Book will Bowl reader over

A book about the TSB Bowl of Brooklands turned out to be as much a labour of love as construction of the amphitheatre was.

The book which is being launched on Thursday at Puke Ariki, involved countless hours of research and writing, much of it voluntary, says its co-editor Lance Girling-Butcher.

The idea for a publication started in 2006 when a group of people formed the Friends of the Bowl, with the initial aim of organising a dinner in 2008 to commemorate the Bowl's 50th anniversary.

Sheila Connell was a driving force, says Mr Girling-Butcher. She was the secretary for Eric Handbury, the man who had the vision for the Bowl back in 1957 while working as the city's public relations office.

She organised for a plaque to be installed at the Bowl, recognising his vital contribution. At the same time Sheila was recording oral histories of early Bowl stalwarts, conscious that the history should be captured before it was too late.

"I was there at the beginning and this was a way of honouring all those people who worked so tirelessly for no reward other than the satisfaction of achieving something," Sheila told the Midweek. All up, she recorded 15 oral histories.

She recalls her days at the PRO in the 1950s as financially strained.

"We never had any money in the office. It was up a dingy staircase . . . .there were two rooms, one for him and one for me and the filing was done in a broom cupboard.

"We had to be self funding. We had to organise things like [selling] mystery envelopes to pay our way."

Mr Girling-Butcher, a former editor of the Taranaki Daily News, says the book's birth was also characterised by financial worries. A $15,000 grant from the TSB Community Trust gave the project impetus. When that money ran out, work halted for a while. This year further grants were received from the Lion Foundation, the Southern Trust and the New Zealand Community Trust.

"No one has worked for profit." Lance says the most surprising thing about the Bowl's history was the announcement in the early 1980s that its committee was not a legal entity.

"That would have meant all these people who had put in hours of work would have been at financial risk." The matter was duly fixed.

The 220-page book contains 400 photographs and is on sale at Benny's Books in New Plymouth.