A documentary featuring a Kiwi music legend will be shown in his hometown and resting place of Raetihi to raise funds for the restoration of the town's theatre.

Herbs: Songs of Freedom focuses on the prominent reggae band Herbs which Raetihi man Carl Perkins was a member of.

Raetihi Promotions Charitable Trust chairman Gary Griffin-Chappel said Raetihi's interest in the film screening is growing.

"It's a bit of a coup to bring it into town because it's been doing the main centres and to bring it into the town where Carl is from is quite big."


Perkins died last year following a battle with bowel cancer and is buried in Raetihi.

In an effort to attract visitors to Raetihi in the face of the State Highway 4 closure, the screening is being promoted as far north as Taupō and in nearby locations such as Taihape and Whanganui.

Carl Perkins performing at the Raggamuffin music festival in 2010. Photo / File
Carl Perkins performing at the Raggamuffin music festival in 2010. Photo / File

The film was released in August as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland, and will now be screened at the Theatre Royal, which is in need of earthquake strengthening.

Griffin-Chappel said it's "a pretty solid building" but is in need of some work.

"The theatre was built in 1915 and was built by the Punch family, who owned sawmills in the region," he said.

"When it was built, from what I understand, this area was a dry area and there were no pubs so they needed something to keep families entertained."

Griffin-Chappel said he's also interested in seeing the long-term refurbishment of the building.

"Years ago the sloping floor of the auditorium became rotten and it had to be taken out.


"It would be nice to have the place restored to its former glory but the first thing we have to get done is the earthquake strengthening.

"They've x-rayed the walls and in the wall are massive steel girders that were left over from the railway coming through. The steel rails are actually part of the walls and the walls are about a metre thick."

Although the theatre isn't used for film screenings anymore, it is used for live performances several times a year by the Phoenix Players, a youth performance group run by Theatre Trust secretary Phyl Cameron.

Fundraising efforts for the building date back to 2002. Photo / File
Fundraising efforts for the building date back to 2002. Photo / File

She said keeping up with the theatre is an "ongoing battle".

"It had a new roof put on it that was donated about 15 years ago but our main problem is that it does leak and we've had problems with the floorboards rotting away and a lot of that has been replaced.

"It's a class two heritage building, which although does sound great, it does restrict what you can do with it.

"You've got to keep it in the style it was so it's not always easy when you're raising funds because the materials are more expensive."

Any money gained from live performances goes towards maintenance, with the remainder kept for the next live show.

"It's been there for over 100 years, it has withstood earthquakes, fires and it's been an amazing building and it's quite special to a lot of people," she said.

"Hopefully we can raise some money from this and it's good of them to offer to put money into the theatre.

"But if we're going to get money for earthquake-proofing it's going to have to come from some fairly big sources."

The screening of the documentary coincides with the Raetihi Christmas Festival, which takes place next weekend.

Herbs: Songs of Freedom will screen at The Theatre Royal at 7pm on Thursday, December 12, and Friday, December 13, and at 7.30pm on Saturday, December 14. Tickets are available at the door.