Stuart Wilde

This is Gloria, the little red solar powered tardis built for me by my brother and sister-in-law at the end of 2017. She is completely off-grid but is so complete and perfectly capable of facilitating the feeding of 750 people for two days out at Tora with just two of us working it!! Many events and festivals later she was parked up for unspecified length of time while the World battled an unknown enemy…

After WOMAD in March 2020 and New Zealand shut down, I had a little money since my planned holiday to walk the Camino across Northern Spain and a visit to see my daughter in Germany was not going to happen, I took the lease on the old Mac’s Cove building at the south end of town (without having really decided what I was going to do there). Good light, big space, 3 levels (possibility of living there as a ’caretaker’) and reasonable rent meant I didn’t have to decide in too much of a hurry. However, work was scarce and I needed a project and it was the perfect location for a cafe/music/art venue!

This was the first day of work at the building – removing two van-loads of tiles with spades, drawing chalk lines on the floor and deciding where the kitchen was going…(it didn’t actually go where I planned due to the need for digging up State Highway One for plumbing lol).

Looking back to September 2020 when it was all before me (and I had planned to be open in 6 weeks!) I can see just how much has been done and the woman and man hours that have gone into it so far. While working on the building, designing cabinetry, and sorting out permissions and contractors (family and others), Gloria provided the means to pay the rent and build the kitchen in the cafe. Working the caravan again from September through to February when I could, and building the cafe at the same time was challenging but necessary if I was to get the cafe open before the Summer season’s events finished.

Six weeks came and went – in fact, six MONTHS came and went. And then the first lockdown of 2021 hit; all the food truck work was canned and things came to a standstill – I had to get open!!

A huge push and all hands on deck to get this far without borrowing money, but still no coffee machine, chiller or stove so needs must – I ticked up what I needed to get open and pushed the boat out.

Soon after opening though, restrictions stopped trade and we got angry!!! Pasting our thoughts on the 20m of SHW 1 window frontage drew us some attention; some harsh comments and an accompanying photo on social media drew the attention of a Stuff reporter. He added some thoughts of his own, and using the same photo (found on Facebook) he published his ’story’. It went viral and 24 hours later I received a congratulatory email from Google Maps telling me the photo had had 10,000 hits…(as the main Google Maps page for Firebird, it has since had over 50,000 hits!).

…that photo

Despite the consequential hate speech all over the Firebird reviews page and the news, it drew the attention of a huge number of people who aligned with our view that our freedoms were being eroded, peoples’ mental health was suffering greatly, and that any kind of medical intervention should be personal choice and with fully informed consent. I received literally hundreds of emails, calls, messages and visitors who wanted to support us – and still do. Many messages came from other countries including England, Germany, Spain and Australia.

Things are constantly changing in the cafe – the gallery is a current project and will soon be developed into a more formal space where we can hold exhibitions and openings. We host meetings for various groups and clubs, and now that the stage is done and speaker system is installed, we have live music events on a regular basis; still need stage lighting! The decor is becoming more ‘put together’ and the menu is being extended – also still need an extractor hood over the range, but things are coming along in perfect time. One year open already on the 21st April – and who knows what will happen in the year to come!

3 thoughts on “Beginnings…

  1. Thanks Tarsh! We open Thursday to Saturday 11-8pm (last orders) and Sundays from 12 – 8 (sometimes close a littler earlier on Sundays so ring to check! X Toni


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