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Shown at iD Fashion 31st March & April 1st 2023


"...The town hall dance was the place to go!"
It was the first sentence she'd said in six months. Like a memory as clear as day from over 50 years ago. Yet ask what day yesterday was, an answer impossible to get. It was the only day in the years Mum had been in dementia care I actually left the home smiling. That day I witnessed the incredible power of music on the memory. Residents who looked as though the steps of dances were practiced daily. Those same residents who usually sat and looked blankly into the abyss.

The town hall dance was the place to go

A Chapter of Social History

This collection focuses on a significant chapter of the social history of Dunedin, New Zealand. The iconic Town Hall dances, started by Joe Brown, which ran from the 1930's through to the late1960's.  The Concert Chamber of the Dunedin Town Hall was the place to be for traditional dancing to a real 'big-band'. Harry Strang, band leader of the Excelsior Dance Band (who later started the StKilda Town Hall dances) and Joe Brown's; The Embassy 6, were two groups, synonymous with the Town Hall dances. They became so popular, they were even broadcast live, on radio 4ZB.   

The popularity of the dances with the young people of the day, meant, many even met their future spouse there.

"We're responsible for half the families round the country, or at least the dances certainly are."- Harry Strang

Each piece in the collection tells a piece of the story about the Dunedin Town Hall dances.


The Dunedin Public Library has a selection of interviews and a podcast about this iconic chapter of Dunedin, here: the Town Hall dances

The Inspiration

This collection has a very personal connection. Inspired by a single afternoon in my Mum's dementia care home in 2015.

A truly magical moment. A room full of people having an afternoon of living in a previous time - A time they could clearly remember. The home had put on a 'Hollywood' party. Staff dressed as famous movie stars, there was even an Elvis impersonator. The music of the residents hey-days played. The transformation, for those few hours was something that needed to be seen to be believed. It was a moment to hold onto for all of the families visiting that day. We all know certain songs which remind us of certain memories, but never did I imagine it could be that way for dementia sufferers.

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