Steven Smith (centre) conducts the band for  Spring Awakening: The Musical  at The Meteor.

Steven Smith (centre) conducts the band for Spring Awakening: The Musical at The Meteor.

donation targeted at key MUSIC GEAR

A stalwart of Hamilton’s vibrant musical theatre scene has targeted his donation for the Waikato Regional Theatre towards its music stands, because he is expecting to see them used by some of the world’s top musicians.

Steven Smith has been involved in over 100 local productions since his debut in the early 1980s, working with Hamilton Operatic, Musicmakers and many Waikato schools.

Excited at the news of the theatre planned for the south end of Hamilton’s main street, he wanted to support a detail that would enable musicians to make the very best use of the new venue, so funded its music stands so they can concentrate on their playing.

“Wherever I perform, the music stands are an important piece of equipment, and they can certainly be shoddy and unreliable, so it is good to have good ones.

“I am looking forward to seeing great musicians from around the world using the stands I’ve funded. It is one of those things that will ensure their experience of the theatre is entirely positive.”

“The auditorium will need a lot of them and professional-standard ones can cost $200 each. The NZSO [New Zealand Symphony Orchestra] has 60 musicians, and operas can have 80, and happily the ‘orchestra pit’ in the new theatre can accommodate that many.”

The Waikato Regional Theatre will be a multi-purpose performing arts centre, able to be set up to host everything from plays and ballet, to kapa haka and rock gigs. Steven is looking forward to it.

“What I really like is that it will be a flexible space without compromise. No matter what configuration it is in, it will deliver good acoustics and sight lines. It will suit whatever art form, it is a very clever design.

“Founders was always a compromise, and I say that having played there a lot. When we put on Miss Saigon in 2010, we handled the helicopter landing scene by getting a forklift to bring in the full-scale chopper model, which was a challenge.

“That sort of big, exciting stage work will be so much easier in the new theatre. I know the logistics involved in big productions well, and it will certainly be able to cope with those giant props and sets.”

He also has no fears about access for trucks in and out of the central city site.

“If Charcoal Blue can design a theatre in Stratford-on-Avon, with its heritage concerns and narrow streets, they can certainly design one for here!”

Despite his decades of involvement in local shows, Steven describes himself as possibly “the most unknown musician in Hamilton”, due to the orchestras in musical theatre often being hidden.

“In the recent production of Les Misérables at Clarence St Theatre, we were out of sight behind the stage. One night, after two-and-a-half hours of hard playing, I encountered some of the audience in the carpark discussing whether the music was recorded or not!”  

Steven’s low profile belies the fact that he has worked on dozens of local shows, from Aloha for Operatic in 1981, through to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang coming up in September at Southwell School. Usually he is simply one of the musicians, but he has also taken on a range of behind-the-scenes roles, from musical director to lighting operator. His own ‘Three Wines Theatre Company’ most recently co-produced Spring Awakening: The Musical at The Meteor in 2016 (pictured below).

His entire family have long been active in musical theatre, orchestras, brass bands and choruses, with both his parents, Colin and the late Barbara Smith, receiving QSMs for their service to music. 

“What I like about musical theatre is that it is a big illusion, a willing suspension of disbelief. I get asked to be involved a lot, but it is a big commitment – Miss Saigon took 18 months.  I have to be passionate about the show to have the energy to do it, it is rewarding but demanding.”

Steven sees hundreds of youngsters involved in music shows and competitions and there are many other performance genres outside his sphere. Even if they don’t land up in performance careers, the skills and experience gained on the stage benefit many aspects of their lives.

“I am supporting the new Waikato Regional Theatre so those kids can see international-standard shows in the same space where they themselves can perform. We will all benefit from them having a place to realise their potential.”



Momentum Waikato loves to celebrate the spirit of giving – and it’s certainly easy to celebrate when people like Gillian Spry are part of this community.

Gillian was the first person to put her hand up as a donor when Momentum Waikato went public with plans for the new Waikato Regional Theatre.

Aside from the great work she does as a partner at Hamilton law firm Norris Ward McKinnon, Gillian has a deeply rooted love of the theatre, which stems from her childhood. As a girl growing up on a sheep and beef farm near Matamata, Gillian was surrounded by words and music. Her father, a World War II veteran, was an intellectual gentleman with an affinity for poetry. Her mother was a singer and was very involved with the Matamata Operatic Society.

Later, Gillian attended Otago University, where her interest in theatre flourished. Although never tempted to cross the line from spectator to performer, Gillian’s lifelong appreciation of the theatre has remained with her throughout every chapter of her life.

