There’s always a place one calls home, by choice or not. My hometown, where I was born and bred, is Palmerston North (Te Papaioea). Or as my friends and I call it PNC, Palm Springs, or my favourite, Swampton.
Growing up as a teen in Palmerston North, my friends and I were into music and the arts. From the outside you wouldn’t view Palmerston North as a creative hub, and for many years I didn’t either. Looking back now, there was a whole lot happening there.
A space that has my heart is The Stomach (Creative Sounds Society Inc). A music venue, rehearsal and performance space known by locals as ‘The Tummy’. The Stomach has been going for over 30 years and its walls hold many memories for me and lots of other young creatives growing up in the scene, trying to find their path in a judgment-free zone.
From the age of 16 or 17 onwards, my friends and I would go there every Friday night to see our favourite local band play. It’s the place where I experienced my first crush and heartbreak.
I recently returned for a memorial gig at The Stomach for a friend who also found it hugely inspiring growing up. Some of their favourite local bands, a bunch of friends, and the wider music community turned up for them and it left me feeling overwhelmed by the abundance of memories our little music community created over the years.
There are also a handful of other great creative spaces that have popped up, including Snails, an artist-run space and music venue; peep the window, and Swamp Gallery. The many sculptures by the late Paul Dibble dotted around the city are another sign that there's more to Palmerston North than you might think.
The city’s library remains one of my favourite buildings. It was originally built as a department store in 1927-1928, then bought by the city council in the early 90s. Architect Ian Athfield transformed it into the building we know today while maintaining many of its original features. While you’re enjoying these creative spots and sites in Palmerston North, grab a slice of Pizza at Tony’s in The Square and a coffee from Sublime on Cuba Street.
After high school and a stint of travelling I moved up to the big smoke -Tāmaki Makaurau - where I studied in the arts. On meeting new people at university, I was always a little embarrassed to say where I was from.
It wasn’t a place you wanted to say you grew up in when trying to make friends with the cool ‘arty’ kids.
Now in my early 30s, I look back on my life in Palmy with fondness. I wear it as a badge of honour; it’s made me who I am today, it built resilience, and it has given me a strong drive to make things happen for myself and to not rely on anyone else.
The funny thing is you can always spot another Palmy person. It’s like a gravitational pull; maybe because we went through the same thing growing up, we know.
Poppy Granger is RNZ's publicity and research co-ordinator.