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'One love' to underpin Queen David's reign

Sun 4 Jan 2015 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

Image thanks to Calum Bennachie A man known for the magic he makes with hair is the new queen of Vinegar Hill, and while he is shocked and honoured at the camp title, David Playle is already planning a 2014/15 edition which will be all about the mantra ‘one love’. Playle is the latest camper to continue the fun tradition of being anointed ‘queen’ each year at New Zealand’s biggest annual lgbti summer camp, picturesque campground is nestled next to a river near Hunterville, in the lower North Island. He is in fact said to be the first Maori Queen of Vinegar Hill. “I’m really, really excited and my head’s just been going crazy about the whole thing,” he says of the title. “I’m just excited.” The prominent hairdresser currently lives in Wellington with his fiancé Daniel. He is Master Creative Stylist at Buoy Hairdressing, a workplace he says “is pretty much like working for a gay bar, but we’re a hairdressing salon”. He trains up and comers and loves working with young people. Among his other passions are obviously his partner, along with playing netball and making the annual trek to Vinegar Hill each year. Playle’s anointment came on his 11th visit and he says ‘the hill’ is a place he has come to love so much each annual pilgrimage feels like going home. “I love it. It’s one of my favourite things to do,” he says, explaining he doesn’t know if it’s being out in the ‘wilderness’ that makes it so special, or the people he’s met: “There are women who have looked after me since I first went there when I was very young and drunk by the fire or something, and I’ve always called them ‘aunty’. That’s the kind of thing that draws me back there. It’s just like going home ... I’m from nowhere near there, but I feel like I have a connection with that place.” Being competitive, the hard-fought men vs women softball tournaments are among his favourite Vinegar Hill memories. “There was the year that we actually finally won the softball. The men had never won it, and we finally did win it!” The river, the wild Camp David parties and getting invites to the Queen’s cocktail parties are other highlights from over the years. “The memories have just been the people. And then seeing them again.” Image thanks to Calum Bennachie Playle says each Queen has left a different mark and he wants his reign to be special. On New Year’s Day he spoke to as many people as he could about what they wanted in 2014/15. The answers ranged from security, to more drag shows, more daytime events and a lesbian poker match. He is well aware people can spend a lot of cash on the whole experience and wants to make it the best possible for them. “It will be eclectic next year. I also want to get people out of their campsites and little groups and getting involved. I want to put my stamp on it ... and weave some cultural aspects into it. “What I want to achieve is ‘one love’, because it’s hard enough being gay, then you go to a place like that and all of a sudden people start to segregate themselves into the old ones and the young ones and whatever else.” Yes, like some kind of modern hairdressing, netball-playing Bob Marley, he wants to sweep ageism and pretentiousness right out of the camp, and usher in ‘one love’ instead. “I just want to celebrate who we are as people. I just want people to open up their minds and their hearts and got involved. The younger ones are saying to me ‘we need more young people’. The older ones are saying ‘they just need to calm down’. But I think in the end if we collaborate in thoughts and minds, I think we can come up with something successful and there will be none of that.” Playle is already thankful for all the hard work of a former Queen, Dion Leslie, who negotiated with the local Council on contentious issues of dogs and rubbish before this year’s gathering. He says Leslie is a strong backbone of Vinegar Hill. Leslie was quick to playfully bow and pledge himself as Playle’s ‘private secretary’ when he was made Queen, and will continue being the council liaison so Playle can concentrate on the events. They have already discussed the possibility of trying to lease the whole camp rather than just half of it from the council, so they can have more control and increase safety. At the moment there is a ‘straight end’ and a ‘gay end’ at the popular campground. It mostly works out fine, but throw in alcohol and there can be tension, especially when snarky homophobic comments are chucked around. There have also been issues with thefts in the past, and even the odd bouts of violence. “This year it was quite manic with people coming through and zooming their cars down and fighting with the gays and the lesbians,” Playle says. “My partner and I started to feel unsafe at a point. So we really want to filter out any of that kind of ugliness and I think the way we can do that is leasing the whole ground, for whatever days.” He’d love people who have trekked to Vinegar Hill in the past and not returned, or people who have never made it there, to come along this New Year. “Get out of the cities. Come out. Come and enjoy yourselves. It’s going to be a good year. And first timers always have more fun.” Mostly he wants it to a place the young and old enjoy. “There are different messages as to what it’s about. But that slogan of ‘one love’ is something I am going to stick with.”      Jacqui Stanford - 4th January 2015

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Sunday, 4th January 2015 - 10:22am

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