Luggate Hall too dangerous for songs
The Luggate Memorial Hall, near Wanaka, is officially too dangerous for songs, and this weekend's singing workshop on September 9-10 will now be held at the Hawea Flat Hall
The Queenstown Lakes District Council has completely fenced the Luggate hall, warding against the possibility an earthquake reduces it and everything within to rubble, and the Civil Defence gathering point has been moved to the Luggate fire station.
That's not to say people have not already been shaken, rattled or rolled during events at the 63-year-old hall, pronounced by the Jubilation Choir in 2007 to have fantastic acoustics.
But in recent years, earthquakes have battered country halls and sparked building inspections up and down the South Island.
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In April, even as engineers signalled the 63-year-old building's impending doom, Australian performers Linsey Pollak and Lizzie O'Keefe bravely trod the boards to give four renditions of their presciently named show, Dangerous Song.
Festival of Colour director Philip Tremewan said the festival would be "very, very sad" to see Luggate hall demolished.
"It's been one of our favourite festival venues – incredibly popular with performers and audiences alike. It has the best acoustics of any venue in the region; it's easy for setting up shows and very handy to Wanaka. We fervently hope that the problem wall can be strengthened and we don't lose such a superb community venue," he said.
A final earthquake report delivered in August has settled the matter.
The district council is adamant; legally, the shows cannot go on.
No more taking the proverbial out of sheep or the Welsh, as witnessed when Buddog Jones and Mac Macintosh brought their play Hiraeth to town in 2015.
No more daft murder mysteries of the type committed in Luggate by Aussie outfit Suitcase Royale in 2016.
And definitely no more rural vernacular from Kiwi entertainer Mel Parsons. She blew the town's ears back last year with her Son of a Bitch show.
Even the legendary Don McGlashan, Shane Carter and Sam Hunt are not allowed to make the rafters ring any more.
No more Luggate funerals. The last was in honour of community stalwart John "Tinny" Ironside about two months ago.
And no more dancing. After the Luggate Community Association finished its annual midwinter dinner on August 19, the doors to the rimu-floored, mud-brick hall were locked.
Association president Graeme Perkins is also very sad but philosophical. He was one of the last performers in the 240-square-metre hall, playing piano at the dinner.
"It is only 15 per cent to [earthquake strength] code. And quite frankly it is not really big enough," he said.
That's the other problem. Luggate, with a population of about 300, is a now a satellite town to Wanaka and new houses are sprouting everywhere.
Apart from Festival of Colour offerings, the hall has been venue for fire brigade parties, tai chi, yoga and dog training lessons, weddings and birthday parties.
Perkins said the association committee felt if the building needed more than simple reinforcing, it would be better to start afresh.
That option has already discussed with Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum McLeod, of Wanaka, he said.
"It is early days but we are very hell bent on getting a new hall. We are a growing wee town and we have literally got nowhere else that we can use."
"We know the council is supportive all ready. Calum has told us they are all pretty sympathetic," Perkins said.
Residents Jim Bryson and Graham Taylor want to get the ball rolling.
"It can't be just left on the back burner," Bryson said. "There are no alternatives," Taylor agreed.
A Luggate delegation would present their case at a council public forum in Wanaka on September 28 and would also meet with council staff to discuss getting a hall budget into the 10-year plan.
However, no plans or costs have been considered yet.
Perkins said it could take four or five years to get a new hall, so the association was looking for an alternative temporary venue. The fire station was not really big enough, he said.
The association is seeking feedback from residents before going to the council forum later this month.