History is revisited in Waipu

DENISE PIPER
Last updated 12:10 26/11/2012
Waipu Pageant

Grand scale: The Grand Pageant of Waipu is an event held only every 10 years and attracted thousands in 2003.

George Mutch and Dame Fiona Kidman
Denise Piper
SUPER STORYTELLERS: The grand pageant’s narrators are George Mutch and Dame Fiona Kidman, who has been knighted for her services to literature.

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It boasts a dame of literature as narrator, a cast of more than 200 and a staging cost of more than $240,000.

The Grand Pageant of Waipu will certainly be grand when performed on January 11 and 12 in a celebration held only every 10 years.

The pageant covers the modern-day history of Waipu, what is known of the pre-European history and the story of the double-migration led by the Rev Norman McLeod from Scotland to Nova Scotia and on to Waipu.

Main writer, Waipu farmer and Nova Scotian descendant Lachie McLean, says the grand pageant was performed 10 years ago for the 150th celebrations of Waipu's settlement.

The performance has now been updated and will be performed again beside Waipu River in a natural amphitheatre.

One of the new aspects will be the lights and sounds by Oceania, using some of the same technology the company used at the Rugby World Cup opening.

It also features Dame Fiona Kidman as one of the narrators, with the writer weaving in a little of her own story of Waipu connections.

Dame Fiona lived in Waipu for two years as a teenager and remembers the area fondly for its welcoming neighbours.

But when she wrote her historical award-winning novel The Book of Secrets in 1987, based on the journey led by Mr McLeod through the eyes of three generations of women, backlash from the novel made it uncomfortable for her to return to Waipu.

It took decades to heal the wounds and it wasn't until Dame Fiona was invited to do a talk in Waipu several years ago that she felt comfortable returning to the town.

The Book of Secrets is being re-released for the pageant.

The event this year is also getting a boost from Canadian writer Bev Brett who is from Cape Breton, the same area that Mr McLeod's followers lived for 30 years before deciding to move on to Waipu.

"The story is very big there still because people are still related," she says.

Waipu Museum manager Patsy Montgomery says the production will cost $240,000, including $90,000 a night for the lights alone.

But putting on such a large-scale project is all due to the Scottish highland heritage, she says.

"We emphasise that the settlers succeeded by working together, which is typical of highland communities.

"We believe that our ability to put something like this on is to do with the tradition of being able to organise everyone in the community."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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