An interview with Flames of Plenty

Flames of Plenty are passionate about what they do, and are proud to bring their love of all things fire, glow, and dance to you! 

From fire dancers to glow dancers, hula hoop artists to jugglers, face painters to costumed characters, they offer a spectacular choice of entertainment for any event.  

As a premium listing on The Organiser, we were curious to know more about Bay of Plenty based Flames of Plenty. 

Melissa Cox is one of four friends who formed the company. Here is what she had to say…

How did it all begin? 

It started with a bunch of friends, who met once a month when there was a full moon for what we called ‘fire and drum nights’. They were held on Mount Drury Reserve at Mount Maunganui and grew in popularity and reputation to a point where we started to get enquiries from people to perform at events and functions. It was then we decided it would be good to formalise what we did and Flames of Plenty was born. 

The fire and drum nights still happen every other month in Mount Maunganui. Those interested in attending can request to join the Tauranga Fire and Drums group on Facebook. Attendance is free and fire dancers collect koha for fire fuel from all attendees. Any and all drummers are welcome to attend too!

There were four people that founded Flames of Plenty, they are: Charlie Mehlberg; Fiona McClure, Haley Harbottle; and myself. I like to think it was a partnership formed out of friendship.

What were some of the early challenges for you? 

One of the things we knew that we had to get right from the start was our paperwork. As we are performing with fire, there is a risk so one of the first documents we created was our health and safety policy. We find this document helps any organiser who contracts us as it provides a clear understanding of what is required to keep people safe. We are very proud of our excellent safety record as we train our dancers well, and all partners hold First Aid certification. 

For organisers who wish to know more about fire breathing, we recommend they visit our website where we have a page offering advice.  

We grew quickly and it wasn’t long before we became an official contractor to Tauranga City Council, who ask us to perform at several events including Tauranga’s official New Year’s Eve events each year. It’s a busy night as there can be up to five different venues to be at across the evening.

How many performers do you have and how do you recruit new people? 

Many of our performers have come from the fire and drum nights, others are scouted or come recommended by people we know. We have 12 dancers in total, some travelling in from places such as Katikati, Hamilton, Matamata and Thames. We are always on the look out for talented people so if anyone is keen I recommend they check out what we do and get in touch.

Sometimes we partner with other companies, like Free Lunch for instance, who are based in the Waikato.  They specialise in amazing costumes, human statues, and stilt walkers.

How do you find work and what are some of the events you have performed at?

We get the opportunity to perform at so many different types of events, from small weddings to large community events, there are no restrictions or boundaries to what type of event we do. 

The majority of our work is in the North Island, as there is a large fire dance community in the South Island. 

Most of our bookings come from existing relationships or recommendations from those that have seen or used us. Sometimes I will get in touch with organisers of events to see if there is an opportunity for us to perform. 

We do a lot of charity events as we are prepared to work within budgets. We know how hard it can be for event organisers so we try and make it work financially. 

Our biggest event has to be Balloons Over Waikato, where just prior to the event’s evening Nightglow, which is when the hot air balloons are lit up, we were asked to do a choreographed fire performance. There were 60 thousand people watching, it was amazing. 

Is this a full time role for you? 

No, we all have other jobs, which gives us the opportunity to work within budgets. This is a passion of ours, that we like to share whenever possible. However, as we grow and get more invitations to perform, it is taking up more of my time but we all feel lucky to get paid to do something we love. 

What are your ambitions? 

If you are asking do we have a goal, then it would have to be ‘To do the best job we can for the entertainment of others’.

We have just launched ‘Bubbletopia NZ’, which is exciting. This is different to Flames of Plenty as it is aimed at kids, perfect for any organiser looking for children’s entertainment. We teach kids all about bubbles and bubble art, giving them an opportunity to have a go. 

Tauranga has a good reputation for the Arts. Why do you believe Arts are important to a community? 

Arts are important for community identity. I believe a city or town with a strong arts community thrives in other areas. 

Places like The Incubator at The Historic Village have helped lead positive changes in Tauranga. Events like The Satellite Sessions at the Jam Factory are an example of great innovation, where local talent and new music are given a chance to shine. 

I would highly recommend people check out Tauranga’s Fringe Festival this October. It’s a fantastic event which features so many of Tauranga’s great arts community. 

I believe we all took a lot for granted prior to COVID-19 and more people now appreciate the chance to come together to share experiences like Tauranga’s Fringe Festival. 

When people come together to engage with the arts, you forget your everyday problems and enjoy yourself. 

Want to know more about Flames of Plenty?

Check out their listings on The Organiser – Flames of Plenty, Bubbletopia NZ, Grace Raven Hula Hoop Artist

To see Flames of Plenty in action click here.

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