Gillian has now been back living in Hamilton for 35 years and has obtained a great deal of pleasure from patronising Hamilton’s theatres, as well as travelling to Auckland to various venues such as Q Theatre and the Maidment.

Gillian hopes her gift to Momentum Waikato for the Waikato Regional Theatre will inspire others to donate.  She says as soon as she received information about plans for the new theatre, she decided to become a donor “right then and there.”

“I wanted to show my support for it,” she says. “I think it’s the most wonderful thing to have happened in Hamilton for a long time. The best idea there is for revitalising the central city.”
Gillian says she understands people’s concerns about whether the money being spent on the theatre could be put to a different use. As someone who supports community groups, and marginalised members of society, she hopes people will see the benefits the new theatre will provide for the community overall.

“People need to have enjoyment in their lives, away from the day-to-day grind. The old premise of ‘bread and roses’ is important - providing people with more than bread. 

“We need more beautiful things. It’s another level. It’s not only about putting food on the table, it’s about feeling good, too.”

   Niwa Nuri, Chair, Trust Waikato

Niwa Nuri, Chair, Trust Waikato

Trust Waikato’s $15m donation sets the stage for new theatre

Momentum Waikato is incredibly grateful to Trust Waikato for committing to a $15million grant for the Waikato Regional Theatre this month. Trust Waikato’s leadership and commitment to our region means this game-changing project is another step closer to becoming reality.

Trust Waikato supports projects that strengthen communities, encourage participation and inclusion, and support volunteers. It donates to not-for-profit community groups and projects across the greater Waikato region, with a goal to ‘supporting the things that make our corner of the world a better place’.

Trust Waikato Chair, Niwa Nuri is pleased to be supporting the Waikato Regional Theatre which will be at the cutting-edge of many new and exciting developments.

“We are supporting this project at an early stage as the benefits will be so wide-ranging and positive for our communities. The new theatre will add to the cultural, economic and creative opportunities across the region for many years to come,” says Niwa. 

Trust Waikato believes their vision for resilient and vibrant communities will be realised in the Waikato Regional Theatre project. This grant recognises that the Waikato Regional Theatre is a project that will contribute to transformational change for the Waikato region, becoming a significant draw-card for international and national performances, providing an opportunity for our local performers and artists and creating a much-needed central venue within the Hamilton CBD’s growing cultural precinct.

Trust Waikato’s grant will support inspiration and development for the Waikato region’s creative talent through the learning and teaching opportunities that will be able to be offered through the new facility.

The Trust Waikato trustees also recognised the opportunities for community engagement through multi-use public areas for gatherings, meetings and in-formal performances. Physically the building will connect with the Waikato River, with open access and connection to promenades, allowing for activation of the space, and access to the river, revitalising the river paths.

The proposed design reflects the site’s pre-European cultural heritage and patterns of iwi settlement, as well as its unique setting adjacent to the river, leading to a vibrant, vital facility.

Due to prudent investment and fiscal management means, this grant from Trust Waikato is being made separately from the Trust Waikato donations budget and it will not impact on the annual donations budget.

   Charlotte Isaac

Charlotte Isaac

Charlotte’s generous gift to the Waikato Regional Theatre

As soon as Charlotte Isaac heard about Momentum Waikato’s aspirational plans for the new Waikato Regional Theatre, she knew she wanted to donate.

Charlotte, a commercial lawyer with Hamilton’s Davidson Twaddle Isaac Law Firm, had been waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the project, as she loved the concept and the location. 

“To put a world-class theatre right in the heart of the CBD, right next to the food precinct is brilliant,” she says.  “The way it engages the river as well as the CBD, I think it’s great.”

Charlotte hopes her donation will encourage other members of the public to do the same.  She feels if we want Hamilton to be a more creative and inspiring place, we all need to contribute somehow.  Often volunteering is the way to contribute - but Charlotte thinks if people can put money in, they should.  She believes general philanthropy needs to be encouraged.

“We should all envisage the Hamilton we want to live in and help create that,” she says.  “If that means occasionally digging into our own pockets and coming up with a bit of cash, we should.  The community funders are already extremely stretched.”

Charlotte knows the closure of Founders and the gap it left in the sector has been significant for Hamilton.  Everyone, herself included, had been waiting for a solution.

“When Momentum Waikato came up with the idea for the new theatre and invited people to contribute, I immediately thought, yes, I will.”

Charlotte has a long history with theatres in Hamilton, being involved since her school days at Hillcrest High. After studying at Auckland University, she returned to Hamilton and immediately got back into the local theatre scene, joining the Riverlea and Playbox committees.

