Interactive theatre . . . Storyteller Tanya Batt (pictured) and her partner, Peter Forster, are bringing their show, Mary Bumby's Hive of Story, to Oamaru next week. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mary Bumby’s Hive of Story combines storyteller Tanya Batt’s love of history, stories of women, and bees.

Batt is bringing her interactive storytelling theatre piece to Waitaki next week, in a performance at the Oamaru Public Gardens on March 30. She will be accompanied by her musical partner and long›time collaborator, Peter Forster.

Mary Bumby’s Hive of Story explores the life of Mary Bumby, who introduced honey bees to New Zealand in 1839, as well as the life of the honey bee and its history with humans.

Batt, a novice beekeeper who lives on Waiheke Island, created the performance to celebrate the 180th anniversary of Bumby and the bees’ arrival, and unveiled the show in Hokianga — the first home of honey bees in New Zealand.

The Mungungu Mission in Hokianga was where Bumby first brought the honey bees — and where the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place, on February 12, 1840, which was hosted by Bumby.

‘‘I would have loved to have been one of Mary’s bees hovering at that gathering,’’ Batt said.
Batt’s interest in bees was sparked in her childhood. Her father kept bees in their back yard, and in her teenage years she worked on an organic farm with beehives. These days, she co-manages hives with her neighbour at the Awaawaroa Eco Village, on Waiheke Island.

‘‘Because I love history, and stories of women and bees, I thought this would be a great opportunity to create a piece that not only tells Mary’s story and a little bit about our history, but explores the whole honey bee›human relationship which has been going on for thousands of years,’’ Batt said.

‘‘They are intriguing and highly sensitive creatures whose documented relationship with humans dates back to more than 8000 years ago. Our lives on this planet would be very different without them.’’

Batt and Forster left Waiheke Island on February 22, and have been performing ‘‘all the way down the country’’. It is the third rescheduling of the tour, after two Covid›19›related interruptions.

‘‘We had it booked for 2020, and then 2021 — and then we’re just like, ‘We’re doing it’.’’

Audience numbers were down due to Red traffic light restrictions, and there had been some cancellations, but they were thrilled to be performing again when and where they could.

‘‘It’s just how it is at the moment, and you just kind of roll with it,’’ Batt said.

They were looking forward to performing in Oamaru again. Batt is an old friend of Oamaru artist Donna Demente — they have known each other since they were teenagers — and she has performed in Oamaru several times before, most recently on March 9, in another show, Toby or not to be.

Mary Bumby’s Hive of Story is being performed in the Wonderland Garden, at the Oamaru Public Gardens, on March 30 at 4pm. Audience members should bring chairs or rugs to sit on. In the event of bad weather, the performance will move indoors, to the Grainstore Gallery.

Attendance is on a “pay-what-you-can basis” on the day, but tickets are also available online at