The Te Puke High School recycled fashion event

Human Bird Hybrid by Ashleigh Ngwo, Tamara Macdonald & Wolf McCready.

Human Bird Hybrid by Ashleigh Ngwo, Tamara Macdonald & Wolf McCready.  Photo: Rosemary Balu

I’ve never been to Te Puke High School  so I end up at the back instead of the front.  I stroll on in and ask some young people sitting playing a guitar where the rehearsal for the fashion show is.  A tall well built young man escorts me through the classroom maze accompanied by repeated teacher directions to put his shirt on.  Sabotaging discipline I tell him that when I was at school we were only allowed to wear our socks turned down.  It was an offence to have your ankle socks turned up.  I didn’t tell him abou the hats, the gloves, the requirement to only be seen on the street with your blazer buttoned.

The noise buzz in the dressing room behind the stage is high.  The young people are costumed and it looks like I’ve walked into a contained mardi gras.   I find my way behind the stage curtain, down the stairs at the side and I’m in the hall  – it’s full of babies, children and adults of all ages.  This is the end of the dress rehearsal for tomorrow evening’s district wide Kaos event.   A large Antionette wedding dress which looks as if it has been created from old net curtains and bow ties goes down the runway.  Although I’ve come in at the end there’s still an amazing variety of style and design going by.

I’d seen it as I’d come in – this tall and wide bird figure.   After its gone down the runway  I manage to organise a photo against the stage curtain and Matt Daniels discloses that he’s in his first year at Te Puke High, Year 9 and that his amazing costume was constructed by a team including Ashleigh Ngwo, Tamara Macdonald and Wolf McCready.   its a human bird hybrid enterd in the 21st Century category competition.   The costume has been created by gluing and stitching small multicoloured and shimmering triangles of old magazines, brochures, pamphlets and chip packets to a top and shorts.   The huge wings have been created from a assemblage of paper dinner plates and are similarly decorated and finished with a line of brown cupcake papers and sections of glitter.  Mattt’s head and face are covered by two masks – both recycled and one “Wolf found on the road with the addition feathers from real  road kill”  Matts legs are covered with thick black tights which also cover these huge platform bird feet – Elton John eat your heart out!

I watch one of the students photograph all the other students – Sofi Mackinnon is behind the camera.  She photographs Sukhwinder Kaurdressed in a totally believable and wearable “cocktail dress” created from those cheap tartan storage bags.   Standing watching this photographic procession allows me to see a spectrum of design I’ve missed from the catwalk.

I call in to see the Principal’s Assistant, Linda Horscroft.  I give Linda a list of where I’ve been, who I’ve seen and the email addresses provided to me by the students.       Linda tells me to stick around as they’ve won a Mai FM concert.    It’s going to be performed on an outdoor stage developed as part of a new classroom block and outdoor area.    Well it’s the Beatles all over again but this generation is better behaved than mine was.   I also notice the multi-ethnic school community and the ease with which the students are relating.   The school has a Special Needs Unit and I learn from one of the staff that positive contact from the wider school community has been increasing since the unit moved to be part of this newly built courtyard  block.

I have no idea who the principal of this school is but he/she/they must be doing something right.  The students I randomly met were all polite, helpful and confident, clean and tidy and well presented.  The school was beautifully presented and remember I walked in the back door.

This is the second school this month and by the time I’m writing this I’ve also been to Otumoetai College and observed their Stage Challenge rehearsal and met four of the highly organised and hardworking members of the Guys and Dolls cast.  If  anyone has concerns about the future of humanity get along to a local school and see the talent, ability and drive, it’s both humbling and reassuring!


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