Poetry as public art: get your poem published on Victoria Street

A Caxton Miscellany
A piece of Denis Glover’s poetry – currently on display at the “A Caxton Miscellany” Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition.

This just in – a chance to have your poem on a Christchurch street. Literally.

Your poem will need to reference some aspect of the history or use of Victoria Street and surrounds. It must be entered by 23 March 2013 and the commissioned poems will earn $1000.00 ex GST each. The following resources will help:

Victoria Street

Caxton Press

Supreme Court and Victoria Street bridge, Christchurch
Supreme Court and Victoria Street bridge, Christchurch, Circa 1921

Here’s the official information:
Christchurch City Council (CCC) is embarking on a transitional programme for Victoria Street, Christchurch. As part of the programme, we are seeking to commission two poems for Victoria Street, including one from Ngāi Tahu writers.

Poems need to reference some aspect of the history or use of the street and adjacent areas. We are interested in telling the long and traditional commercial history of the street. The street has an auspicious association with literature. Poet Denis Glover co-founded The Caxton Press on Victoria Street in 1935, and the business still operates there today

We intend to paint the poems onto structures and surfaces in the street and this form of application will be considered when selecting work. Submitting poets and writers are encouraged therefore, to be mindful of the limitations in setting out works due to the method and potentially disjointed application of text.  Te reo Māori translation of texts is also of interest.

A knowledgeable panel will be convened to make the selection. The CCC Metropolitan Arts Advisor and project Landscape Architect will advise the panel.

Victoria Street
Victoria Street 2013

Submission Requirements
Your submission must include:
•    an original poem for consideration and translation to English or Māori if available
•    arts curriculum (your previous poetry and writing credentials)
•    full contact details

Submissions must reach us no later than 23 March 2013.

Value of Commissions
$1000.00 ex GST for each poem

This is a unique situation where Council is commissioning poetry as public art. In this instance we would seek to preserve the artists’ rights to the work (and to reproduce the work acknowledging the commission) and also seek to ensure Council’s rights as the commissioning agent to reproduce the work for promotional and recording purposes.

Given the transitional nature of spaces and places in the central city, CCC cannot guarantee work will remain unaffected by any remedial work on the structures of surfaces to which the text is applied. We will seek to reinstate completed text on any affected surface as soon as is practicable or where suitable.

Contacts for your submission
Enquiries should be directed to Kiri Jarden, Metropolitan Arts Advisor.
Email submissions are preferred to Kiri.Jarden@ccc.govt.nz

03 941 8635 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            03 941 8635      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Metropolitan Arts Advisor
Community Services
Christchurch City Council
PO Box 73016
Christchurch 8154

The ‘Cutting’ and Withell’s Island

sketchmapPeople have been tinkering with the Avon River since the early days of European settlement.  The original  route of the Avon was round Owles Terrace. Sand blocked the channel and it was feared that this might prevent development of commerce, via small vessels, up the Avon. The cutting was started by contractors, McGrath and Brady, and completed by the Canterbury Provincial Council in 1859. The area which was created through ‘the cut’ is Withell’s Island, named after a late owner, Charles Withell (1832-1916). Vessels have never, in any appreciable numbers, come ‘sailing with the tide’.

For many years the ‘cutting’ or ‘island’, with its wildlife, attracted children and at least one boy, Eddie Lawry, was drowned there. About 1910, the New Brighton Borough Council took sandhills, trucked them to the island and filled in the original watercourse.

Tom Gray’s reminiscences contain references to the creation of ‘the Cutting’:A notable undertaking in which he played a part was the making of a cutting through the Avon near the present New Brighton bridge so as to do away with an ‘elbow’ in the river there. This work was put in hand in conjunction with the building of Bricks Wharf at Barbadoes Street, at the time when it was hoped to inaugurate a steamer service up the river to that point ….

New Brighton was a thorough wilderness then, Peter Kerr’s house on the old Brighton Road being the last habitation out in that direction. There were about 50 men employed on the work. The beach was … thickly scattered with whalebones, many of which were for years afterwards to be seen forming bowers and other sorts of decorations in residences in the neighbourhood of the city. There was … timber on the beach which had come down from the mills then working at various points round the coast, and the contract men occasionally made more money selling the whale-bones and the timber than they would in many a day’s work.

Mushrooms also grew thickly adjacent to the river banks right up to the niggerheads, and the swamps round about were smothered with wild ducks. Sea birds were to be seen by the thousands where you will only see an occasional one now ….

Another thing … was the great quantity of frost-fish which were washed up on the beach …. We did not know what they were and thought they were unfit for eating, till … our cook discovered their delicacy as a food. We might have known that they were good for eating … because the gulls were always making meals of them, and these birds, like the rats, don’t go in for the worst of things.

Betty Innes’ handwritten reminiscences of about 1910-20

The river carnivals were held annually. There would be decorated boat and many other attractions and competitions including pillow fight on the greasy pole. The pole was erected horizontally over the river and slightly greased to make it rather slippery and the two contestants sat on this and at the word go began to pelt each other with pillows until one was unseated and fell into the river ….

We used to spend much time fishing … Our usual place was the river opposite Mountbatten Street. On a fine day the river bank there would be lined with fishermen.  We also occasionally fished at Herring Bay ….

The river originally followed the course alongside Owles Terrace,Union Street and Brighton Terrace and the cut through from the Power Boat Club to the end of Brighton Terrace was made some time before we came here but the old river bed was still full of water. Thus an island was formed. This was first used by Mr. Sefton, a local carrier and coal merchant, to run his horse in. One was bogged there and only extricated with great difficulty. Mr. Withell next brought this land and contracted with Mr. Bodger to fill it in. For months there was a small gauge tram track running from the sandhills along Shackleton Street to Union Street and thence to the island. Small trucks of sand were pulled along these by the horses. Many a ride we children had in those trucks.


  • Brighton standard
  • Greenaway, Richard,’ Taming the Avon’, Press, 28 February 1976
  • Innes, Betty, ‘Reminiscences’ – held by Richard Greenaway
  • ‘The lad from Tipperary’,  Star, 31 May 1919 p 8
  • Lyttelton times, Papers past

This information came from Richard Greenaway – an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories.

140 characters of New Zealand Book Month

CoverWe’d love to join us in a New Zealand Book Month activity – share your teeny tiny review or pithy observation, maybe even a favourite NZ lit quote. You might like to point us in the direction of an awesome Aotearoa resource. It can be whatever you like – New Zealand books, authors, places, themes, poems, images.

Just use the hashtag #nznutshell on Twitter, or share it here in the comments. Or if you’d like to pop one in the email, send it to us at competition@christchurchcitylibraries.com. We will gather them together to make a compendium of short and nifty stuff – a big ole celebration of New Zealand books and booky people.

Ngaio MarshHere are a few examples:

“The same week our fowls were stolen, Daphne Moran had her throat cut”. Killer opening lines: R H Morrieson’s The Scarecrow. #nznutshell

Ngaio Marsh as Hamlet & other wonders – a @digitalnz set. #nznutshell

If you are into booky stuff, sign up for the @iiml newsletter & follow them. Literary love-in. #nznutshell

And here is the Storify of all the tweets here!