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The Little Yellow Digger digs The PumpHouse

Celebrated North Shore author and Campbell’s Bay resident Betty Gilderdale, whose recent gong the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit has surely put her on the path to National Treasure status, will be the special guest at the Gala opening of Tim Bray Productions’ upcoming children’s theatre season. We were lucky enough to talk to Betty the day after she received her medal.

Being actively involved in the arts on the North Shore throughout their lives, Betty and late husband Alan have both had involvement with The PumpHouse during the theatre’s 40+ year history and have been regular attendees of Shakespeare productions. Not long after the theatre conversion during the 1970s Betty wrote the libretto for a student production of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which was one of the first performances in the newly minted PumpHouse Theatre. Husband Alan’s involvement with The PumpHouse was in his capacity as an accomplished painter and exhibitor in the former PumpHouse gallery.

In the early 1990s, Betty came up with the winning idea for her story of The Little Yellow Digger. While babysitting their grandchildren one day they watched some earthworks underway in a neighbour’s yard. At some point a digger became stuck in the mud, necessitating the need for a bigger digger to come to the rescue. Betty’s grandchildren loved the way she relayed the events of that day back to them, how the phrase ‘they had to get a bigger digger’, rolled off the tongue. They begged her to tell them again and again. And so the story took to the page. 

Betty initially had some resistance from husband Alan when she asked him to illustrate the story but after her suggestion that perhaps she might find another artist to illustrate this family story, he relented. Alan passed away last year but his legacy of charming illustrations will continue to keep him alive in the minds of his family and descendents and of thousands of Kiwi children for decades to come.  

Since its first publication in 1992, 400,000 copies of The Little Yellow Digger have been sold and its popularity has ensured 36 reprints. This long-standing  popularity earned The Little Yellow Digger the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award in 2003, a New Zealand literary award which honours the most successful and enduring children’s titles. Two years ago publisher Scholastic celebrated the book’s 20th year in print with an official ceremony at the Takapuna Public Library which was attended by both Betty and Alan.

Therefore it makes absolute sense that Tim Bray’s stage adaptation of The Little Yellow Digger makes its debut in Betty and Alan Gilderdale’s own neck of the woods - at The PumpHouse Theatre. 

Haunted Auckland seeks The PumpHouse Ghosts

It’s a long-standing theatrical tradition to have at least one theatre ghost. Some of the world’s most famous theatres are said to be inhabited with the ghosts of centuries-old actors; one such being London’s oldest working theatre, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane where the disembodied head of Joseph Grimaldi, the father of pantomime, has been putting the frighteners on patrons, casts and crews since the early 19th century.The paranormal investigation team at Haunted Auckland’s regularly stake out Auckland’s spookiest buildings and have long wanted to meet the ghosts of The PumpHouse.If you’re reading this before Sunday 7th September you may have time to grab a ticket to The PumpHouse Ghost Hunt, an evening of paranormal investigation of the 108-year-old theatre guided by the team from Haunted Auckland.

Think Up Theatre - A One Week Theatre Challenge

Emerging and experienced playwrights, directors and actors are invited to form teams to devise a new short theatre work.  Similar in concept to Tropfest or the 48 Hour Film challenge, each team will be presented with a theme; a starter; and a prop to incorporate and must work together to create a brand new 10 minute play - with just five days to do it!

A short season of the finished works will be presented over that weekend.

With artistic direction from Kat Glass and Luke Thornborough, the end result will be a season of brand new devised works from some of Auckland's most exciting theatre talents.

Artists interested in participating in the Think Up Theatre Challenge should visit The PumpHouse website or Facebook page for more information. 

by Channel Magazine