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Devotedly documenting

If you ever wondered what to do with all those old Super 8 films and VHS tapes lurking in your attic or garage, then Fred Holloway is here to help revive your memories.

“I love old films, it gives me real heart to convert them for people,” Fred says.

Since retiring as a Wairarapa bailiff, Fred has spent the past 50 years documenting the people and events of the region from his workshop in Bideford.

“I decided to get into making extra money by making videos of weddings, funerals, birthdays – any little thing that would come up – but not charge a lot of money.”

One film made in 1991 documented the fight to save the old Masterton hospital from being shut by Wellington health authorities.

Fred sums up the sentiment at the time: “We were not going to let them get rid of our hospital. This was diabolical. If you had a heart attack you would have to drive to Palmerston North, which is 90 odd kilometres away.”

About 16,000 worried people turned up at the hospital to show their displeasure, joining hands right around the buildings in a sign of solidarity against the closure.

With support for the cause growing in Wairarapa, 1000 locals crammed into the train bound for the capital to voice their concerns directly to the government.

Again, Fred was there filming: “We had to stop at every station, with people standing all the way. I had to sit between the two carriages on the floor,” he recalls.

In Wellington, another 1000 protesters who had driven in a convoy over Rimutaka Hill joined the train passengers to deliver a 22,000 signature petition to the Beehive.

“There was a big wave of people walking up and they were shouting outside parliament – boy, did they give the MP’s what-ho!”

This popular resistance forced the government to change its mind, finally leading to the new Masterton Hospital being built in 2005.

Over the years Fred has made more than a hundred films for the local community. One standout was Masterton’s “Olympics on four wheels” – the World Speed Skating Championships, held in 1980.

“Thousands of people came to watch the races, and sometimes it wasn’t all good comradeship. The Italians were really bad, pulling jerseys – it was really rough,” Fred says.

Surviving the contest, New Zealand came away with 10 medals, with one gold, two silvers, and a bronze for Masterton skaters Peter and Maree Maxwell.

As a young man, Fred worked as a projectionist in Blackpool, England. After emigrating to New Zealand in 1969, he decided he didn’t like farm work and put his projection skills to use at Masterton’s State and Regent movie houses.

Fred also set up a drive-in movie theatre in his backyard paddock.

“It was a cinema with seats and a projector in the middle of nowhere, with free cokes and popcorn for the locals, all at no charge,” he says.

These days Fred restricts his viewings to his own personal cinema, converted from the original Bideford telephone exchange. With 12 comfy seats and Fred’s ingenious opening curtain set up, no one would know it sits next to the sheep paddock.

“If anybody wants to come in, they just ring me up and say, ‘Can we come watch your movie?’ I say, ‘Sure, I’ve got over 400 films’.”

At a sprightly 93, Fred is still going strong, and recently set up his own YouTube channel, populated with the films he’s made.

Asked what he’d most like to be remembered for, Fred replies in his famously jokey manner.

“I’ll have a tape recorder put in my coffin, and when they lower me down it will play, ‘Hey, let me out, let me out!’”

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