In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
During the 1960s, two young sisters from Auckland took New Zealand’s music charts by storm. The Chicks — Judy and Sue Donaldson — were 14 and 16 years old when they were first discovered by musician Peter Posa. The duo became famous for their matching outfits, stylish hairdos and catchy pop songs, and their popularity was bolstered by regular performances on hip television music show C'mon. In this short clip the sisters reunite to perform top 10 hit 'Timothy', at a 1985 variety special celebrating the first 25 years of television in New Zealand.
The Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards were the big fashion event of the year from the mid 60s to the 90s. The Wellington show was organised by model agent Maysie Bestall-Cohen from 1982, and from 1984 TVNZ broadcast the 'B&H' live from the Michael Fowler Centre. Bestall-Cohen and Bob Parker host this 1986 GOFTA award-winner. Former Miss Universe Lorraine Downes is a guest presenter, and the line-up of models includes a teenage Rachel Hunter and future TV presenter Hilary Timmins. Padded shoulders, geometric prints and garish colours date stamp the era.
In the 1960s Mr Lee Grant topped the Kiwi music charts, and won a trail of screaming fans. He left to pursue an acting and singing career in England (including a close encounter with a propeller, in 007 film A View to a Kill). In this Michael Fowler Centre gala celebrating 25 years of television downunder, he returns to contribute an energetic cover of Spencer Davis Group classic 'Gimme Some Lovin'' (which was originally composed in less than an hour). Chicks Judy and Sue Donaldson — regular fixtures with Grant on 60s music show C'mon — join the fun in C'mon-style costumes.
“Do you love me Pinocchio, tell me lies and your nose will grow”. This musical riff on love, trust and honesty was a hit for singer Maria Dallas in 1970. Originally there were no plans for it to be released as a single; it became hugely popular after Dallas performed it on music talent show Studio One. Here she revisits the song 15 years later, as part of a 1985 variety show at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre. The concert was a celebration of the first 25 years of television in New Zealand, including the musical artists who had made their mark on screen over the years.
Featured here are two performances of 'Nothing But Dreams' by Tina Cross. The first sees Cross in sequins at the 1979 Pacific Song Contest, in front of a global television audience estimated at 50 million. Cross was 20; she'd first sung on TV at age 16. Carl Doy's composition took away the top prize for Best Song, against entries from six other countries. The second clip is from a 1985 Michael Fowler Centre special, celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. By now Cross was in new wave duo Koo De Tah. That year they scored an Australian Top 10 hit with 'Too Young for Promises'.
By the mid 1980s, performer Ray Woolf had been a pop star, Play School presenter, Entertainer of the Year winner, presented his own TV show, and promoted Bic lighters in an ad campaign with Howard Morrison. Here, accompanied by dancers, he performs an abbreviated version of the Paul McCartney penned classic 'Penny Lane' (a rare Beatles single not to top the British charts). The song's nostalgic "blue suburban skies" are transplanted from Liverpool to Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, as part of a variety show celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand.
'L'Amour est l'Enfant de la Liberte' became a major 70s smash after it won television talent quest Studio One. Composed by Shade Smith, and sung by his twin brother Gerard, it topped the charts for six weeks in 1971, and became a fixture on Kiwi radio and TV. Sales of over 30,000 copies made it one of the biggest selling local songs of the era. Here, the band revisit freedom’s love child 14 years after birth, with a short rendition for a variety show at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre. The show was made to mark 25 years of television in New Zealand.
Tom Sharplin was the face of rock'n'roll revival in 1970s and 80s New Zealand. In 1980 his group won Group of the Year, and soon after they featured in popular TV show Rock Around the Clock. Here, for the finale of a gala to celebrate 25 years of Kiwi television, he performs rock classic 'Rip it Up' (first made famous via Little Richard, and later inspiration for the name of the NZ music mag). "Shag it on down to the union hall" run the lyrics; Sharplin — with help from Ray Columbus, Ray Woolf and many more — swings his hips and rips, shakes, rocks and rolls up the Michael Fowler Centre.
In November 2010, 29 miners died in the Pike River disaster. In 2014 Wellington’s Orpheus Choir invited singer Dave Dobbyn to compose a musical tribute to the victims. Dreams Lie Deeper followed Dobbyn to Greymouth to meet with mourning families, and visit the mine. This excerpt shows the premiere of Dobbyn's song ‘This Love’ in Wellington on 10 May 2014, to a standing ovation. The film screened on TV One on the fourth anniversary of the disaster. Sunday Star Times critic Grant Smithies called it “one hell of a documentary. Raw, touching and blessedly unsentimental.”