Fiona McNamara: creative, curious, and community minded

By Francesca Emms
Photography by Anna Briggs

Featured in Capital #54
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Fiona McNamara knows she’s home when she sees the windmills. “I love flying into Wellington and seeing the Makara wind farm,” she says, “that ridgeline says home to me.”

Fiona grew up in Karori but has spent quite a bit of time on the other side of the world. “I’ve lived in Berlin and have travelled in Germany. I spent time in Europe with my family as a child, and was interested in a lot of European countries and have always been interested in languages, but Germany has been the one that’s particularly stood out to me.” With Deutsch under her belt Fiona is thinking about a third language. “I’d love to study te Reo. I’ve been learning a bit but at some point want to make the time to really commit to it.”

Now an Island Bay resident, Fiona is most likely to be found at the beach. “It’s a great place to walk and to swim, even though it’s much colder than the harbour.” She has set herself a goal to swim in the sea every week. “It gets icy, but you can swim in Wellington all year round!” If she’s not swimming, she’ll probably be at BATS. “Wellington is full of artists making new inventive performance and BATS is the centre of it,” she says.

Fiona is a theatre maker and performer, both freelance and with the company she co-founded, Binge Culture (see Cap #46). For two years Fiona was a Wellington Theatre Awards judge so tried to see all the professional theatre in Wellington. She’s also on the board of Summer Shakespeare, “so a lot of my time away from my full time work is spent on theatre.”

That full time work is at the RespectEd Aotearoa (formerly Sexual Abuse Prevention Network) where Fiona is the Chief Executive Officer. “Before I worked in the sexual violence sector, I researched and explored representations and responses to gender and sexual violence in my artistic work, which eventually, led to me to where I focus most of my time now.” Fiona explains that sexual harm is something that will affect all of us in our lifetimes, whether we experience it directly or someone we care about does. “I do believe we can change this though and that every incident of sexual harm can be prevented.”

There’s crossover between Fiona’s two areas of work. “Theatre is a community and a workplace and it is not immune to sexual harassment or abuses of power,” she says, “I’ve provided advice to companies on this topic when it has come up for them in their workplace or if it’s a theme of their production.”

It sounds like heavy work so how does Fiona unwind? “I’ve recently got into gardening, though I am still very much a beginner. Right now I’m excited that shoots have started appearing on my garlic.” She enjoys baking and has just mastered the New York cheesecake. And she likes poetry, in particular Freya Daly Sadgrove’s (see Cap #53). “It’s so cuttingly honest and makes me laugh and cringe at once. She performs her poetry live, which is the best way to engage with poetry, and Freya is an especially hilarious performer.”


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