OPINION: Mercifully, Southland's first designated heritage month is not shaping up to be a static gaze backwards.
The package of events for March looks to hold satisfaction for a range of southerners, from the active and alert to the sedentary and idly curious.
What brings coherence to the whole kit and caboodle is the intention that this be something more vibrant than a ponderously reflective time; a good-fun contribution to what should be a happy and continuing process of passing from older to younger generations a working, useful and enjoyable knowledge of our cultural identity.
Which we can only really do if we have the hang of it ourselves.
In some cases it's perhaps a matter of reviving memories. An obvious example is the day of fun skills from the past at Thomson's Bush on March 10, where the playstation generation can have crack at old games and traditional crafts. It's a fair bet some older fingers will be twitching for a go, too.
For those of slightly intrepid disposition, there's the West Otago Cavalcade on March 2, discovering some of the paths and routes of the old gold prospectors, and Cr Lloyd Esler's "In the Footsteps of the Pioneers" guided hike from Invercargill to Greenhills on March 3, which will follow the edge of the estuary and through the Mokomoko Inlet ending at Clark Rd.
Gentler perambulations include evening strolls around Invercargill's points of historic interest, garden visits and South Catlins and Te Anau-Milford bus tours.
Festivals celebrating moonshine and multicultural food nestle alongside the simple pleasures of a farmers' market and the Wendon Valley picnic, featuring local wild food, music and dance.
Western Southland will be humming on March 23-34 for events such as haymaking through the ages, presented at the Thornbury Vintage Tractor Museum, the Templeton Flax Mill open day and Riverton's Heritage Harvest Festival.
Sit-yourself-down events throughout the month include the Southland Museum and Art Gallery theatre's lunchtime screenings of a compilation of southern-made films, featuring rural pastimes, holidays and assorted events from the 1950s-to-70s.
But especially of note is the return of A Cry Too Far From Heaven. The play, written by Angela Newell, Jade Gillies and Lizzie Dawson, focuses on the executions of Winton baby killer, Minnie Dean, and Bluff's shell-shocked World War I deserter, Victor Spencer. We needn't make too much of the fact that it has been so well reviewed overseas and in other parts of the country. Those who have seen it in Southland continue to evangelise on its behalf.
The month's activities represent a welcome expansion of the former heritage field days at Donovan Park. They draw, as Southland Rural Heritage Trust chairman, Cathy Macfie, says, on the support of those who believe that recognising Southland's heritage is an investment in our future.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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