Monday, August 8, 2011

Hot time in the city

Coming soon once more - Cirque de Soleil. Its latest incarnation, Saltimbanco, is bound to be flashy, bright and wonderful.
But it’s nothing new. Imagine the excitement in Auckland 126 years ago as Woodyear’s Electric Circus unloaded piles of crates onto the wharf downtown and got ready to stage its latest spectacular.
“Now, larger and better than ever – returning after an absence of 13 months of unabated success,” shouted the newspaper ads. The circus had 30 “lady and gentleman artists” from five continents, “a marvellous troupe of Japanese and a superb stud of trained horses and fairy trick ponies”.
Eyes must have goggled at the “monster marquee”, big enough to seat 5000 people, and – wonder of wonders – “brilliantly illuminated”.
Even Queen Street had no electric light in 1885 (it was still two years away), so this was some treat.
You can hear about exciting Auckland life in the 1880s next month when I give a couple of talks, A Hot Time in the Old Town, at the Auckland Library and Takapuna Library. It’s my way of contributing to the Auckland Heritage Festival.
Passion, intrigue, flirtation, murder, gossip – it sure was a lively place back then.
Come along and I’ll reveal the mischief your ancient rellies got up to, and you can ponder how similar or different your scruples are today.
It’s yours for only $5 to cover light refreshments. Auckland City Library, Sep 19, 5.30pm to 7pm (book at 307 7764), or Takapuna Library, Sep 21, 6pm to 7.30pm. Book at 486 8469 or by emailing
PS The lovely illustration is from an 1885 issue of The Auckland Star, accessed through that great digitised resource,

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