express caught up with Verity & Lisa, the proprietors of community café Garnet Station, one of Auckland’s longest running LGBTI venues.
What inspired you to start Garnet Station?
11 years ago we found a rundown house on the city fringe and decided to be our own bosses.
How has Garnet Station evolved over the decade?
Well, it started off as a campaign of office when Lisa was running for Mayor, with a one head coffee machine. We lived in the house and ran the coffee shop ourselves. After a few years, we moved into what used to be the garage and storeroom for the original grocers and opened the whole house to the public.
We absolutely love the tiny theatre at the back which has hosted some great shows from LGBTI talent over the years—where did you get the idea to add a theatre to the café?
Theatre is my first love! Both Lisa and I are thespians, so when we bought the house next door we decided to open the studio as a performance space. My sister Tilda used to tell me stories about groovy little theatres attached to pubs in London, so it seemed like a great way to offer people a whole entertainment experience. We built the pizza oven, got a liquor licence and opened nights, voila!
What have been the most memorable shows the theatre has hosted?
Probably the Variety shows we’ve written and performed for the cafe’s 8th and 10th anniversaries because we just love collaborating together and I got to interview talented Aucklanders. There was a verbatim show last year for the Puawai Festival in which I played my Mother Kate Leslie (founder of the NZ AIDS foundation)—more challenging than I thought it would be. Michael Hurst was mesmerising in No Holds Bard. We’ve done many mini Pride Festivals, and got the award for Best Off-Off Broadway venue for the Fringe Festival in 2017.
What events has Garnet Station got coming up that express readers shouldn’t miss?
Well, daily brunch is pretty bloody fabulous and for the whole of winter the Covert Season of Improvisation on Friday/Saturday nights.
Garnet Station, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere, Auckland. www.garnetstation.com