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Orange chairs & big hearts

There was a time when we were able to tell ourselves that homelessness happened everywhere else in the world but here. But that was yesterday.



Today, in 2019, there are 41,000 people experiencing homelessness in New Zealand. It’s a staggering statistic, but that tally is being challenged and dealt to on a daily basis with the help of an orange van equipped with showers, washing machines, six orange chairs and amazing people with big hearts – people like Eddie Uini of the New Zealand operation, Orange Sky.

A former social worker, Eddie previously helped South Auckland’s homeless wash their clothes by partnering with a laundromat in Manurewa. He managed to fundraise almost $50,000 personally for this project, before joining Orange Sky as their sole New Zealand employee and operator, committed to delivering “the best laundry service New Zealand has ever seen”.

The three-pronged service provides a safe place to access showers, a clean change of clothes and genuine conversations. “The first things out of our van are six orange chairs for people to sit and talk. Awesome friendships have been forged on those chairs,” Eddie says.

Orange Sky was founded in Australia in 2014 by two 20-year-old friends, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, who installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and visited parks around Brisbane to wash and dry clothes for free; they saw it not only as a way to improve hygiene standards, but as a way to restore dignity to people doing it tough.



The rising number of homeless people in New Zealand prompted Australia to reach out to their friends across the Tasman and, in October 2018, the New Zealand branch of Orange Sky was launched in Auckland. With a team of 1,600 volunteers and a fleet of 28 vans containing mobile showers and laundry facilities, they help wash more than eight tonnes of laundry per week – for free. To date, they’ve now washed over 4,700 kilograms of washing, provided 1,686 showers, and had around 2,500 hours of non-judgemental conversation with the homeless of Auckland in 13 locations.

Eddie says a huge reality check for him was the day he found himself washing the clothes of a guy who was in his class at school. “Things can go badly wrong for people for any number of reasons. It made me realise you can’t take anything for granted.”

Wellington is next in the sights of Orange Sky, and Eddie recently met with our Christchurch City Mission and heard some heartbreaking statistics. He says that ideally, and depending on fund-raising efforts, he hopes to see Orange Sky operating in Christchurch soon. “Kiwis have big hearts and are known for their generosity and supporting their community. We would love for people to continue to support Orange Sky’s mission through simple things like sharing our stories, donating and, most importantly, participating in genuine and non-judgmental conversations with our friends on the street.”




Wicked Showbiz

Behind the scenes: the Wicked talent behind the scenes for Showbiz Christchurch

If you’ve ever been to a Showbiz Christchurch performance and been blown away by the on-stage performance, you’re seeing just a small fraction of the local talent that culminates in an end product of this calibre.

Wicked Showbiz
Vicki Morris-Williamson with some of the hats under construction or refurbishment for Wicked. Photo courtesy of Showbiz Christchurch.

The 80-year-old community theatrical society stages three productions each year. The Saunders & Co 2018 season commences at the Isaac Theatre Royal with Wicked from 6-21 April; followed by Broadway Hitmen, a concert of Cole Porter and Andrew Lloyd Webber hits, from 13-15 July; and is completed by Les Misérables opening on 14 September.
Up to 100 people can be involved behind the scenes in just one show, volunteers who put hundreds of unpaid hours into their roles.
In Wicked’s on stage performance, you will see two leads (played by four actors on alternate nights), six principal roles, 16 ensemble cast and 15 dancers, with 16 backing vocalists and 18 orchestral performers in the pit. Backstage however, 100 equally important parts make it all come together.
Vicki Morris-Williamson has been volunteering for Showbiz Christchurch for 19 years and is part of a team responsible for ensuring hats and costumes are made show ready and fit the brief of Director Stephen Robertson.
Successful Broadway shows like Wicked, complete national and international tours before the rights to stage them are given to community theatre groups. Showbiz Christchurch is the first in New Zealand to get these rights to stage Wicked.
“The Showbiz Christchurch performance is a whole new production,” Vicki says.
“Stephen creates the best shows he can and is completely invested in bringing something special to the stage. He visualises exactly what he wants down to the smallest detail. We then start with the bones of the costumes, adding and improving everything, making it our own unique show.”
Vicki is currently living in a sea of green, as she works diligently to overhaul hats that came from an international production and create new ones for the Emerald City townsfolk in Wicked. Just about every member of the cast is on stage for this scene and every costume has a hat. That’s 35 hats, each representing Vicki’s work to realise Stephen’s vision for it.

Wicked Showbiz
Up to 100 people can be involved behind the scenes in just one show.

Vicki wears many hats herself in the months that go into each performance. She is involved in costuming, pre-setting (planning set positioning), pack in (putting props up in the theatre), then the in-theatre rehearsals, before the run of shows.
“I warn my hubby heading into show season, that he won’t see me for three months,” she laughs. But working around a full-time job, it’s not an exaggeration.
It’s a family affair for her though. Vicki’s son James (then 12) joined her in her first production, playing Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Her daughter Jenna – a professional dancer from the New Zealand School of Dance – made her Showbiz Christchurch debut at 19 and will be performing in Wicked when it starts next month. Tickets are available from