We’ve all heard the expression that something is “going for a song”, often used to denote a particularly low price. But to many people, music is priceless, and it’s value is celebrated and recognised. One such example of this is KiwiRail’s Bands on Board, a project that offers touring performing artists the opportunity to cross Cook Strait in New Zealand for free, in return for entertaining passengers during their crossing. 

Taking place this summer on Interislander’s Kaitaki ferry sailings, musicians can take to a stage on board to perform on one sailing each way every day. According to KiwiRail, performers are on board most days during the summer peak holiday season, and since the project launched in 2006, Interislander has hosted artists on 4694 sailings.

Kaitaki Reflections in the Sounds.jpeg
The ferry hosts music of all genres and backgrounds © Lindsay Keats

“This summer, with borders still closed to international visitors, is a perfect time for New Zealanders heading off or returning from holiday to start or finish their trip with some live New Zealand music,” KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller said. “Passenger bookings are already heavy over the Christmas – New Year period and having performers on board gives bands exposure to a new audience, as well as free passage for one vehicle and up to six people, while creating a festive Kiwi summer vibe for Kaitaki’s passengers.” 

Performers have included jugglers and face painters, as well as new bands and established acts. Genres have included folk, jazz, blues, reggae, acoustic singer songwriters, classical and funk.  “We vet all applications to ensure the quality and suitability of performers and we prioritise family-friendly acts,” Mr Miller said. 

Bands wishing to apply for the coming summer season can do so at the Great Journeys of NZ website. Interislander considers applications twice a month and they must be made at least a month before the requested travel date.

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