NZ Festival's new Creative Director

Marnie Karmelita • 25 July 2018

Marnie is New Zealand Festival's new Creative Director, responsible for programming the 2020 New Zealand Festival, Wellington Jazz Festival, and other Festival events. We asked her to complete the famous Proust questionnaire.

The 2020 New Zealand Festival runs from 21 Feb -15 March.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sunday mornings at home – brunch, a pot of tea and Callie-cat Karmelita.

What is your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Religious fervour or mindlessness.

Which living person do you most admire?

Adrian Lockhart.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Books and shoes – I have way too many of both. Every time I move house, the removalists make wisecracks. I have heard them all.

What is your current state of mind?


What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


On what occasion do you lie?

To avoid hurting people.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

My big toes – both of them.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

‘Of course’.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My niece, Rose (3), and nephew, Theo (5).

When or where were you happiest?

Just this past weekend, in Blenheim.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To write great works of fiction.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’m trying to embrace my flaws.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Relocating from Perth to New York City on my own and establishing a career in the States.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

One of my own cats – they have all lived charmed lives – but considering I would no longer be living then perhaps a bird… or a dancer. They can both fly.

Where would you most like to live?

Between the city and the sea.

What is your most treasured possession?

Mum had her engagement ring redesigned as a birthday gift for me. Plus my set of Jane Austen’s published novels.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

From my native Australia to the Mexican border and the war-torn centres of the world, I would think that the depth of misery is scraping together everything you have in order to take your family on a dangerous journey to find a better life only to meet with intolerance.

What is your favourite occupation?

Reading and doing the cryptic crossword with mum.

What is your most marked characteristic?


What do you most value in your friends?

Robust conversation and plenty of laughter.

Who are your favourite writers?

Jane Austen and William Shakespeare but there really are so many.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Scarlett O’Hara.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Sergei Diaghilev – Russian artist wannabe turned impresario.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Artists and teachers.

What are your favourite names?

Grace, Leo, Grayson and Sylvie.

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your greatest regret?

See my final answer.

How would you like to die?

Quietly, on my own.

What is your motto?

"No Regrets".


Some other people who completed the famous Proust Questionnaire include David Bowie, Dolly Parton and Angela Bassett.

Marnie is a performing arts curator and international arts producer with 20 years’ experience working in venues and festivals in Australia, the United States and NZ. Recently appointed in the new role of Creative Director of the New Zealand Festival Trust, Marnie worked as Head of Programming of the New Zealand Festival 2016 where she led a team that delivered the main biennial festival, the annual Wellington Jazz Festival and the biennial Lexus Song Quest. With a passion for working with artists to nurture new works and stretch the boundaries of performance, Marnie believes the arts makes an inordinate contribution to our society. She particularly strives to bring audiences closer to the artistic process, so we can all tap into our creativity.