Sunday 2 September 2007

Fond memories of Bodega

Reading Ajax's article yesterday bought me back to my early 20's when I was living in Wellington.
I moved from my home town of Christchurch to Wellington in 1980 - a vibrant capital metropolis, buzzing with activity all day and night.
Following Fran Wilde and Mark Blumsky's reign as Mayor, the town shrugged off the "Windy Wellington" label, officialy rebranded as Absolutely Positively Wellington, and came of age. The Council and mayoralty was liberal-minded, accessible, cosmopolitan, alternative, and fun and the town evolved as one of the most stunning coastal cities in the world during the 90's. They even adopted a Social Stragey, to focus on the development and success of both individuals and the collective population. Imagine that happening here?

Moving to Welly was something of a huge adventure. I'd left home and started as publications manager and general editor at the Scout Association. This town was my kiwifruit (could have said oyster, but it's not kiwi enough, or even pavlova, but that would just be silly).

Welly has outdoor cafes, bohemian alleys with alternative shops, a genuine relaxed accepting lifestyle. The famous Cuba Street, with a remarkable collection of pioneer cottages and houses retained from the 1840's, was the hub of all this.

Affectionately we called her "Wellywood", following several notable movies and television that were created there. It was also the home of Peter Jackson's sprawling Mirimar studios, that hugged a small community village near the coast in the burbs. Peter was more revered than our Prime Minister during the Lord of the Rings years. Everyone seemed to be touched or connected with the project. They were the most most successful films of all time, and it all happened in our neighbourhood. We were all so very chuffed, even though most of us were simply observers, we chatted with and met Elijah or Ian around town, and in the bars during the 2 years they lived in our place.
The one I remember most fondly was Bar Bodega on Cuba Street. Bodega was one of the few stages open almost exclusively to original New Zealand Bands and has played a vital role in nurturing highly original and unusual music scene in New Zealand. Virtually every New Zealand Band has played here in the 1990s, very often in front of a very crowded audience. Local Wellington bands had regular spots in Bar Bodega: The Gardening Angels, Letterbox Lambs, Breakfast of Champion, and Let's Planet, to name a few. Regular poetry nights, which included our underground poets movement, were popular during the mid to late 1990s.

Regular appearances by Chris Knox, Martin Phillipps and The Chills, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, David Kilgour, The Renderers ensured a wide and loyal followship (is that a word?!) of this iconic bar.

My mind harps back to this and I search for comparisons in my adopted town of Cairns, and I see such a divorce of all things cultural. I wonder if we can rebuild and foster this again. Because they say a house is not a home without a cat (or dog no doubt). I think a city is not a town without an arts and cultural life.
Great cities are not just high-rise apartments. I fear that new city dwellers who pay around $400K + for their inner-city pad, will demand to control noise and fun that a city is all about. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The community owned Wellington. They still do. They love it's heritage, it people and it's culture. And we all lived alongside each other respecting the wonder that each element bought to our home.
Oh, the memories.

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