Ponsonby: urban village

In 1957 it had one cafe and 15 second-hand shops – sounds like bliss to me but things can’t stay the same, especially not real estate on small sections close to town.

I’ve only been visiting Auckland regularly for about 10 years so to me Ponsonby has always been the hip strip of Ponsonsby Road; coffee and shops that stock Vivienne Westwood. I thought it was my South Island inablity to handle traffic that made crossing it a dance with death, then Metro said even the locals have trouble, but it wasn’t always like that.

So, I’ve never lived in Ponsonby and I never will so why did I enjoy a book about it enough to be keen to see and hear its writers? Because  Urban village; The story of Ponsonby, Freeman’s Bay and St Mary’s Bay is an impressive piece of social history with a proper bibiliography (you can take the girl out of the library …)

Peter Wells had whirled from New York and Judith Thurman to Ponsonby and Jennny Carlyon, Diana Morrow and a surprisingly large audience, most of whom looked as though they lived there. I had to laugh when Wells remembered a famous murder that happened on the corner of Richmond Road. Quick as a flash came a not-so sotto voce riposte from the back row “that’s Grey Lynn”.

As you would expect from two PhDs the book is the result of two years digging  into the layers of people who make up the history of the three areas and the authors presented it as a show and tell of slides, an original idea for a festival that is mostly about words rather than images.

Stiil keeping track of library mentions and not disappointed – when gentrification got into full swing the most popular books in the library were the do-it-yourself books – worringly for those who bought a renovated villa do-it-yourself plumbing and electricity.

One thought on “Ponsonby: urban village

  1. Philip 19 May 2009 / 12:10 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Robyn (what a stupid expression that is thought!) I thought it was a beautifully produced book and it was social history as it should be – i.e. interesting.

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