Friday, May 6, 2011

Last one standing

The latest unemployment figures have just been released for NZ, and they show a very small decline in the number of people out of work. Well, at least on the surface... this TV3 item explains that Christchurch has been excluded from this latest survey and the local figures aren't great.

Since February's quake 858 more people have gone on the dole in Christchurch and 925 people are on an emergency earthquake benefit. There are also more than 6,000 people currently on an earthquake 'job rescue' package that is paying wages for staff of local businesses that are unable to operate.

But there is still more to it than official statistics will ever show.

My son has also suffered from the earthquake aftermath... he had a delivery round for a local newspaper, the Christchurch Star. Every Wednesday and Friday afternoons he'd load up the papers and head off round the neighbourhood. It's a family rite of passage - his sister had the round before him. Part-time jobs are good for kids in so many ways that are nothing to do with the (small) income... teaching about work ethics, responsibility & saving up for geek toys. However since the quake, the Star has moved to a morning print/delivery setup and the boy wasn't that keen on reapplying for a job that would involve cycling on cold frosty mornings between 6 and 8am. Gee... I wonder why not? I don't blame him one bit tho - the rounds are going to be smaller & the pay is less, while the inconvenience is far greater.

I've lost a lot of work too... with 3 of the 4 biggest venues that I work at currently out of action, casual hospitality/event work is hard to come by. There have been no rugby games at AMI stadium, no conferences at the Convention Centre, and no performances at the Town Hall. There is one venue (CBS Arena) still operating, and this weekend should be interesting - definitely a weekend of two halves, with Disturbed tonight and Andre Rieu on Sunday (Mothers' Day). From one extreme to the other!

It's not just the big venues & stadiums that have been damaged, performance spaces of all kinds are either damaged/demolished or still behind the cordon. The local arts scene has been particularly hard hit in so many different ways... this is a community that I have been a part of for many years, especially with the various theatre groups around town. It was just last year that I stepped down as Prez of Elmwood Players in order to have more time to concentrate on my studies (wow, really? feels like a whole different life). Elmwood is now one of the few theatre groups in C-city that is not currently homeless.

Repertory Theatre, Kilmore Street:

The grand old theatre had suffered a reasonable amount of damage in the September quake... they had been upbeat about the prospects of saving & restoring the old girl but now...?
temporary repairs after September's quake
photo: Wozawanderer 

The Mill Theatre, Addington

Home of Riccarton Players, this converted old mill building was just not strong enough to take the shaking on Feb 22nd and has already been brought down.

Court Theatre, Arts Centre

Christchurch's professional theatre company, the Court Theatre, had its home in the historic Arts Centre. This whole precinct has suffered badly and every current tenant (bar one) has had their leases terminated due to uncertainty over the state of the buildings and the extent of repairs needed. This includes the iconic watering hole, Dux de Lux, which is fighting the eviction notice... you can support the cause by signing the online petition or, if you're in town, by adding to the duck-notes & love hearts on the cordon fence.

The loss of the performing & rehearsal spaces in the Arts Centre has also disrupted the University Free Theatre, Southern Ballet and the Scared Scriptless troupe. Around town there are many other dance and drama groups who have been suddenly displaced by earthquake damage or lack of access to their studios. The few remaining venues, like the Aurora Centre at Burnside High School (seats 700), the Elmwood Auditorium at Elmwood Normal School (seats 144) and the Open Stage at Hagley College (seats 100), are suddenly under pressure with booking enquiries from many different performing groups. Things that we (Elmwood Players) used to take for granted, like using the Elmwood Auditorium for rehearsals whenever necessary, are no longer an option due to the heavy use of the building by external groups.

Involvement in theatre as a recreational pastime has been on the decline for a number of years. We now live in a totally different media/entertainment environment than when most of the city's theatre groups were formed. Elmwood Players has been in existence for over 60 years and although there's still no shortage of people who want to act in plays, getting people involved to do the admin & the behind-the-scenes work gets harder every year. With all the disruption the earthquakes have caused to our city's performance groups & spaces, perhaps it is time for some consolidation in the local theatre community. It's just an idle thought... even though I'm not currently involved with any particular groups at the moment, you can't get theatre out of your blood, head or heart.

Hasn't Mother Nature/the weather been interesting lately?? If you're reading this from elsewhere, I hope your part of the planet is a lot calmer than ours ;)

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