"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind"


August 2015

# Draft: Witnessing the restoration of St James Theatre

IMG_2837In the heart of Auckland’s City lies a building whose exterior offers very little in the way of character. With it’s grey stain-washed walls, faded red window sills and cracked window panes, one could almost say its going for that post-apocalyptic, rustic look.

However, it is within this construction that the remains of historic building, St James Theatre, exist.

Built in 1928, St James Theatre has been the home to many famous and world-class performances including the Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth II in 1981.

In 2007 the theatre was forced to close after a damaging fire in adjacent building caused authority to question the safety of the St James Theatre construction.

For the next seven years the theatre went unstirred and untouched. Just a grey and lifeless skeleton, whose insides decomposed slowly over time.

Yet in 2014 the St James Theatre was purchased by Relianz Holdings, who planned to restore the theatre to its original state, in the hope of completing this process by 2018.

Since then the future goals for the building have changed as the cost to restore St James Theatre is around $175million, which is not a feasible option. Instead Steven Bielby, Principal Trustee for the Auckland Notable Properties Trust, says they have consent for mothballing.

“We are working on getting a consent for restoration, however cannot do that until we have all the funding,” says Bielby. Yet there is an approximate $60million difference in costs, so until their funding can cover the cost, restoration is unlikely.

Some could question the point of putting so much money into restoring St James Theatre, when Auckland already has other performance platforms, such as Q Theatre and the Civic.

However Bielby justifies this project by saying that it speaks for itself. “Every show we’ve done has sold out, there hasn’t been a show that hasn’t been a full house,” says Bielby.

In fact, just last night St James Theatre was the host to Stolen Girlfriends Fashion Show. The Spanish renaissance-style foyer of St James Theatre was once again filled with vibrancy and life as Stolen Girlfriend models used the aged mezzanine floors of the theatre as their catwalk.

Being such a historically famous building in Auckland, many people are intrigued by St James’s story and are following its journey closely.

Results from a recent survey, conducted to gage how the public felt about the restoration of St James Theatre, indicated that this project is strongly supported within Auckland. 36 out 45 responses were in favor of the restoration, as ‘while they are not directly affected by it, it will be so beneficial for Auckland’s culture.’

The interior of St James Theatre is a polar opposite to its derelict exterior, which in fact, is reflective of the minimalistic architecture of that era.

The new theatre will include significant upgrades that are up to the modern standards that productions and shows require. Yet there will always be an element of the buildings history maintained through the interior décor.


With its gold spiraling staircase, intricate roof details, antique lamps and grand gold-framed mirrors, you are instantaneously transformed to another world as you enter into the theatre.

But for now we can only sit and watch as St James Theatre is reassembled piece by piece, which in some ways is a beautiful sight to witness.

By Georgie Foot

Source  |  Steve Bielby  |  021527526


Piecing together the Journo’ Jigsaw


One week till this story is due. 7 days till this jigsaw is no longer just segments of a larger picture. 168 hours to piece the puzzle together.

I’ve learnt a huge amount over the last week, both from our Journalism tutorial but also from actually being out there interviewing, talking to people and putting myself in the shoes of a journalist. And while I’ve been studying my puzzle, I’ve discovered parts that I’m still desperately trying to comprehend.

  1. I’ve discovered that the art of journalistc writing is a lot less exciting than I imagined. Emotive words, creative imagery and repetitive use of alliteration are not appreciated. Instead short, succinctly-structured sentences are highly recommended. Don’t get me wrong, I actually believe this type of writing requires more skill. So for me, while its not the style I’m used to, it is definitely something I want to learn how to improve on.
  2. After a fascinating interview with those directly related to St James Theatre, I began sorting my puzzle pieces. However ironically, it’s been these insightful interviews that have sparked me to question whether this story is in fact the right one to tell. I suppose my concerns are that all the truly ‘nitty gritty’ pieces occurred in the past…and this story is meant to be from our present day. Yet maybe I could use the history as the foundation for my story? I’ve been going back and forth all week between the pros and cons about changing stories but I think I’ve finally made up my mind to continue with my original idea. If I was to change now, it would mean finding another story, more background research and more time…which, in all honesty, I just don’t have.

In the hope of crafting a story that follows the true journalistic qualities I have decided that the most effective way is to ‘method act.’ This week I shall play an experienced journalist, who understands the torturously methodical steps needed in order to meet their deadline, with a  succinct, stirring, substantial and strong story. So I will sit in my usual window seat that overlooks the smoggy city, papers strewn across my desk and a strong coffee in hand and jot down any ideas that come to mind. How could a true journalistic piece just not start flowing from my pen? My puzzle will finally be completed!

So until next time.

Georgie Foot

Dig a little deeper


So this week has been a little on the ‘unproductive side’ of things.

Don’t get me wrong! My efforts to organise an interview with those involved with St James Theatre should be highly commended. I’ve sent email after email, made phone call after phone call, but no luck.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that’s its just not meant to be. There’s always next week though. And a new week brings new opportunities to make contact and new opportunities to reveal a story. But for now the mysterious St James Theatre remains unexplored.

So until next time.

Georgie F

Discovering Auckland’s Stories

Searching for a story on the streets of Auckland is actually harder than I expected. The bustling streets offer plenty of options for story ideas….which is quite possibly part of the problem. Too many options! On Saturday morning I took to the streets in desperate hope of stumbling upon a hidden nook or cranny, where some NEWS BREAKING story would reveal itself.

Perhaps a little too optimistic.

However, it wasn’t until I was on my way home, on my usual route past the Auckland Library, Stopover Cafe and St James Theatre that I realised the perfect story had been starring me in the face. One of Auckland’s most historical building, situated in the heart of the city was full of stories to tell and full of stories to share on my blog.

I sat outside St James Theatre for the next half an hour just observing. Watching the people, cars and light fade. Next plan is to make contact with those who run the theatre and have been part of the re-establishment of the theatre.

So until next time.

Georgie F

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