Mind-blowing billboards at Lyttelton

Billboard of Lyttelton by Jae Renaut
Harbour Light Cinema

No, they’re not election-related, and hopefully the graffiti vandals will stay away.

The wonderful billboards are Jae Renaut’s exhibition of enlarged black and white photographs of some of Lyttelton’s lost heritage buildings.

Three images have so far gone up on the sites of the original buildings: the Salvation Army Barracks, the Harbour Light, and the old Civic Offices/Library.

This has been courtesy of a grant from Creative NZ, but the images are a collaborative labour of love. While the billboard photos are Jae’s, the recycled matai frames surrounding them are the work of local instrument maker Peter Stephen.

Christchurch City Libraries have supported the exhibition with a display of information on the historic buildings of Lyttelton in the Lyttelton Library. Jae has also donated his collection of black and white images of Lyttelton residential and commercial buildings to the library.

Lyttelton billboard by Jae Renaut
Salvation Army Barracks

The boards will be up for some time so there are no excuses for missing the exhibition; however why not kill two birds with one stone (only figuratively speaking, please!) and make a day of it on Sunday 31 August to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Lyttelton Road Tunnel? You will be able to walk, bike, or skate through the Tunnel and enjoy a special market day too.

Jae  is hoping to get more billboards up as he gets more funding; in the interim you can view other images in his collection and find out more information on the project’s website.

Lyttelton billboard by Jae Renaut
Borough Council / Library Building

The wandering mind: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

The Wandering MindLet’s start with an earworm:

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

These lyrics come from the annoying 1954 ditty The Happy Wanderer, and not only do they perfectly sum up the state of my mind (baggage included) for large parts of my day, but they will also stick in your head all day (should you be old enough to know this tune). And an earworm like this puts your brain into a mindwandering holding pattern, according to Michael Corballis in his packed presentation at WORD today.

What exactly are our minds up to, when any of the following things happen:

  • you arrive at work and cannot remember the drive there…..at all
  • people talk about rugby as if you should care
  • lovely IT people try to solve your computer problems by using acronyms, many many acronyms

Well my brain had better behave at this WORD event: The Wandering Mind by Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Auckland, Michael Corballis, who will be discussing his book: The Wandering Mind (What your brain does when you’re not looking).

First up Corballis (who is regarded as New Zealand’s most eminent Academic Psychologist) assured us that it is OK to mindwander (collective little sigh of relief all round) and that, in his opinion, mindwandering promotes creativity.

But what about all that mindfulness that you have been so religiously cultivating these many long years past? Well, you might be a teensy bit happier, but we mindwanderers have knocked you right out of the creativity ballpark! So there!

Best of all, mindwandering is linked to story telling and according to Corballis:

We are the story telling species. And to story tell we need to mindwander. Back in time, forward in time, and into other peoples’ minds.

Then came the questions:

  • First one from the restless: It’s too hot in here, Can you open the door?
  • The second one from the worrier: Will something bad happen to me if I never mindwander at all?
  • The third one from a technogeek: How does technology affect mindwandering?
  • The final one from a Dyslexic daydreamer on the healing aspects of  mindwandering.

It is a terrifically interesting topic, presented as an engaging conversation between two old friends. And what is more, my mind did not wander, not even once!

People power – WORD Christchurch

Cover of Peace, power, and politicsMaire Leadbeater was a spokesperson for Auckland CND in the 1980s. She is the daughter of local Canterbury hero Elsie Locke, who was renowned for her fiction, and also for her role as a peace campaigner. Elsie wrote the book Peace People on the peace movement up until 1975. Maire’s new book Peace, Power & Politics How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free – more than five years in the making – is a continuation.

People Power saw Maire was in conversation with investigative journalist Nicky Hager. It was a brilliant, potent discussion of politics, peace and power. The near-full room had many listeners who had been part of the peace movement with both Maire and Nicky – it was a place of people who respected each other and were keen to listen.

Peace, power, and politics

The book has a strong photographic element, and the session began with a slideshow of images. Maire said:

There is no better way to describe a demonstration than with a photo.

The discussion ranged through the 1980s:

  • The visit of Dr Helen Caldicott in 1983. She raised such topics as If the bomb dropped in Cathedral Square, how many people would be incinerated.
  • The 1984 Labour Government’s commitment to nuclear-freee and hwow
  • The USS Buchanan refused entry in 1985 (Maire named this “the peak of our nuclear free story).
  • Women’s centrality to the movement. The selling of 250,000 nuclear free stickers was dubbed a “girlcott”.
  • The first Waihopai demonstration – 153 days of a peace camp in the middle of winter.
  • Gaining an “unambiguous nuclear free policy”.

Foreign policy

Maire Leadbeater: People PowerMaire had a lot of interesting observations on foreign policy. Her highlight was when New Zealand helped with Bougainville in 1997. In that case, New Zealand used its independent image to very good effect – we should do it more often.

Foreign affairs should be subject to democratic input … It is so important to be exposed to what is going on.

She also wrote about East Timor. Negligent Neighbour: New Zealand’s Complicity in the Invasion and Occupation of Timor-Leste charted the hypocrisy of New Zealand’s support of Indonesia, using the OIA a lot to get access to documents and information.

Maire wished New Zealand foreign policy focused more on the self determination of nations, instead of constantly looking at World War One and Two and battles.

Writing the book – and researching the next

Peace, power, and politics took around five years to write. Maire interviewed people from peace movements all over the country. She made use of “wonderful libraries” like the Macmilla n Brown and Alexander Turnbull.

I love being in the archives and finding things out.

She is already researching her next book on MFAT and West Papua. The documents are “shocking” and are not redacted as those obtained under the OIA are.

“Thank goodness for people who get to the truth”

Luke Harding was in the audience, and asked about surveillance and infiltration. Maire said the Philippines Solidarity Network was being watched by the SIS. But “it doesn’t stop you doing what you’re doing”:

Thank goodness for people who get to the truth … keep pushing and pushing.

Nicky Hager and Maire Leadbeater
Nicky Hager and Maire Leadbeater

At Arthur’s Pass railway station : Picturing Canterbury

Arthur’s Pass railway station. This is the third station building at Arthur’s Pass, opened in 1966. Photo taken February 1967. Kete Christchurch, PH13-247