Sue Paterson - 2017 Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year
When Sue Paterson was named 2017 Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year she says she was blown away. “It was a big surprise. I feel so grateful to be honoured in this way. I can’t imagine life without the arts."
"The arts define us at a nation and are an inspirational, nourishing and integral part of our community. My involvement in the arts helps others and that makes me happy.”
In the dance and arts sector, Sue started as the manager of Limbs Dance Company. From there she took over the reins at the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company and more recently at the New Zealand Festival where, as the Executive Director, she built the festival into an event that bought more than $100 million into Wellington last year. As well as successfully delivering four New Zealand Festivals, Sue has also produced five Jazz Festivals, four Lexus Song Quests and the Edinburgh Tattoo.
“I feel the greatest contribution I have made is creating partnership with sponsors and other art organisations. The way to survive is to be collaborative and support one another."
Sue's first memory of attending an arts event is growing up on Auckland’s North Shore and going with her mother to see Rowena Jackson and the Royal Ballet at the city’s His Majesty’s Theatre.
"That was transforming”, she says. “I still have that vivid memory of being a four year old up in the gods looking down on stage. My mother used to take me to all the Royal New Zealand Ballet productions.
Ballet lessons featured throughout Sue’s childhood. Although Sue trained as a journalist in the early 1970’s her passion for dance remained. She studied at the London Contemporary Dance school and performed in Sydney when she was at the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust.
In 2004 she received an Order of New Zealand Merit for services to ballet.
Sue says the arts create better lives for those who participate and for those who witness creativity.
“New Zealand has a very active senior population. Being involved in the arts keeps you youthful. I know many artists still working in their 70’s and doing their best work.
" In your senior years you have time to think and be creative. Keep on keeping on. Participation is getting involved on any level, as an audience member, volunteer or participating artist.
“My other advice to seniors is to keep interested in young people and their ideas. The millennial generation is fabulous – enjoy them. Stay connected to the arts – they are uplifting and great for the soul.”