Having time on your hands can lead to all sorts of vices
suggests Henry VIII. John Lewis investigates some of the more
quirky pastimes that keep Dunedin residents out of
Henry VIII once said those without hobbies were prone to
The statement is a little ironic, coming from a man who loved
women and food so much.
But alas, it's true.
When people are at a loose end, they will often find
themselves getting into mischief of some kind, which is
usually avoided by people who are working hard.
You know - the Devil makes work for idle hands, and all that
Many think Dunedin is quite a conservative society. But
behind the historic architecture, the educated minds and the
''more popular'' sporting clubs, there are groups of people
carving out their own clubs in pursuit of their own
They may seem peculiar to much of society because few have
heard of them but, like rugby, netball, tramping, chess or
even kapa haka groups, they keep all sorts of personalities
out of trouble.
Like the Otago Miniature Tacticians' Society, where club
members build nations of armies and play war games. To the
uninitiated, it may seem like a club where you can freely
exercise your dictatorship desires.
To the club's 14 members, it's an opportunity to express
their artistic side and learn a lot about the world's history
of conflict, president Bill Kearney says.
''There's a very artistic side to it - a lot of research goes
''We don't run around a paddock with a ball, but we still
consider it to be a competitive hobby.
''There are competitions all over the world.''
Mr Kearney says the games are based on a set of rules,
established by author H.G. Wells in the early 1900s, that are
similar to those of chess - only more complicated.
''Some soldiers are built as small as 2mm tall. You can
hardly see them, but they are easy to paint. Often, you can
see us wearing magnifying glasses.
''They can be built as big as 54mm tall.''
Club members do not just build armies of World War 2
soldiers. They build armies of fantasy, sci-fi, American
Civil War, steampunk and old-fashioned sailing ship crews, as
well as scenery and vehicles to accompany them, he says.
And it's not a cheap hobby. It can cost more than $2000 to
create an army of about 200 soldiers (plus vehicles and set)
and most members have multiple armies.
''It's a hell of a lot of work to have it eaten by your dog -
which has happened to a few club members.''
The club was established in 1970 and has members aged between
16 and the late-60s, from many different backgrounds.
Retaining club members, especially the younger ones, is not
easy, he says.
''We do lose members when they get girlfriends. It's not
everyone's cup of tea, but that's life.''
For those with slightly more homicidal tendencies, the KAOS
club in Dunedin may be a relaxing way to keep hidden issues
... well, hidden.
Members ''have fun, kill people and drink with them after''.
Essentially, the KAOS club runs assassin games, laser tag,
staged battles, road trips, pranks and reportedly ''the best
parties you can have without setting a couch on fire''.
If your life is a little more joyful, and you have a skip in
your step, perhaps you could join the Jack Frost Morris club
- the world's southernmost performing Morris dancing club.
''Learn entertaining, energetic and rowdy English dances!
Whack your fellow dancers with sticks! Absolutely NO hanky
dances!'' the internet advertisement says.
Why wouldn't you join? Club president Ana Clarke says the
Dunedin club has about a dozen members who meet weekly.
''Dancing is good for the health - and it's a great social
''It's made fun of a lot. We even laugh at ourselves. But
it's good fun.''
No dancing experience is required but a sense of humour is
essential, she warns.
On a more serious side, many people look for something that
will bring meaning, purpose and empowerment to their lives.
Some find it at the Dunedin Shamanic Circle, which enables
personal spiritual connection, healing and growth.
Shamanism involves a practitioner reaching altered states of
consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the
A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and
influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits
who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual and
practises divination and healing.
Members of the circle meet regularly around a candle-lit
sacred space where they participate in a shamanic journey and
share their thoughts and experiences.
Remember your mum making vegetable soup on a cold winter's
day when you were a child?Well, now there's a club in Dunedin
that does just that.
Yes, it's called Food Not Bombs.
Club member Francisco Hernandez says it has about 20 members,
all with humanitarian interests in common.
The club gets together on Thursdays to make vegetable soup
and then gives it away to University of Otago students, all
with a simple message in mind: ''There's too much military
spending in the world while people starve.
''Who would think it's a weird club? Everyone loves food -
If you like warm and cosy, perhaps Dunedin's Orchard Sun
Naturist Club is not for you.
