Kōrero: Arts reviewing

Whārangi 3. Expanding the horizons of criticism, 1960s to 2014

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero

Popular music

The Listener’s music reviews were originally confined to classical music, but by the 1950s included jazz. Ray Harris was their principal jazz reviewer for over 40 years. In the early 1960s the Listeners engagement with rock ’n’ roll was confined to brief chatty articles about ‘pop’ stars. By the late 1960s the Listener had a regular column ‘Sound Round’ by Ray Columbus. Gordon Campbell’s serious column ‘Rock’ on overseas music lasted from the early 1970s through to 1985. In the early ‘80s Frank Stark’s ‘Sound Check’ documented the emerging New Zealand band scene.

Over this same period newspapers also began to attempt to review modern music. Playdate (1960–72), a magazine aimed at a youth audience, expanded from reviewing films to covering popular music. The most significant development in criticism was the rise of specialist music magazines such as Rip It Up, focused on the serious criticism of rock music.

Dance reviews

In the early 1980s dancer and choreographer Liong Xi noticed the paucity of dance reviews in New Zealand newspapers. He said to Mike Nicolaidi, the chief reporter of the Evening Post, ‘You must appoint a dance critic. You can’t just keep sending the music critic along to review the ballet.’1 The Evening Post then appointed Jennifer Shennan as dance critic. She was still doing that job, for the Dominion Post in 2014.


Radio has proved a major source of reviewing in New Zealand. Book reviews have been a prominent feature on Radio New Zealand National, (formerly the National Programme), since the 1960s. William Dart’s New horizons, on Radio New Zealand Concert, began reviewing a range of popular music in 1980 and was still going in 2014. Dart was also a reviewer of classical music on the radio and in print. In the 2010s Radio New Zealand National had daily book review programmes, a weekend arts review programme, a film review programme, and a range of music review programmes. Regular reviewers included Kate Camp and Kate De Goldi as book reviewers, Simon Morris as movie critic and Nick Bollinger and Nick Atkinson as music critics.


While television programmes have become a topic for serious review in other media, New Zealand television has provided few programmes devoted to criticism. The small range of programmes included the 1990s art show [email protected] with Chris Knox as movie reviewer, the book review programmes The book show and The good word with Emily Perkins, and Hamish Keith’s documentary series reviewing New Zealand’s art history The big picture.


Newspapers have continued to be a major source of reviews for television programmes, films and live music. The coverage of books and arts in the daily papers declined during the 2000s, but the Sunday papers included significant sections reviewing films, music and literature.

Magazines and journals

Magazines such as the Listener and Landfall remained important vehicles for reviewing. From the 1980s they were joined by newer magazines such as Metro, which included Michael King among its reviewers. A range of specialist magazines and journals also emerged from the 1960s onwards. The quarterly New Zealand Books, founded in 1993, was devoted to reviewing the full range of New Zealand literature. Journals such as Poetry NZ and JAAM included poetry reviews. The New Zealand Journal of History had a regular section devoted to the review of history books. The magazines Art New Zealand and Art News New Zealand provided a wide range of art reviews. DANZ Quarterly reviewed dance performances.

Māori reviewers

Āpirana Ngata’s 1928 introduction to the traditional song collection Ngā moteatea provided a critical overview of Māori song and poetry. The Department of Māori Affairs magazine Te Ao Hou (1952–75) published reviews of books and music. Book reviewers included J. C. Sturm, Kīngi Īhaka, Kāterina Mataira, and Koro Dewes. Music critic Alan Armstrong reviewed a wide range of Māori music, much of which received no coverage in other media.

In the 2000s Mana magazine had regular reviews of Māori-related books and music, while Paul Diamond was a noted reviewer in the Listener and other publications. The historical journal Te Pouhere Kōrero reviewed a range of publications and productions on Māori history.


Websites have become an increasingly important platform for criticism and reviews. In the early 2010s book-review sites included the Scoop Review of Books, Beattie’s Book Blog and Landfall Review Online. Film-review sites included ViewAuckland’s cinema page and Letterboxd (an international site), where filmgoers provided their own reviews. The Rip It Up website reviewed music, and Theatreview was partly dedicated to reviewing live performances.

EyeContact discussed art and visual culture; 13th Floor reviewed music, film and art; and the online journal Lumière Reader reviewed films, books, the arts and drama. Fairfax Media’s Stuff news website included reviews of a range of art forms.

Kupu tāpiri
  1. Jennifer Shennan, ‘Remembering a Gracious Gift of Dance.’ DANZ Quarterly, no. 10, (January–March 2008), http://www.danz.org.nz/Magazines/DQ/Jan08/liong_xi.php (last accessed 14 March 2014). Back
Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Peter Clayworth, 'Arts reviewing - Expanding the horizons of criticism, 1960s to 2014', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/arts-reviewing/page-3 (accessed 28 February 2020)

He kōrero nā Peter Clayworth, i tāngia i te 22 Oct 2014