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More than bricks and mortar

From the rubble, Kaikoura’s iconic Mayfair Theatre has risen, sending a strong signal that the community is well on its way to healing.

The iconic art-deco Mayfair Theatre, which was a hub for the Kaikoura community, has been closed since the 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016.

Four years later and on November 19, the doors opened once more – just in time for the theatre’s 50th anniversary of community ownership.

Kaikoura Community Theatre Inc. President John Wyatt says there’s been lots of ups and downs over the last four years.

“The building itself is part of the healing process. We’ve got a great art community and the evidence is very strong – participation in the arts, involvement in the arts and access to the arts are all part of health and wellbeing, even in normal circumstances. So when your town has been cut off from the outside world for months and months – that’s not normal.”

John and his wife Sandra have been able to create a place where people can gather to connect on a social level or engage with what’s on at the theatre.

“These are fundamental things for recovery itself and the healing process,” says John.

For that reason, it was an emotional opening for John and Sandra.

“We had tears streaming down our faces and it was cathartic.”

“Soon after the quake, we decided it was our duty to make some fairly quick decisions to see to it that the Mayfair Theatre would entertain, inspire, educate and inform the community once more,” says Wyatt.

“It really was uplifting to see people in the theatre once more.”

While Covid could have derailed their project, and despite increased costs and delays, John ensured the theatre was completed within the timeframe.

“I’ve always felt I have had a duty to carry it through.”

John estimates he and Sandra spent up to 14,000 hours on the project.

Since the open day, the theatre has hosted two school productions, a conference, an art exhibition, and it is now open for film screenings.

“When you come out of a natural disaster, the community are looking for hope, a renaissance, and it’s about lighting beacons of hope. We were marching forward together and we’ve achieved something really special.”

“It’s a place to escape and feel good and for anyone to feel better about themselves.”

For some children in the community, it is the first time they have had an opportunity to perform on a stage with proper lighting and sound.

And for John and Sandra, the good times are rolling on, with people from across NZ now swinging through and “just sharing moments with us”.

“We just want more people to come and experience it.”

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