Helensville History on Stage

There are four passionate actors in the small cast - Junior Misimoa, Chye-Ling Huang, Isaac Te Reina and Retts Van Dam.

The Helensville population is likely split between those who remember or are aware of the Brynderwyn Bus crash of 1963 and those who have no idea of the accident and the devastating impact it had on the town.
It was the year the Queen was visiting for Waitangi Day celebrations. Keen to support a local kaumâtua who was to receive a special honour from her Royal Highness, a bus load of locals went north to join the festivities at Waitangi. On the journey home, the bus lost its brakes and despite the driver’s best efforts the bus went careening over a 30 metre ravine. 15 people were killed, many of them from Helensville. To this day it remains New Zealand’s worst road accident.
The accident is the inspiration behind a new play, Te Waka Huia, which is about to have its first public performances with a tour of Auckland and Northland.
Playwright Naomi Bartley who has spent years in Helensville, only heard of the accident for the first time nearly seven years ago after a conversation with a friend in the supermarket. Intrigued by the story, she then spoke to some of the survivors and whanâu members of those who died or were injured to help her learn more about the accident and its lasting effects.
“I hope this play honours the story of those involved and provides a healing space for other local whanâu who have lived with the loss all their lives,” she says.
The play is fictional but it references the accident and speaks to issues of belonging and loneliness.
The play begins its tour at Te Pou Theatre in New Lynn on August 17, before heading to Mangere, Maungaturoto, Rawene, Kerikeri and Whangarei, finishing with two performances on 29 and 30 September at Kaipara College.
Tickets are $20, Concession $15, and are available now from https://www.iticket.co.nz/go-to/te-waka-huia-tour.
A crowd-funding campaign on the arts based website Boosted is also live. Donations are being sought to help cover the costs of taking this important but little known story to communities who often don’t get to see theatre of this calibre.

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