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It was great to head off for a few days to Dunedin. I badly needed to hear some live music and experience some culture. Here are some more highlights of my trip.Moorish style arches in Rialto Cinema, Dunedin


On my first night in Dunedin I had a wander around the city at night and decided to go into the Rialto Cinema to see what films were on over the coming few days. The foyer area is huge and spacious and as I walked over to the counter I looked up and caught a glimpse of a painting out of the corner of my eye upstairs. Curiosity got the better of me and I just had to go upstairs to have a look.

On the first floor, off to the right towards cinema number six, was a beautiful partially decorated area with a wall painting, framed by a Moorish style arch. I really liked it. There is a sign on the wall beside it that says “Examples of the original architecture of The Empire Theatre De Luxe, later known as the St. James Theatre, which has been retained as a link with the past”.

The arches had a lovely fluidity of movement in their design. They still have the original green and yellow colours from the 1920’S painted on them. They sit on top of pillars decorated with golden coloured ropes which twist around the pillars like snakes. The whole thing reminds me of Middle Eastern architecture. The building was designed by architect Edmund Anscombe and was first opened in 1916 as the Empire (later called the Empire De Luxe) Theatre.

The building was then taken over during the 1920’s by Thomas O’ Brien and extensively redesigned in a faux Moorish style, with a twinkling starry interior ceiling and minarets. It was later remodelled in the 1930’s in the then popular Art Deco style. Renamed the St. James Theatre in 1952, it underwent major renovations, though parts of the earlier Moorish and Art Deco styles were retained. In 1993 the cinema closed and a second major overhaul was carried out.

It reopened originally as a three screen cinema under its current name in 1998 but was expanded to a five and then six screen cinema in the latter half of 2004. New renovations by Walker Cinema Architects saw the restoration of much of the original interior including the starry ceiling in the main theatre, as well as the uncovering of several of the Moorish styled interior arches and wrought iron work. I love that sort of old style architecture and art and I think it’s great that Walker Architects did retain those arches because it really does draw you back into the past and remind you of what it was like back in the old times.

I did go to see a movie there and I chose to go the Rialto rather than the Reading cinema because of the old style arches and the link they have kept with the past. The film I went to see was “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. I had seen it before but it was so good the first time I had to go see it again. It’s such a feel good movie and I came out of the cinema with a bounce in my step.


Tuesday 17th March is St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates Ireland’s national saint. I hit the pubs around 3pm and was hoping to catch some live music. There are about six or seven pubs in the Octagon and they were all decorated outside with green balloons and decorations. And it wasn’t just the outside that was plastered in green, most of the customers were covered from head to toe in green regalia of some kind: hats, painted shamrock faces, scarves, glasses, you name it. I first went into The Craic pub on the Octagon and it was mobbed. Mind you it wouldn’t take much to fill it up as there are only about thirty seats in the place. It was quite cold outside with a fresh wind and most of the pubs had open fires going inside. So it was quite cosy but warm.

Most of the live music was starting around 4pm and after getting a good feast of Haggis, roast potatoes and vegetables at The Scotia bar (which I would highly recommend) I wandered into The Craft Bar. They had two musicians playing Irish music and songs and slowly but surely the place filled up after 5pm. I also went into the Monteith’s Brewery bar which had two young guys playing some cover and Irish songs in the corner. It was fairly civilised in there and I felt it needed a bit of shaking up. But what I was really looking forward to was the open Irish music session that was on in The Al Bar on Lower Stuart Street.

I did my research before I left Tekapo and found out that this bar would be having a session there on Tuesday night at 8pm. So I brought my concertina with me down to Dunedin in the hope of being able to play in this session. I wasn’t disappointed. The pub was packed when I got in there and the session had already started. I always find it a bit daunting trying to join in on a new session, with musicians who I’ve never played with before. But I just grabbed a chair, sat down with the group and did manage to play quite a few tunes and I really enjoyed it. It was great.

They were very open to new musicians playing. I’m not the best musician in the world and I hadn’t been practicing as much as I should have been but after a few tunes I got into the hang of it again. I love the buzz you get when you can play a set of tunes well with other musicians. It’s so uplifting. They were all so nice and welcoming towards me and I met some lovely people there. The bar staff also encouraged me to come and play and I’m very glad that I did. It was the best part of the whole trip actually.


There are some amazing and very talented artists in Dunedin. Dotted throughout the city is a lot of excellent street art which the public can enjoy. I like to sketch myself sometimes and so am interested in this type of art. I didn’t really have the time though to see all of the street art but I did get to see some of it and was very impressed by it. There does seem to be a lot of creativity in the city and I like that.

This trip to Dunedin was the best cultural trip I’ve had since I moved to Lake Tekapo. I really enjoyed it and would like to go back there again sometime.

Dunedin street art no. 2 Dunedin street art no. 4Wall painting in Rialto Cinema