Clubs where people can wander around in their birthday suits
have existed in Dunedin for decades, but the OSC was formed
in 1974 when its members wished to own their own grounds.
They found land in Green Island and spent many months
establishing games courts and a swimming pool.
Unfortunately, the Abbotsford slip wiped out all their hard
work, and the members had to begin again. They re-established
much of what they had before, only to have vandals destroy
buildings and facilities.
So in 1988, the club bought land near Middlemarch, where you
can now find it - if you want to.
Other clubs and societies offering something a little
different or outside the square are the Renaissance Rapier
Club (the noble art of rapier fencing as practised in
Renaissance Europe), Unihoc (an exciting indoor hockey game
with Scandinavian origins), the Fire and Circus Club, where
you can learn to juggle, hula, stilt walk, do fire tricks or
ride a unicycle (even do some or all at once), and the
Society of Atheists, Rationalists and Skeptics (which is
dedicated to advancing rational, scientific thought and
challenging outdated concepts of religion and
Although New Zealand society may deem these clubs ''slightly
peculiar'', they really are quite conservative when you
compare them with others around the world. Frankly, there are
some that are just plain weird.
There's a John Smith Club for all those who share that name,
antique poison bottle clubs for all those who may emulate
Lucrezia Borgia's technique for solving issues with
relatives, and there's even a toilet-lovers club, which
speaks for itself.
Eight of the ''best'' from around the
The Beefsteak Club
- also known as the Sublime Society
of Beefsteak - is a 300-year-old British club with only 24
members. Rumour has it the club is so exclusive that even King
George IV had to wait until someone died before he could become
Members get together, eat steak, talk about how great steak
is, sing a song about steak, and even wear a badge
proclaiming Beef and Liberty. Pictured is the President's
Some club membership is not limited by money, background, or
a cap on the number of members allowed in.
The Giga Society has just six members - two in the
United States and four in Europe. Why? Because to become a
member, you have to score more than 195 on one of their
accepted intelligence quotient tests. In theory, that means
only one in a billion individuals can qualify.
Here's a club people are jumping out of their seats to join:
The Ejection Tie Club.
All you have to do to become a member is survive being fired
out of a military plane by ejection seat. It seems ironic you
have to be thrown out to get in ...
The Thrill the World Club in Ottawa, Canada, is
dedicated entirely to Michael Jackson's Thriller. The club's
activities include moonwalking, thriller (zombie) flashmobs
and eating the occasional brain.
The Obedient Wives Club is a group of Malaysian women
who claim they can cure social problems such as prostitution
and divorce by simply teaching women to be submissive and how
to keep men happy in the bedroom.
The Association of Dead People was founded in 1976 by
Indian man Lal Bihari, who applied for a bank loan but was
turned down because he was dead. Despite his repeated cries
to the contrary, he had been declared deceased by his uncle,
who wanted his nephew's land. Discovering about 100 people in
the same boat as himself, he founded the Association of Dead
People to campaign for an easier process of reversing a death
Apparently, Kigus are all the rage again, and someone at the
University of York in England has started KiguSoc.(In
case you missed it, Kigus are Japanese onesies that look like
children's animal costumes.) Their mission statement says:
''We believe there is no occasion or activity that is not
improved by a Kigu.''
Dinner parties, graduations, weddings, receiving your
knighthood from the Queen - who could argue with that?
Well, I'm guessing Dunedin's Orchard Sun Naturist Club may
Over the past few months, some Dunedin residents have been
upset by the local authorities' failure to provide seats in
bus shelters. It turns out, anger about this has spread as
far as Italy. A story in the Otago Daily Times about
the city's shelters, ended up in the hands of Marco Parisi,
an Italian technical surveyor specialising in installation
and maintenance management of bus shelters in Tuscany.
He confesses: ''I'm mostly a bus shelter lover'', and there
is a worldwide group called Bus Shelter Lovers on
Linkedin where people like him share everything about bus
Whether your pastime is wholesome and family oriented, or
slightly outside the square that society calls ''normal'',
good old Henry VIII says it doesn't matter. The text of his
song Pastime With Good Company provides a moral
justification for all this merriment: company is preferable
to idleness, for the latter breeds vice. If there is one
thing that all of these clubs and societies have in common,
it is that their members genuinely believe their hobbies are