Materteral Consumption Magic The Hay’s Rooftop Playground, Christchurch, New Zealand

Main Article Content

Katie Pickles


With themes of corporate and civic paternalism, magic, Disney-like fantasy and childcare, this article recovers and analyses the Hay’s rooftop playground, the people who invented it and their motivations for luring generations of children up there. The space is placed in the context of the development of modern playgrounds and department stores. Drawing on consumers’ memories, the playground’s main attractions are revealed. The motivations of energetic and innovative store manager Jim Hay are outlined, including his cultivation of workers and customers according to his corporate paternalist beliefs. James Hay’s creation of ‘Aunt Haysl’ and the woman who successfully became her, Edna Neville, is explained. The roof’s storybook character and benevolent orientalism, Neville’s retirement, the roof’s closure and its afterlife are covered. Overall, I argue that the rooftop playground was an important modern, urban commercial space where public history was both made and nostalgically created as part of Christchurch's cultural heritage. I use the term 'materteral consumption magic' to capture the central discourses in the roof's history, to explain its success, and its potent creation as collective memory.

Article Details

Public History in Aotearoa New Zealand