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Ainslie Allen’s South Island

24 October 2022
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From writing her first song at aged eight, winning her first country music award at 12 and appearing on cult classic telly show McDonald’s Young Entertainers at 15, Ainslie Allen has been a much-loved mainstay in the Kiwi entertainment industry.

This month, she finally sets out on her long-awaited, much-postponed-by-Covid national tour for album Betty, including stops in Invercargill (October 6), Queenstown (October 7) and Lyttelton (October 8). Interview Josie Steenhart

Do you have any family in/connections to the South Island?

Yes, my great grandfather August Wynn was born in Crushington, then lived in Reefton when he was 16, but put his age up to 18 and went to war.

What are some of your favourite spots in the south?

Lyttelton – I enjoy Lyttelton, the creative energies I feel here are unmatched. Another connection to Lyttelton, my grandad Bluey Allen used to stay there when he was a seaman and shipped out from there. If the walls of the old British Hotel could talk, they would sure tell a few stories.

Favourite spots to eat/drink?

Reefton. It was a wee while back now, mum and I travelled for a fundraising gig for a new playground. I must say we had a pretty good time, and shared a few laughs and some good southern hospitality. We were a bit foggy the next day.

And stay?

Recording and staying onsite at The Sitting Room, Lyttelton, and creating my album Betty there was one of the happiest times of my life.

Favourite activities/experiences?

Years ago, but I enjoyed travelling with my dance teacher Judy Stirling to Nelson dancing competitions in Richmond. I remember we kept the milk outside as we had no fridges in our accommodation. It amazed me how cold it was down there compared to home in Tītahi Bay – in the morning our milk was almost frozen from the chill.

Any other “secret” South Island spots/intel you’re prepared to share?

I’m guest judge at this year’s Sun City Country Music Awards in Nelson over Labour Weekend. I performed there when I was in my early teens, I have very fond memories of mum, my sis and nan Betty in Nelson. Also, years later I was asked to play at the Christmas concert. Always warm friendly folk and I’ve made some nice loyal mates there over the years.

Tell us a little about each of your South Island venues, and why you picked those spots?

Wunderbar in Lyttelton is quirky, funky and quaint. I’ve been trying to get to Sherwood in Queenstown since before Covid hit. And I’ve travelled to Invercargill before and there are some great people down that end of the woods, plus Southland Musicians Club is close enough to New Zealand’s country music capital – Gore.

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