Fowler: When Havelock’s world was a stage
28 Oct, 2017 11:00am
Hawkes Bay Today
By: Michael Fowler
In the earlier part of last century, the Great Shakespearean Movement began.
This was a renewed interest in the works of English poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare.
Havelock North fully embraced this movement, with many plays and readings of the great Bard’s work performed – many of them in the now demolished St Luke’s or Village Hall (this was situated where the villas are now on Te Mata Rd, next to St Luke’s Church).
A village carnival in the form of an old English fete was held in November 1911, with about 100 Havelock residents dressing in old English costumes, with activities such as sideshows and stalls. King Arthur and Morris dancers were characters included in the fete.
The success of the fete led to plans for a grand Shakespearean pageant on November 29, 1912, with the aim to raise funds to pay off loans associated with the 1910-built St Luke’s Hall.
More than 200 people from Havelock North’s small population of about 500 took part by dressing up as characters from Shakespeare’s works.
His main plays such as Hamlet were represented, and banners of each play preceded a procession of their costumed characters.
The Daily Telegraph wrote: “The costumes were not only elaborate but true to character, with the result that the best-known creations of the author were brought before the onlookers with striking fidelity.”
A crowd of 4000-5000 people from the surrounding districts of Napier and Hastings came to watch the procession and enjoyed sideshows and stalls from the Elizabethan era.
Later that night, a medley of Shakespeare’s plays was performed in St Luke’s Hall.
The Shakespearean pageant made headlines around New Zealand for its uniqueness and was deemed a credit to the “originality and enterprise of the citizens of Havelock”.
To thank those who took part in the pageant, a dinner was held in St Luke’s Hall in December.
A total of 130 “gorgeously dressed and merry people sat down to gaily be-decked tables to do justice to the excellent repast that was placed before them”.
The financial results of the pageant were announced – and only £500 (2017: $81,000) of the £1500 ($243,000) debt remained on St Luke’s Hall.
One of those sitting down to the dinner was a representative from the Hawke’s Bay Tribune (now Hawke’s Bay Today).
A cry went up to “toast the press”, to which the representative afterwards responded that he hoped the press would continue to be of service to the Havelock work.
The organising secretary of the Shakespearean pageant and dinner, Miss M M McLean, was a daughter of the McLeans of Duart House. Her efforts were widely praised.
Sadly, Miss McLean was killed in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake while visiting Napier.
The spirit of carnival lives on in Havelock North with today’s Village Street Carnival.
• Copies of Michael Fowler’s Hawke’s Bay Opera House: The first 100 years 1915 to 2015 are now available for sale at the Hastings i-site for $29.99
• Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is an EIT accounting lecturer, and in his spare time a recorder of Hawke’s Bay’s history.
Photo caption – THE PLAYERS: The Shakespearean Pageant characters of Hamlet pose at St Luke’s Hall, for which they were fundraising. Photo/Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 3480a