'Dream come true' — Auckland Museum lights up for rainbow community

Auckland Museum's embraced the rainbow for a very special night at the historical space.

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Kiwi-born musical theatre star Hayden Tee says he's proud to embrace a space for the LGBTQ+ community. Source: 1 NEWS

Rainbows lit the museum both outside and within as part of After Hours at the Museum: Celebrating Pride.

"The museum has, at its core purpose, that we are a place for people to feel a sense of place and belonging, and we want to represent all our communities all of the time," Catherine Smith, Auckland Museum's director of people and organisation, told 1 NEWS.

"It's our ambition the rainbow communities, with families and friends and their allies, will come here to the museum and feel like they belong."

Kiwi-born musical theatre star Hayden Tee was one of the performers at last night's event, impressing the crowd with his dulcet tones.

"I am a proud, gay, queer man and to be able to come back to my own home country and to be able to perform here at Pride is very special," he says.

"Pride is about just taking a little bit of space and holding it for us. Tonight we're just taking the museum and we're holding it for the LGBTQ+ community. 

"Of course allies are always welcome, but this is just a safe place where we can live and exist and be ourselves here tonight, and that's why it's important."

Auckland Museum lit up for After Hours at the Museum: Celebrating Pride. Source: 1 NEWS

Smith says the museum "has a role to promote social cohesion".

"And to help Auckland's communities feel like this is the place, the museum is the place, where all people belong, where all their voices are heard and all their stories are told."

As well as Tee's performance, pianist Andy Keys tinkled the ivories in the grand foyer before DJ Marjorie Sinclair rounded out the night.

An audio tour wound through the museum, highlighting the arts, exhibits and artefacts embedded in LGBTQ+ history.

There was also an opportunity to find some love, whether chatting beside the dinosaurs or through a special "carbon dating" game.

"They'll be able to explore some of our fantastic new offers that tell rainbow stories, so they can see themselves here and know that this museum belongs to them," Smith says.

Catherine Smith, Auckland Museum's director of people and organisation. Source: 1 NEWS

Tee says it means a lot to be able to perform at an LGBTQ+-centred event like this, calling it a "dream come true".

"Up north, where I come from originally, we had our first Kaipara pride this year," he says.

"I did not think in my lifetime that I would ever see Pride come to my little village and up there, other than a couple of churches complaining and removing advertising from local newspapers, it was a huge celebration."

Last night's event was originally scheduled during Pride Month, in February, but plans had to change when Auckland suddenly went into lockdown due to the Valentine's Day community cluster.

Rather than cancel the event, organisers rescheduled for a month later and hoped for the best.

"We rescheduled the event so that people could still come and enjoy themselves here and feel like this is their place," Smith says.

Andy Keys performs at After Hours at the Museum: Celebrating Pride. Source: 1 NEWS

Covid also affected Tee's career; he was performing as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda: The Musical in Manila, when the cast and crew were called together after the curtains closed.

"We were told that was our last performance in Manila, the country was going into lockdown that night," Tee recalls.

It meant a long journey back home — from Manila to Abu Dhabi, to New York, to New Jersey, to Vancouver, before finally arriving to Auckland.

"Which is not the direct route! But I tell you what, I'm very proud and very happy to be here now," Tee says.

"Broadway is shut down, the West End is shut down. Last year, we were [one of] the only countries in the world which actually had live performances.

"It's been challenging to say the least, but at the same time, I'm so proud to be Kiwi. I'm so happy to have New Zealand to come home to, and where else in the world would we want to be right now?"

Auckland Pride celebrations continue in the city tomorrow, with the Rainbow Pride Parade to take place along Ponsonby Road after it too was delayed due to Covid.

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