SThere's excitement in the air at Keirunga as almost three years of hard work by a group of dedicated people finally comes to fruition with the opening of Keirunga Theatre.

Juliet Cottrell, president of the Keirunga Arts & Craft Society, says she has had the privilege of working with a fantastic group of volunteers without whom this would not be happening. "We are beyond excited about what the future holds for Keirunga."

A fire in early August 2016, thought to be deliberately lit, left many artists displaced and plans for redeveloping the theatre were halted.

"Nearly three years later, the reopening of Keirunga - the creative hub - marks the beginning of new possibilities," Cottrell says. "Old groups are re-grouping, new groups are forming. The new spaces we have created will bring a much-needed injection of creativity to our community.

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"We have been waiting a long time to move back in. We hope to be the hub of many new creative endeavours in visual, performing and textile arts and craft - both contemporary and traditional.

"For the theatre to become truly functional and be available as a multi purpose space we need the community's help in purchasing the retractable seating, hence the opening on Friday is also the launch of our Please Be Seated campaign. Oh and watch this space for stage three! It's going to be amazing!"

Please be Seated is a fundraising campaign to purchase retractable seating. Andy Brigden, Out East Creative Ltd director, says retractable seating will make the space far more usable.

"The venue's new design allows for retractable tiered seating, which gives us the flexibility to make the space available to a variety of groups."

You can sponsor a seat or simply donate to the campaign.

A special treat for those attending the opening night will be a performance by Lady Larisa. Larisa was born and bred in Hawke's Bay and has "family history with the Keirunga Arts & Craft Society".

"My mother, Sonia Kellet, known as 'Sunny' to her friends, directed some of the sold out shows in the very early days for Keirunga Homestead Theatre," Larisa said.

"Mum, who is now 85 and living in Perth, told me years ago that to raise money for a rebuilding fund to extend the old building, every group that functioned at Keirunga was asked to display their products (art, pottery, rock and mineral, gardening group and other groups) and participate in an open day which raised a considerable amount of money, while the Drama Group staged a benefit night with two one-act plays which sold out immediately and the money raised was donated to the rebuilding fund. Mum produced one of those plays, Mr Samson.

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"She also produced the theatre's first three-act play years ago - J B Priestley's play An Inspector Calls, with the season completely sold out before the production began.
"So Keirunga is close to my heart. As a kid I was asked what I wanted to do for my birthday and I chose to have it at Keirunga Gardens. All us kids ran around under the oaks. It's my champagne dream."

Larisa has recently relocated to Havelock North after her passion for music took her to LA and Hollywood where she developed her musical and entertainment skills.

"I followed my dreams. I wanted to live in Beverly Hills and work in Hollywood. So I went. I gave myself a day to find a job and I did it. I landed a job on Sunset Strip and the Cat & Fiddle, an English rock bar. It was fantastic. It was when Guns'N' Roses were on top. They would drop in with their flyers for there gigs. The musicians bar was also popular with the likes of Rod Stewart and The Stones showing their faces."

She is looking forward to tonight and says Keirunga is a place that should be treasured.