Hall of fame
Australian Women’s Weekly NZ|October 2020
There aren’t many middle-aged women brave enough to deliver a speech in their togs to a live audience, let alone tens of thousands worldwide. Writer and playwright Pip Hall is such a woman.
JUDY BAILEY

But what, you might ask, was she thinking?!

Here’s the thing. It was a TED talk about water ballet. But really it was about finding the joy in life, having fun, and the power of friendship and laughter. All things dear to Pip’s heart.

If you haven’t seen this TED talk, look it up on YouTube. Her infectious enthusiasm will have you hooked and if synchronised swimming is not for you, I guarantee you’ll be thinking about what might spark joy in your life.

And a bit of joy is something we could all do with right now. As I write this, New Zealand is three days into another lockdown as we struggle to get on top of a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in the community.

Once more we’re stuck at home in our “bubbles”, yet more in touch with the wider world than ever before. Once again we’re forced to think about what’s really important in our lives. In many ways life has become more simple. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that?

As I look through my notes from my conversation with Pip, I find myself thinking, “Here is a woman who’s already given those things some serious thought.”

Pip comes from writing royalty. She was born in

Wellington in 1971 to Dianne and Roger Hall. Roger would soon write his seminal play Glide Time, which would establish him as a playwright of international renown. The family moved to Dunedin soon afterwards when Roger was awarded a Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago.

Pip’s brother Simon is two years younger and he writes too. A former psychiatric nurse and air hostess, their mother Dianne came from a large farming family and she wanted to be a full-time mum, but once the children were at school she took herself off to university to do an MA in anthropology.

“She’s had an eclectic life,” Pip tells me. “She was often off in Thailand on digs. Mum has a great love of people. She’s very generous – there were always lots of people around. Ours was always an open home. Loads of teenagers were never a problem.

“I definitely learnt the value of humour in our house. I remember coming home from school one day and I told them, ‘I cracked a funny today and everyone laughed.’ Dad was proud.”

Grinning, she continues, “Dunedin was a great place to grow up. There was lots of freedom, as long as we were home for dinner. The back door was always open.”

A family road trip through the United States proved to be a great learning experience for 10-year-old Pip. Roger was there to teach on a Fulbright scholarship in Washington, DC, where Pip and Simon were duly enrolled in a public school that turned out to be 99% African-American.

“We were the minority,” she recalls. “Because we were Kiwis it wasn’t as hard as it might have been.”

Next came an Hispanic school in New Mexico, where Roger was playwright in residence at a local university. Pip and Simon played soccer and basketball. She tells, “Both of us lived and breathed basketball. Mum and Dad would come to watch.”

On their return to Dunedin, the two headed to Logan Park High. “I found school easy academically, but I didn’t learn the work ethic, to my detriment,” Pip smiles. “I only went to uni because Dunedin is a uni town – that’s what you do. I never remember having a career path or knowing what I wanted to do.”

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