Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On a Saturday Night - Community halls of small-town New Zealand - Michele Frey and Sara Newman/Photographs John Maillard and John O'Malley - Canterbury University Press $45.00

Yeah, it's great being out with the jokers
When the jokers are sparking and bright,
And its great giving cheek to the sheilas
Down the hall on a Saturday night ...
- Peter Cape, 1958

Well, it started with Chris Bourke's book on Music before Rock'n'Roll, this nogstalgia for old-time Kiwi culture.  When I grew up we shunned those dances, full of old men, brown ale, chiffon and mothballs.  But truth be told, that's the place our grandparents and parents met, where theygot married and we went to scouts, our first disco (the Blue light ones) or acted in our first Shakespere or Agatha Christie play.  halls have hosted school classrooms, general elections, stag parties, birthday parties, film screenings, Rabbiters' Balls, flag euchre evenings, farewells and welcome-home parties for servicemen from both world wars, memorial events for those who did not return, farm auctions, clearing sales, weddings, Christmas parties, Civil Defence teams, mayoral celebrations, church services The Community Hall is vital and intricate to our culture, particularly in the country where many towns have been razed to the ground, leaving, if you're lucky, a pub, a church and maybe the community hall.

Whakapara Memorial Hall
Many of these structures were post WW1 projects designed in Wellington but adapted for the conditions, and based on the community collection plate.  The actual architecture is now so varied, due to fires, re-builds, depression year renovations etc, that you'd only rcognised the intention, and less the original design.  But somethings remain. The stark concrete foundations.  Those little pink 'lozenges' in the Men's urinals, the over use of sky blue paint in the kitchen, pine cupboard doors, and the taped down indoor netball or basketball courts indicating the multi-use aspects of the great halls.  If you are lucky you'll see a roll of honor for everything from Pasendale to the annual indoor bowls tournament.
Clearly 'On a Saturday Night' is a colourful, slightly teary-eyed celebration of the strength and spirit of small towns from Whakapara to Mossburn.  Community halls have been the focal point of these towns for as long as the towns have been on the map. 

Pohangina Hall
Michele Frey and Sara Newman visited these halls with photographers John Maillard (North Island) and John O'Malley (South Island) to talk to the locals and try to capture the essence of what each hall has meant - and means - to its community. This is the heart of the book and what makes this different from, say, a Robyn Morrison photo book.  And it's these stories and pictures that give an aspect of New Zealand's unique culture that seems to be passing into history but fortunately is still alive.

About the Authors
Michele Frey is a Strategic Planner (Natural Environment and Recreation) for Opus International Consultants Ltd in Napier. She has always had a strong affinity with the notion of community, and seized eagerly upon the idea of producing a book on small-town halls, with the opportunity it offered to gain insights into the dynamics of small New Zealand communities. Along the way she developed some lifelong friendships. This is Michele's third book for Canterbury University Press.

Sara Newman grew up in a small town and knew all about the importance of community halls. She has had articles published in magazines in New Zealand and abroad, including Takahe and New Zealand Memories. While a member of the South Island Writers' Group she won the Ngaio Marsh Trophy for fiction in 2009. Her work is included in several anthologies and her family history Living Between the Lines has been read on National Radio. She loved visiting the halls and meeting the people involved with them.

one of the committee at the Pohangina Hall
North Island Halls Featured
Whakapara Memorial Hall
Ormond Hall
Horopito Hall
Wharehine Hall
Waerenga-o-kuri Hall
King George’s Hall
Hoteo North Hall
Ruakituri Hall
Clive Community Hall
Fencourt Hall
Ardkeen Hall
Waipawa Hall
Manawahe Hall
Tutira Hall
Pohangina Hall
Waioeka Hall
Douglas Hall
Colyton Hall

South Island Halls Featured
Puramahoi Hall
Rotomanu Hall
Lincoln Community Centre
Murchison Hall
Spotswood Hall
Tai Tapu Hall
Upper Matakitaki Hall
Glenroy Hall
The Gaiety
Totara Flat Hall
Hororata Hall
Sherwood Downs Community Hall
Moonlight Hall
Prebbleton Public Hall
Peel Forest Hall
Runanga Hall
Springston Hall
Luggate War Memorial Hall
Five Rivers Hall
Mossburn Hall
The Hurunui Halls:
Hawarden - The Peaks
Masons Flat - Waikari

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