“What I love about Hamilton is that you can pull a community together,” she says.  “We did it for the Meteor and I know it will happen for the new theatre, because people care.  People want to be involved and they want to make Hamilton a good place to live.” 

Charlotte points out that historically, there was a lot more interest in theatre in Hamilton in the early days of settlement.  Back then, touring performing arts groups were commonplace.

“How can we think we don’t need it now when we’re 150,000 more people?”

She acknowledges Creative Waikato is working hard on audience development work with Creative New Zealand.  Part of that development is sharing data bases, getting the audiences who are going to opera to go to musical theatre or other creative things. 

Charlotte believes the theatre scene is beginning to thrive again in Hamilton and with the possibility of the new theatre and the way it could transform the city, it’s an exciting time for the Waikato region.

“There’s still work to be done”, she says.  “For example, Hamilton doesn’t have a performing arts school.”

However, she’s noticed more creativity in Hamilton in the last few years.

“I used to go to Auckland for my theatre a decade ago, and now I barely have time to see everything in Hamilton.

“I do love Hamilton.  I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

 TOM LEE / FAIRFAX NZ  Hamilton Club committee members, at the club's historic former premises in Grantham St, from left, David Mannering, Murray Day, Cliff Bindon, Judy Jones, Gordon Chesterman (president), Dennis Jones, and Mike Blake.


Hamilton Club committee members, at the club's historic former premises in Grantham St, from left, David Mannering, Murray Day, Cliff Bindon, Judy Jones, Gordon Chesterman (president), Dennis Jones, and Mike Blake.

Hamilton Club honours its past with a generous legacy

Momentum Waikato understands how difficult it can be to dis-establish a club or society. We can offer you a cost-effective fund management service, giving you peace of mind that your funds will be invested wisely, delivering maximum impact for the community.

At a special general meeting in May 2017, The Hamilton Club members voted to distribute Hamilton Club's remaining capital assets of $1.3 million to five key local organisations, including a gift of $100,000 to Momentum Waikato for the Waikato Regional Theatre.

The Hamilton Club committee, led by President Gordon Chesterman, have been working on the dissolution of the club with the club's wider membership for more than a year.  The Club’s building in Grantham Street was sold 12 years ago, after social changes inevitably saw the club – along with others of its kind nationwide - lose most of its membership.

Members were determined to see a silver lining in the sale of their premises - a financial legacy to the city that will ensure the club's name lives on, and it continues to add to the fabric of the city.

There will be funds for scholarships of $350,000 each to Waikato University and Wintec; Hamilton Gardens Development Trust will get $350,000; Waikato Medical Research Foundation $150,000; and the Theatre $100,000. "It's a hugely worthwhile outcome," says Gordon "the club's legacy will benefit the city in so many ways." He says choosing recipients was tough "Everywhere you looked there were good opportunities to give to."

Momentum Waikato Chair Leonard Gardner is delighted with the club’s gift. “We appreciate that the club has chosen to back the theatre project and the work Momentum Waikato is doing leading the development of a new regional theatre. This gift will create a lasting impact, ensuring future generations will benefit.  We look forward to sharing the story of the Hamilton Club, and the legacy they have left the city with the theatre project.”

The gifted funds are from the sale of the club's building in 2009 to Project Grantham for $1.7 million. There were debts to be settled at that time and the remaining money was placed in a bank term deposit while members debated a plan for the future. In the past few months the fund has been augmented by the sale of furnishings including billiard tables, leather chairs, and a grandfather clock understood to have been made in the late 1700s.

It has not been easy winding the club up. With legal assistance from Hamilton law firm Tompkins Wake, the club's longtime rules were changed and simplified. The 75 per cent voting majority was lowered to two-thirds, and proxy votes were allowed at annual meetings and special general meetings.

Last September members voted unanimously to wind up and submissions were then sought from them on what organisations should get the money.

There were 17 submissions and 46 options identified. A ranking document was sent out, followed by a painstaking process of collating the data. This was run solely by scrutineer Deryck Walter, a retired lawyer, club trustee and life member.

In May, members voted – amid considerable discussion - on the five priority organisations identified by the ranking analysis and then voted on how much each would get.  The final vote to seal the deal was carried 37-1.

Gordon says the process could not have been rushed and there was a great deal of communication with members. "Every member had an opportunity to be part of the outcome. The club has had a long history. It was about respecting what it had done for the community, and respecting the existing older members."

Read the history of Hamilton Club’s here

If you are looking for an alternative management solution for a charitable trust, looking to make a profound difference in our community and create an enduring transformational legacy please contact us.