A couple of years ago I wrote a post about correspondence and how mechanisms of communicating have changed over the last couple of decades. Since student flats have been named, students have communicated their contact details in a number of ways. In my first year in 1991 I went through a $5 packet of stamps a week and included my flat name as part of my return address, and I would received mail with my flat name on it too.
Between the 1930s and the 1970s some named flats (Ches Choux and The Spanish Slum) commissioned printers to create letterhead that stated their flat name and address. Occasionally like in the case of The Bach (1930s), the letterhead also included a crest and motto!
Another aspect of communication has changed, the telephone. In the 1960s and 1970s it wasn’t possible to list a name in the public telephone book for free unless it was a person, anything else incurred a fee. Smerch HQ, a flat on Cumberland Street in the 1960s that was named for the Soviet spies headquarters in Ian Flemings Bond novels, managed to fudge the system by pretending their flat name was that of one Howard Quentin Smersh (that’s medical students for you!). The residents of The Lunatic Fringe around the road on Leith Street weren’t so fortunate and missed out on listing their flat in the phone book.
In the 1990s, Telecom’s name numbers became popular. Moe’s on Clyde Street took advantage of this and registered their phone number as 477 MOES – you can see it in an OUSA student telephone book that was published at the time. Of course the advent of the mobile phone has meant many flats probably no longer have a landline. More recently, residents of named flats are more likely to create a Facebook page.
The Shit Show Chateau on London Street, voted OUSAs worst flat in 2012, created a Facebook page as a tool to communicate the progress they were making with renovating this slum property.
We have signed the official ‘Worst Flat in Dunedin’ as voted by the Mayor David Cull and former OUSA president Logan Edgar. With over 30 holes, unidentifiable stains on the walls and a damp stench it certainly lives up to the title.
Check out our journey as we turn this p-lab looking flat into a something less of a health hazard. It could even be warm, efficient and carbon friendly with the help of Generation Zero http://generationzero.org.nz/
A couple of other examples of named flats with Facebook pages have a slightly different purpose. The V Flat, Westie Pad, and Coronation Street Flats have not been named by students, but by companies (in one case, Pic’s Flat, it was the student’s idea). How students feel about living in sponsored or flats pre-named by commercial interests requires a more investigation.
As new forms of communication are developed, we begin to see their influence depicted on flat signs, and example is references to social media use. The only current example of this was the flat name, The Libra Flat, on Harbour Terrace. The sign employs a hashtag #ourpad (commonly used to create a thematic link between tweets, instagrams and Facebook posts) to mark this house as their home (our pad) as well as being a stunning pun on “feminine hygiene products”.
Social media has played an enormously important role in the development of this project – the extent to which will be the subject of a future blog post.
August and September are traditionally the months when students secure a flat for the following year, and it’s around this time, well before finals, when “flat taken” signs start appearing in windows. As university enrollments wax and wane this practice, and the number of flats available to rent, can vary.
The V Flat at 97 Dundas Street is one of the earlier sponsored flats in Dunedin and possibly the longest enduring. The V Flat appears in this August 2010 news report by Dave Goosselink for 3 News, where their annual competition is revealed – for a few minor challenges, a prize of $10,000 paid off the annual rent bill makes securing this flat an attractive prospect for students.
Their Facebook page has been active since that time and is used to share photos of the residents each year. Events are managed through their Facebook page, such as flat-warmings around Orientation Week in February, and the annual competition in August / September. Pamphlets are often found at food retailers around campus advertising their competition.
A spokesman for beverage company Frucor said the V flat party – originally scheduled for tonight – was cancelled due to “safety concerns”.
“Our number one priority is the safety of anyone attending any event associated with V,” Frucor acting marketing director Luke Rive said.
“The flatmates have been asked to cancel the party on the advice of NZ police and the university due to safety concerns, particularly in regard to flow over on to the street.”
That decision was made last week, and a Facebook page has since been taken down.
Flatmates told the Otago Daily Times they supported the decision after watching the number of people saying they would attend the event rise from a manageable several hundred people to 3000.
”It just got too big,” a flatmate said.
Did you live at the V Flat, or do you have any memories of visiting it?
A landmark in North Dunedin, The Stafford Terrace at 62-86 Dundas Street, colloquially known as the Coronation Street flats, are being redeveloped. The process began in late 2015 – interiors have been stripped and the frontages cleaned up with the doors painted in bright colours. Their Facebook page tracks the renovation process of a third of the flats in the terrace.
What’s particularly interesting from my perspective is that the developer is inviting residents to name their flat and they supply a replica sign for them. The catch is it must reference a landmark from the TV programme, Coronation Street in order to “secure their place in history”.
The Stafford Terraces have a Category 2 listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (3189). It is a significant building because it is representative of 19th century working class accommodation and investment housing. It was purpose built as a rental, and over 150 years later, it still is. The following are quotations from the NZHPT record:
“The first tenants were apparently from the lower middle class and the working class, there were painters, bootmakers, carpenters, butchers, bakers and a storeman.”
“In recent years the terraced houses have been landmark rental properties, well known to students, and an important element in the townscape of the North Dunedin student area.”
The Stafford Terraces have been bestowed with a number of flat names over the years: The Shire, Chomp, The Brick Shit House, Battleship. The flat’s distinctive window frames were captured as a background image for a poster advertising the release of Husband House EP by Sneaky Feelings.
Did you or anyone you know live in these flats?