Five years of filling gaps

Gap Filler is an organisation that seems to embody the potential inherent in a city rebuilding itself – innovative, creative and brave. Out of rubble-strewn vacant land they have created a series of bustling hubs of activity. A fridge that you can borrow books from, a set of bleachers on wheels, a bike-powered cinema, a public dance venue – these are just a selection of the “temporary” projects that have brought life to Christchurch’s inner city.  And they’ve been doing it for 5 years now.

That’s right, Gap Filler recently celebrated its fifth birthday. What started out as a relatively small scale project as a result of the demolitions following the 4 September 2010 quake became something much more in the course of things.

Gap Filler #1
Gap Filler crowd (Mo-mo) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

I was there on the first night of the first ever Gap Filler project on 25 November 2010. My friends and I sat around on a hodge podge range of chairs, stools and cushions on the site of what had been an auto-electricians, and a mexican restaurant. We listened to music and watched 1928 film A Daughter of Christchurch projected onto a neighbouring wall. It was jolly and novel and sort of uplifting and I’ve been a fan of Gap Filler ever since.

So I asked Co-founder and Chair of the Gap Filler Trust, Dr Ryan Reynolds, about the organisation and what it’s achieved since that first gap, what seems like a lifetime ago.

When you first started Gap Filler did you envisage it going for this long?

No way! We started up after the September quake, and from memory we were maybe thinking ahead to 5-6 projects total each of which might occupy a vacant site for a few weeks. And we were definitely thinking of one at a time. After the February quake that all changed because the need and interest were both much greater. Now we’ve done around 70 projects, and often have 8-10 going simultaneously – some of which have been going for four years (like the Think Differently Book Exchange, aka The Book Fridge!).

One of the great things about Gap Filler is the variety in the projects it undertakes – book fridges, mini-golf, bike-powered cinema etc – where do you get your ideas from? Is there anything you wouldn’t attempt?

Ryan Reynolds
Gap Filler Co-founder, Dr Ryan Reynolds

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. We generate a lot from within the team, but many are suggested by others (like Sarah Gallagher and the book exchange) or we take inspiration from things we see in our real and virtual travels.

I think the strength is that we operate as a collective, so there’s no individual ownership of ideas. That means – wherever the idea comes from – we work together with our whole team and with artists and communities of interest to make every idea a collective idea that’s as strong and purposeful as it can be.

As the city changes and evolves, how has Gap Filler changed with it?

We see ourselves as a catalyst organisation, so we try very hard not to repeat ourselves or to duplicate what other people are doing in the city. For instance, we facilitated quite a few big street art and mural projects in the early days, but as lots of other organisations started doing street art, that’s not something we do any more. And we try to tap into citywide possibilities.

So for instance CCC has started sniffing around the possibility of adopting a local community currency (which we think would be great) so we’ve started doing some projects this year with an aim to explore and promote alternative economies. If we can get more people interested, it might help CCC get their much bigger project off the ground.

What one thing that Gap Filler has achieved are you most proud of?

Whenever I hear someone say that Gap Filler helped them feel like new things are possible here, I feel good.

More information

 

Best book covers of 2015 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but a title’s jacket performs an important role. It signals what is within, and it entices you to pick it from a shelf. Here’s my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of 2015:

#1 First to the top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris. This is a clever, cool picture book about Sir Edmund Hillary, and Phoebe’s illustrations are so crisp and character-filled I kept going back and looking again.  Find out more about Phoebe on the Penguin Random House website and visit Phoebe’s website.
Cover of First to the top

#2 Work by Sarah Jane Barnett. Why is it that books of poetry often have superfine covers? I don’t know, but this typographic beauty is so strong and potent, I can’t look away. Love that blast of yellow too. Find out more about Duncan Forbes’ cover design work on Sarah Jane Barnett’s blog.
Cover of Work

#3 For someone I love: A collection of writing by Arapera Hineira Blank. A joyously beautiful photo makes a brilliant book cover. This is Arapera Blank and her Swiss husband, photographer Pius Blank. Their son Anton Blank has more info on this selfie of his parents.
Cover of For Someone I love

Here are some more of my favourites:

New Zealanders

Plenty of titles make the most of New Zealand characters.

Cover of Zizz Cover of Stuff I forgot to tell my daughter Cover of Rugby Cover of James K. Baxter Cover of Busby Cover of Face to Face Cover of Visual memories Cover of Kahawai Cover of Real Modern Cover of Maurice Gee Cover of Hocken Cover of The Good Doctor Cover of In the hands of strangers Cover of The Invisible Mile

Poetry

Artful, creative, eye-pleasing – here are volumes of poetry that capture attention.

Cover of Wonky Optics Cover of Thuds underneath Cover of This must be the place Cover of Shaggy magpie songs Cover of Half Dark Cover of Jerusalem sonnets Cover of Miss Dust Cover of Dear Neil Roberts Cover of Being There Cover of Failed Love poems Cover of Trifecta

For kids

Here’s three bold covers, including a new picture book by Vasanti Unka.

Cover of Whiti te rā Cover of Stripes! No, Spots! Cover of Havoc

Colours and patterns

Striking uses of colour and texture make for standout covers.

Cover of In the neighbourhood of fame Cover of I have in my arms both ways Cover of The lives of colonial objects Cover of Democracy in New Zealand Cover of How to grow an addict

Special mention

BWB texts – The book design of these texts is plain, but much like Penguin Books there is virtue in that simplicity. This distinctive design signifies the quality thinking to be found within.

Cover of Generation Rent

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.

Te Kupu o Te Wiki – Pōtae (hat)

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori we are publishing weekly kupu (words) and phrases that can be used with children.

Whakatauki

Nāku te rourou nāu te rourou ka ora ai te iwi.
With your basket and my basket the people will live

Referring to co-operation and the combination of resources to get ahead. This proverb can be very useful and is often said.

Kīwaha (idiom)

Kua Māui tonu atu koe?
You think you are super human or something?

Kupu (word)

Pōtae
Hat

Tïkina tō pōtae.
Fetch your hat.

Whāngahia te Reo

This week in Christchurch history (7 to 13 December)

8 December 1843
Greenwood brothers (James and Joseph) settle at Purau, Lyttelton Harbour.

9 December 1867
Lyttelton railway tunnel was the first in the world to be drilled through a volcano rim. It was New Zealand’s first tunnel, and at the time was described as one of the longest in the world, yet had been planned and financed by this tiny colonial settlement whose population was just over 9000, (6,647 in Christchurch and 2,510 in Lyttelton.)

Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast].
Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast], [ca. 1875], CCL ATLMAPS ATL-Acc-3741
10 December 1989
Sunday trading begins in Christchurch.

11 December 1979
Completion of airport international arrivals terminal, stage 1 (arrival hall).

Cover of Douglas Lilburn12 December 1849
New Zealand Company agrees to reserve two and a half million acres as a site for the Canterbury settlement.

13 December 1942
Premiere in Christchurch of Landfall in Unknown Seas by Douglas Lilburn and Allen Curnow.

More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.