Baycourt: its story and Friends


Baycourt, “where the arts come alive” is the principal performance venue in urban Tauranga, Bay of Plenty. Like many community facilities its existence owes more to the tenacity and persistence of local creatives rather than the foresight of territorial authorities.

Since coming to Tauranga I’ve spent many happy hours lurking in the Baycourt foyers or reclining on the seating in either the main auditorium the Addison Theatre or the Xspace. I’ve seen the gamut and spectrum of performance and event. I spent a somewhat nervous evening in the Xspace watching an excruciatingly hilarious performance by a significantly out-there comedic performer. I’ve interviewed the inimitable Jan Preston, visited exhibitions of art, pottery, creative fibre and embroidery. In the Addison Theatre, I’ve seen the The Little Shop of Horrors; the Modern Maori Quartet and the amazing Nathan Avakian on the Baycourt Wurlitzer. More importantly for me, I’ve seen numerous performances by young people: the latest being the 39th Youth Jazz Competitions held in conjunction with this Easter’s National Jazz Festival. On that occasion I ran up and down the stairs camera phone in hand collecting images for my ARTbop article.

Photo0570That I’m able to bounce on in to Baycourt, which fronts Durham Street and then flows down the hill towards the Tauranga City Library, is attributable to the mid-1970’s initiative of the then Tauranga Regional Arts Council. I have to laugh (cynically of course) when I see the original proposal for the performance site was “ on the Tauranga waterfront, built out into the harbour between Coronation Pier and Fisherman’s Wharf. At that stage the proposed complex was for a huge auditorium and the inclusion of an art gallery, restaurant, and working areas for arts and crafts groups….”

The quote comes from the glossy covered publication ‘The Story of Baycourt proudly compiled and presented by Friends of Baycourt to celebrate our 30th Anniversary” The text and images were compiled and collated by Maureen Guy a longtime stalwart of the Friends of Baycourt. Like the initial and ongoing efforts to establish Baycourt, the compilation and contents are a catalogue of the enthusiasm for and dedication to the creative arts in Tauranga.

I also have to bite my tongue, or my keyboard, when reading the section about the 1987 Baycourt Trust Board. It records the handing over of the management and administration of Baycourt to “money-oriented entrepreneurs…because Council had a lot of other things on its plate.” Later there’s comment on Baycourt’s “financial woes” and the dramatic 1988 intervention of the Tauranga City Council:- “in the space of one day sacked the staff and closed the doors.” It obviously worked out and Baycourt remains a Tauranga City Council facility.

Of course the booklet is not a literary publication destined for the Booker Prize but it’s an overview of an earlier Tauranga, a provincial centre Tauranga and a developing Tauranga through the simple repetition of text and images of Baycourt activities and personnel.

It’s also a commemoration of the work of community creatives, performers, contributors, and Baycourt supporters. Is it 100% accurate and 100% comprehensive? I don’t know and I’m not sure that’s 100% relevant. This publication, like the community efforts to establish Baycourt, stands for what it is: a 100% voluntary initiative by Maureen Guy and the Friends of Baycourt. For anyone interested in the earlier days of Tauranga and its after-hours activities, it’s definitely worth a read.

The Story of Baycourt proudly compiled and presented by Friends of Baycourt to celebrate our 30th Anniversary, Text prepared, compiled and written by Maureen Guy on behalf of the Friends of Baycourt, April 2015 , Cover picture by architect Sir Miles Warren, Cover design by Taylor McGrath

The Friends of Baycourt is the incorporated society and voluntary group whose “core” reason is to support Baycourt. The “Final Word”, the last page of the publication, is essentially a direct plea to the wider community to become a Friend of Baycourt and support the thirty year old organisation responsible for Baycourt’s existence. Yes, they’re all getting older, yes they need people to become more actively involved.

This year the Friends of Baycourt are looking for people willing to participate as Committee Members of “the large incorporated Society with many hundreds of members. At this year’s Annual General Meeting on 29th May 2016 several members of the present committee are standing down and new volunteers are needed. Ideally you should be someone interested in the arts and enthusiastic about Baycourt. If you think this is a role you would like to play in the Tauranga creative community you could contact the current Chairperson: Anna Finlayson-Smith on 07 579 2265 or

Photo0439Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


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