Learning & Research - Akoranga me Rangahau
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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.


Entertainment and Leisure

The New Zealand Ballet company perform in front of 2700 people at the Bowl in 1966. Image: Charters and Guthrie.

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Stars of stage and screen, toys that last a lifetime, Elvis, festivals, song, dance and the Greatest Show on Earth are all here. There are events to fill you with joy, shows to get you on your feet, stories that make you smile and suggestions for experiencing a more relaxing pace of life. When the daily toil is done, Taranaki people know how to enjoy themselves – come and join in the fun!

A Grand Day Out At Pembroke School

It's a great day, a proud day, a sunny day not to be missed, when the calves, lambs and assorted pets line up at Pembroke School.   In a lush green playground, 8kms from Stratford, the mountain rises in the background as pupils parade their perfectly groomed animals around the grounds. It's not often lambs and calves get their hair brushed to go out in public, but every year the combs come... more

A Movie of Our Own

Forget the Last Samurai - Taranaki's first real ‘on location’ movie was filmed more than 70 years before.   It was a typical 1920s storyline - an innocent school teacher is kidnapped by a dastardly journalist, a cowboy chase ensues, before the hero saves the day.    But this wasn't some flick straight from the sets of Hollywood. This was New Plymouth's first ever movie, using local scenes and... more

Arthur Fryer – Story Collector

People like to tell Arthur Fryer stories. Instead of a museum stuffed with artefacts the Hawera historian has books stuffed full of words, all stories on the town's past.   Arthur finds people telling him stories in all sorts of places and on many fascinating topics. "One day I was at the Hawera Park Bowling Club. I sat down in the shelter and Sid Brown said to me, 'You know Arthur I fired the... more

Book, Book, Book – the fabulous, famous Opera House 24hr Booksale

In the early 1980s, the Regent Theatre in Dunedin started a small annual book sale primarily for the university students of the town. The first was held inside the theatre which is near the Octagon.   Bryan Robb, manager of New Plymouth Opera House since 1982, picks up the story: "The Regent Manager was a friend of mine and he said, 'It's a great money maker'."   At the time, Robb was finding... more

Breakaway Days of Midge

Have flash guitar, will look cool - that was Midge Marsden's cunning plan when he was a lad. And it worked so well, the New Plymouth-born son found himself on stage for the rest of his life. For more than four decades, Midge has been playing the guitar, singing pop, rock and the blues, howling on his harmonica, and jumpstarting joints with his wild jive talkin'. It all began in the late... more

Dance Band Man – Errol Taylor

Errol Taylor has been involved in the music scene in Taranaki for more than 55 years and his musical life is not over yet.   The seemingly indefatigable musician played in most of popular Taranaki dance bands of the 50s, 60s and 70s.   The Daltones, The Nite-Lites and The Nevadas were all names to set the feet flying at the Queens Hall and Star Gym, not to mention countless other venues around... more

Eltham Town Hall Has Good Friends

A restful silence. A whiff of grease paint; a waft of sawdust and old timber. A cavernous space, like a giant mouth open on a high note. If you stand in the centre of the Eltham Town Hall these are the things you may hear, smell, see and feel. Or imagine. Close your eyes and picture what spectacles have been seen by these soaring walls, swiftly hoisted up by handy men in six months from... more

Flickering Dreams – Garnet Saunders and the New Plymouth Theatre Industry

A black and white movie flickers silently on a large screen. The audience perch on the edge of their seats in suspense as the hero rushes to save a damsel in distress. Below the screen an enthusiastic trio of musicians add dramatic sound effects - cymbals crash, a piano thumps - will the hero save his heroine?   Silent movies hadn't long been in New Zealand when Garnet Saunders introduced New... more

Four at the Front Line – the insider’s guide to book fairs

It's Friday, 14 October, in New Plymouth. Katherine Mansfield's birthday. Outside the TSB Stadium, the clock is ticking, second by second, drawing closer to 12 o'clock. Soon the doors will be wrenched open and the 24 hr book sale will begin. It will stay open until exactly the same time tomorrow.   Four cheerful female friends head the snaking line of 200 book fair aficionados. Excitement hovers... more

Fred Butler – eccentric man of mystery

Tucked away on a shelf in the archives of Puke Ariki are hundreds of wallpaper covered novels. The books are pasted with birth and death notices from local newspapers - covering decades.   This is a giant family tree of the early settlers in New Plymouth, carefully cut and pasted into the upside-down novels. The colourful books are a slice of New Plymouth history.   A set of drawers in the... more

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