hands? Anything is SOMETHING to think about, write about, to draw or paint, or to make up nonsense tuneless songs about. 

Creativity, oddly enough, has very little to do with talent. You don’t need talent to produce a tune on the spot, to doodle for hours, to colour in, to take photographs of beautiful things on your phone… but you do need the creative spark. This is a pathway to joy. And it has flow on effects in our lives. It is also one of those unusual things that doesn’t run out – the more you engage with creativity the more you have around you. 

Art and creativity can be found in writing and drawing and painting and dancing and singing and exploring and making with things around you.

It doesn’t need fancy equipment, or special materials, there is wonder to be found in the simplest of things. Many of our most engaging artistic achievements have emerged from a flourishing curiosity in limited environments. The power is in the people.

Even in uncertain and unpredictable times, creativity can be a contributor to change. In times of stress or crisis, humanity often turns to the arts. It provides solace, can serve as a stress relief, and contribute to our resilience and wellbeing. Artists and creatives serve our communities as first-responders in times of need, bringing people together, providing moments of joy and calm in volatile or anxiety-filled situations. These things remain so necessary now. 

Of course, It is important that we acknowledge and value these contributions as important things to invest in and support, but it is also vital that we help more people find their own connection to active creative practice. Having a regular creative habit in the lives of every person is a useful and reliable asset that we all can utilise without too much additional equipment, knowledge or demand on space or resources. 

In the face of restrictions and reduced support, we choose to embrace creativity and continue to thrive.

Here’s a list of things by local creatives that are cost free and surprisingly freeing:

  • Photograph the skies above your home on a regular basis
  • Finding sounds that are made by everyday things like a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner or even the sound of utensils clicking together in the sink, just listen or make a recording on your phone if you have one.
  • Make paper cutouts using newspapers
  • Start with drawing any shape and continue drawing without a plan in mind
  • Collect some stones and build a little sculpture on your kitchen table
  • When you’re at the supermarket, start photographing all of the grocery items people have plonked in strange places. Like fancy chips in amongst the cat food. 
  • Use old teabags to make a painting on some paper 
  • Have a go at this Creativity Bingo from Creative Waikato
  • Or for something more adventurous try these at home art activities

We have thirty activities that you can do, for free on our Creativity Everyday site, Sign up and get regular reminders of things that you can do with the video guidance of some of Waikato’s coolest artists. Get a little whaanau or friends creativity group session going. You’ll be surprised how creative you truly are. 

Do something. Don’t let the cost of living rob you of your imagination and some good old-fashioned fun

Nothing, nobody and no power in the world, no austerity measures can take away the innate creativity within. And communities together are powerful things. When we dream, create and imagine together, awesome things are possible. Let’s spread that joyful word through our creativity!

On that note, here’s a song that says it all: just be creative as though nobody’s watching.



Written by Joe Raposo in 1972 for Sesame Street
Released as a single by The Carpenters in 1973

Sing, sing a song

Make it simple to last your whole life long

Don’t worry that it’s not good enough

For anyone else to hear

Just sing

Sing a song