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Whanganui Midweek - 2021-06-09

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Special screening of Poppy raises $6000

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Paul Brooks

Last Thursday at Embassy 3 was a gala night, a premiere occasion and a red-carpet event. By 5.30pm the foyer of the theatre was crammed with ticket-holders, ready to see a movie and meet its young star. The film was Poppy and its premiere was organised and staffed by the brethren of the St Andrew Kilwinning Masonic Lodge. Ticketholders arrived early, enjoyed a drink from the bar and helped themselves to finger food from Mud Ducks. The place was packed, and most were socialising while waiting for the arrival of a special car. Just after 6pm that car, provided by Wanganui Motors, arrived with Craig Ancell, master of St Andrew Kilwinning, at the wheel. Its passengers were Poppy herself — Libby Hunsdale — one of her co-stars, Seb Hunter, Libby’s grandmother, Barbara Andrews, and the film’s producer, Robin Laing. Together, surrounded by wellwishers, they walked the red carpet into the Embassy lobby where they faced phone cameras and a curious crowd. Poppy is the story of a young woman with Down syndrome, learning a trade, independence, and following her heart. So many tickets had been sold that the film ran concurrently in two cinemas, with a combined audience of about 230 people. “It was all about charity, the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart,” said Craig Ancell in an address before the screening. The amount raised, about $6000, will go to the Special Olympics Whanganui team competing in Hamilton this year. Craig then thanked all the businesses that helped with the premiere. Robin Laing said, “I would really just like to thank the lodge, the Special Olympics and all the sponsors involved this evening for inviting me here to celebrate what really is — apart from being a fundraiser — a celebration of the star of Poppy in Libby’s hometown. “It’s been a fantastic response. “I want to thank the people of Whanganui who supported Libby through this adventure she’s had with us. There is a number of them but I would like to name the teachers at Whanganui Girls’ [College] and Raj and Janine at Midtown Motors who helped her a lot. “I particularly want to thank Barb, because I’m sure Barb had no idea what she was doing when she rang us and said, ‘I think there’s someone here you should audition’.” Robin also acknowledged Seb Hunter and pointed out that he composed most of the songs he sings in the film. Seb was unable to attend the NZ premiere of the film in Wellington . . . “so this is his premiere”. Robin said Libby has had quite a bit of media exposure during and after filming, and thanked her for being not only a “lovely actor, but also a fantastic publicist”. She acknowledged the work Libby has done on behalf of people with disabilities. The film stars Libby as Poppy, with Ari Boyland as her protective older brother, Dave, and Seb as Luke, a young man who sees the young woman beyond the Down syndrome. There is quite a bit of comedy, a strong message of understanding, and even a few scenes for the petrol heads! Most people at the theatre that night will concur it’s a good story and a film worth seeing. Poppy is screening now at Embassy 3, with three sessions a day — 11.45am, 1.45pm and 4.30pm.

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