Just one to 2% of the population are redheads – and those with ginger locks often find themselves alone in a crowd.
But on Thursday night, a gathering of more than 100 people turned a Hastings bar into a sea of red.
“For more than 30 years, I’ve had this dream of walking into a cafe that was solely filled with redheads,” said organiser Reverend Jill McDonald.
Fellow ginger Neill Gordon got wind of the dream and together they made it happen.
On St Brigids Day – the patron saint of redheads – a wave of ginger hair rippled through the Common Room bar in Hastings for ‘Gingas in the Stings’.
“It’s beautiful, nothing short of beautiful,” said Gordon.
“We’ve got people of all ages, I’ve seen some tiny gingers come in, just babies, a lot of older gingers who once were gingers with their photos of their younger selves when they were in their ginger glory.”
The event was about joy, connection and solidarity – and being proud of the names that, for many, were thrown as slurs around the playground.
“We’re reclaiming tonight, all those names, so say it once, say it loud, I’m a ginga and I’m proud,” he said.
Red beer flowed from the tap behind the bar, the place was decked out with orange decorations, and allies, not blessed with fiery locks, donned wigs for the occasion.
After a short prayer from the Reverend (“God, we thank you for gingers… amen,”) and a singalong of ‘Sweet Ginger Hair’, to the tune of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, the competition began.
A seven-month-old took out the ginger gem prize for the youngest ginger, and a teenage boy with a thick curly ‘fro won the St Brigid prize for the most praiseworthy locks.
Also celebrated were the most fanta-tastic beard, the longest red hair, revolutionary eyebrows, and a freckled few won spot prizes – including SPF50 sunscreen donated from local redhead-run businesses.
Driving all the way from Whakatāne for the occasion, Autumn Kempe – a strong contender for the longest locks – said she’d always wanted to be part of a gathering of ginger-haired friends.
“Just to feel you fit in. Growing up in the eighties there was a lot of teasing and stuff going on there, and now I love having red hair.”
Redheads gather at Hastings bar
Some attended out of curiosity, while others wanted to band together for redhead pride.
“It’s really cool to see so many redheads in one spot. Normally, you get on a plane of 400 people and you’re the only redhead on the plane. Here, you’re just one of the crowd,” said Dee Laidlaw from Havelock North.
“My mum is a redhead too, so we just thought this was an amazing opportunity to show everyone that redheads are awesome,” teenager Eleanor Grady said.
“Seeing all the redheads here all together, it just like, makes you feel special.”
And while the event was a bit of light hearted fun – it was indeed special for some.
During the evening, Neill Gordon was approached by an emotional 13-year-old.
“Amazing, beautiful head of red hair, and she was in tears … she’d never felt so affirmed as a redhead in her life.”
That, he said, is what it was all about.
By Lauren Crimp of rnz.co.nz