Reflections on the Hutt Valley Gang Show

This page contains some reflections on the history of the Hutt Valley Gang Show from the late Ian Smith written in 2006. One way or other Ian was involved in every Hutt Valley Gang Show from 1979 through to his death in 2010. He was the Organiser for many Shows.

Introduction

In the early hours of Tuesday morning 10 August 2004 I was awoken by a thunderstorm and the noise was so loud, and lasted so long, I was unable to get back to sleep. For some reason my thoughts turned to Gang Show and the last 25 years and I made a decision to write a History of the Hutt Valley Gang Shows first 25 years.

Although I have been connected with the Show for those 25 years it can’t be a complete history and is simply my perspective. Perhaps as people read this, and memories are jogged, they can give other perspectives.

I know that all who have been involved will agree that Gang Show helped mould their lives, developing physical, mental, social and spiritual skills, providing fun and entertainment, and forging lasting friendships.

The audience only sees a portion of what makes a Gang Show and we all know the weeks of hard work by a great number of people that brings a Show to fruition.

The Beginnings

The first Hutt Valley Gang Show appeared in 1979 in the Little Theatre in Lower Hutt. Although it was a success it unfortunately wasn’t repeated for a number of years. The Organisers were so pleased with the result that they planned another Show in 1981 in the Lower Hutt Town Hall, which could seat 900 people. Unfortunately that didn’t transpire and as time goes on it becomes much more difficult to get a Show off the ground.

However in 1985 a small team got together to launch the second Hutt Valley Show to stage in 1986. Having learned from the earlier experience efforts were then made to stage a Show every two years and planning commenced for each new Show even whilst the current Show was on stage. This formula has been a success and each new Show improves on the experiences of the previous Shows. Hutt Valley is now the only Gang Show in the Wellington Area.

The early Shows were managed by a very small team of dedicated workers but as years have gone by and the subsequent Shows have become more successful, a growing number of people have wanted to become associated with that success. The support members now far outnumber the actual cast members on stage.

The Little Theatre

All Shows to date have been in the Little Theatre, Lower Hutt. The theatre underwent major reconstruction in 2001 and those cast members who remember the overcrowded and cramped dressing rooms of the earlier Shows would be delighted with the current facilities. We had to use the Plunket Society room and adjoining porch as dressing rooms. First we had to move the furniture aside and in the porch we laid carpet on the concrete floor and had to hang curtains, as it was completely open to the street. But we had to take it all down again each night ready for Plunket next day. It was always a relief at the weekend when we didn’t need to clear out each night.

Girls!

In 1990 the first girl Cub Scouts and girl Scouts joined the Show and we experienced a big rise in the numbers auditioning for the Show. It was good to have girls in the Show giving much more balance.

There had always been one or two Girl Guides in the Show who tagged along to Auditions with their brothers but they were never officially invited to participate until 1992 when Frances Carmody was invited to join the Executive Committee as the Guide Liaison. This again boosted the numbers auditioning and the final number on stage was 83.

The Gang Show Scarf

It’s customary now to present a Gang Show Scarf to first timers along with a custom made woggle printed red on white. At their second Show participants receive a silver version of the woggle and then a gold version at their third Show. It wasn’t always the case.

I remember that for the 1988 Show I asked Len Cogger, who was away in England, to import a supply of their official Gang Show Woggles. The following Show I bought some lengths of white piping from a Plumbers Supply and cut them into woggle lengths. They looked exactly like the ones imported from England. On another occasion Claudia Duncan had her scout troop make a supply of plaited cord woggles which were then dipped in white paint. Unfortunately the paint was so thick it didn’t dry and the night before they were to be presented I was slowly baking them in my oven.

The “Wellington” Show

Over the years the Hutt Valley Show has become the Wellington Area Show as it is now the only Gang Show in the area.

Sometime in the early 1990’s we inherited the “Flats” from the Wellington West Gang Show. They had been stored in a Scout Hall for some years and we got a telephone call to “pick up what you want and we’ll throw out the rest”. The “Flats” have given good service and are still in use.

Then in 2001 I was asked as National Gang Show Coordinator to take custody of the Kapiti Gang Show Wardrobe as the building in which this was located was to be demolished and there were no immediate plans to hold another Show. This is quite a comprehensive wardrobe and is stored with the Hutt Valley wardrobe.

Changing Times

Over the years some things have changed quite drastically and this has resulted in greater efficiency in the support and preparation for Shows:

  • Home computers and word processing have done away with the laborious methods of cut-and-paste and the need to be on friendly terms with a competent typist. Scripts, posters, newsletters and cast manuals which used to take weeks to prepare can now be done by anyone and stored electronically ready to be used again for the following Show.
  • Changes to scripts etc can also be made so quickly and simply.
  • The 1979 Show was filmed and was then made available to the very limited few that had projectors. In 1986 the Show was videoed for the first time – I think with hired cameras and a few more were then able to enjoy the results if they owned a video player. These days not only do all households have a video player but most also have a video camera.
  • The same with photographs. It was a major task in the early Shows to arrange photographs and incorporate them in the Programme. Then along came digital cameras and it was a matter of getting on side with someone who owned one. Now almost every family owns one.
  • Over the years it has also become easier to attract sponsors and grant money for the Show. It used to be an uphill battle.

On the downside it’s probably harder to find rehearsal pianists. There doesn’t seem to be many around, particularly those who are willing to give up each Sunday afternoon over the period of the rehearsals.

A Final Thank You

I wrote the following paragraphs for the 1992 Programme but they seem appropriate, with a few minor changes, to finish this reflection.

“Thanks to all the audiences for supporting our Shows. We hope you enjoyed them.
Thanks to all those outside the Scouting and Guiding Movements who gave of their time and experience to make all the Shows such a success.

Thanks to all the Directors, Musical Directors, Choreographers, Costume Designers, Stage Managers and all the many people in the production teams for their wonderful contributions.
Thanks to the members of the Orchestras for your support and in particular the rehearsal pianists who slogged away, week after week, at rehearsals.

Thanks to the many businesses and organisations that, over the years, have donated funds, time, materials, resources and advice.

Thanks to those who provided refreshments during the long hours of rehearsals, to those who sewed costumes and scarves, those who built and painted scenery, made woggles, designed sweatshirts, assisted with dressing and make-up, created props, assisted back stage, catered at camp and between Shows, took photographs and videos, and thanks to all those who responded in some way when you were needed.

Thanks to parents, partners and families who showed patience and encouragement through the many weeks of rehearsals.

Thanks to all those Leaders in the Scout and Guide Movements who, by their own example and participation, have encouraged the youth of both Movements to also participate and thus reap the rewards of fellowship, pleasure and satisfaction of being part of something “worthwhile’.
And finally thanks to all the cast members, who for months practiced and played together, forming lasting friendships and developing physically, mentally, and spiritually in true Scouting and Guiding spirit.