Harry Giles: Doer of Things (WORD Christchurch event, Tues 13 March 7.30pm at Space Academy)

I must admit to some trepidation about reporting on a Poetry Reading. How does one describe a Poetry Reading to those that weren’t there? Even one by a flamboyant Scottish poet who has travelled halfway across the world.

Harry Josephine Giles originally came from the Orkney Islands but they did not elaborate from which island other than to tell us that their island had 700 people and six churches of various denominations. Obviously, a small island northeast of Scotland was never going to contain nor satisfy a restless, creative spirit like Harry’s so they headed for the big city and now reside in Edinburgh.

I vacillated on whether I should take notes, but I thought that would be a buzz kill when I was trying to listen and enjoy the poetry in the moment.

Harry started off reading some poems in English and then went on to read some in Scots. If you want to see what Scots poetry looks like, check out Whit tae write nou?

I profess ignorance and I have no excuse since I am descended from Scots, but I was unaware that three languages were spoken in Scotland as Harry enlightened us. I knew they spoke English (the language of their colonisers) and Scots Gaelic (related to the other Celtic dialects of Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany), but I hadn’t considered Scots as a separate language. I’d thought of it as a variation of English. But Harry put us straight, explaining that Scots has those Norse origins that English shares.

Harry kindly read their Scots versions of poems then followed with the English translation, so to speak.

Although tired after their whirlwind tour of Aotearoa (nine gigs in seven days in New Plymouth and Wellington), Harry gave an energetic performance. It was easy to see that Harry works in the performance and theatre arenas because they enlivened their poetry with modulations of their voice and gestures. Harry has a beguiling shyness that peeps out from time to time.

Harry read a small series of poems in which they had engendered their fears and anxieties through the persona of a female military drone. You can hear some of the sequence on Soundcloud.

Harry was introduced by Ray Shipley who is a Christchurch-based poet, comedian, youth worker and founder of the Faultline Poetry Collective. Ray made an able MC and general crowd-exciter, but Harry had the audience engaged from their first poem and many of us were sad to bid Harry farewell after only an hour and a half.

More Harry Giles

Have your say on the Long Term Plan 2018-28

Every three years, the Christchurch City Council reviews their 10-year plan. It is your chance to share your views on how best to manage the infrastructure and services that make Christchurch work.

You can read the Long Term Plan documents online. If you want to read the paper copies, libraries and service desks have them available.

Find out more:

Have we got the priorities right? Newsline

Happy Pride! Christchurch Pride Week – 15 to 24 March

It’s nearly Pride Week! Lasting a little bit longer than an actual week, starting Thursday 15 March, Pride Week is a celebration of sexuality- and gender-diverse folks in Ōtautahi, and it’ll feature allsorts, from parties to seminars, art shows to dog walking. The rainbow flag will fly at the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices from 15 to 25 March.

However, pride celebrations have pretty sombre beginnings. The first pride marches in the USA were protests against the mistreatment and discrimination of LGBT+ people by the police, public services, and the law. As rainbow communities have largely seen great leaps forward in these areas over the past 40-50 years, these pride events focus more and more on celebrating diverse identities – but it’s important to take a moment to remember that there is still a struggle; that people are still being discriminated against because of their sexuality or their gender identity, both close to home, and globally.

Find out more about Christchurch Pride:

Pride Picks

Here’s my top 3 pride events you should check out happening in Ōtautahi in the coming weeks:

QCanterbury Quiz Night

I have a slight bias towards this event because I’m the MC! But who doesn’t like a quiz??
Friday 23 March 7pm to 10pm, The Foundry, 90 Ilam Road

Art Show

Christchurch Pride has started with an Art Show for a few years now, and it’s always a good night, with lots of mingling and snacks! Plus there’s an opportunity to buy some new artwork and support local LGBT+ artists at the same time. Thursday 15 March 5pm to 8pm, Windsor Gallery, 386 St Asaph Street

Bingo Fundraiser

I’ve been along to this event in previous years, and it is ridiculous fun. With all proceeds going towards a local youth support group, and the chance to win some fabulous prizes, it’s well worth it…who knew bingo could be so much fun?! Tuesday 20 March 7pm to 10pm.  Sixty6 On Peterborough, Christchurch Casino

More Pride

If this is a topic you’d like to learn more about, the library has some great reading/viewing material! Here’s some of the things I’ve enjoyed recently:

CoverQueer: A Graphic History  Meg John Baker and Julie Scheele – A non-fiction graphic novel style book delving into the history and key milestones of LGBT+ rights, as well as an introduction to queer theory. Engaging and witty and fun to read!

CoverPride – a film with all your favourite British actors about an unlikely partnership between gay and lesbian activists and striking miners in Wales.

Milk – a beautiful and heartbreaking film about Harvey Milk, an openly gay politician and activist in San Francisco in the 70s.
CoverThe library has a book about Harvey – and an opera.

CoverTomboy Survival Guide – Ivan Coyote – Brilliant, funny, serious, adventurous stories about growing up in rural Canada and navigating gender and sexuality.

Read our blog posts about Ivan, and Look up Ivan on YouTube too! They’re an incredible live storyteller.

Of course, there’s a never ending list of books and films to read and watch that explore what it means to be sexuality- and gender-diverse from a range of different cultural perspectives – Why not introduce yourself to something new this Pride Week?

Regardless of your orientation or identity, pride is a time to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion – a good reminder to have a look at your workplaces and community spaces and check they are inclusive and welcoming environments; or educate yourself on some new language or ideas within the rainbow community; find out what is going on for rainbow communities in other parts of the world; and, most importantly, check in with LGBT+ people in your life and remind them that they are loved.

Happy Pride!


Victoria Square reopens – Friday 9 March 2018

Today Victoria Square has reopened. It has been closed for a year, having a revamp and repairs.

What’s new:

  • New pieces of art have been added including Ngā Whāriki Manaaki – Woven mats of welcome, and a Literary Trail (series of text sculptures).
  • The Bowker Fountain will be working again and will put on a water and light display.

Here’s what Victoria Square looked like this morning:

Find out more about Victoria Square

Podcast – Art and social responsibility

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

The role of art and artists in raising awareness of social and political issues – show recorded live at Christchurch’s CoCA (Centre of Contemporary Art) with artist Ruth Watson (whose exhibition Geophagy prompted the topic), art curator Jennifer Shields, socialist feminist Sionainn Byrnes and environmental activist Alice Ridley of Saikuru.

Topics covered include:

  • Setting the scene: The Geophagy exhibition
  • What is and who holds social responsibility?
  • Limits to the influence of art – art within the gallery or in the public sphere
  • Corporations and sponsoring art
  • How can art encourage social responsibility?

Transcript – Art and social responsibility

Find out more in our collection

Cover of The conscience economy: How A Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business Cover of The responsibility revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win Cover of Slow fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics Cover of Ethics and the Consumer Cover of Clothing poverty Cover of Dying for a bargain Ecopreneuring Cover of Sustainability made simple

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Dip your pen in your own psyche: An interview with Francis Spufford (WORD Christchurch event, Weds 7 March 7pm)

WORD Christchurch is bringing Francis Spufford to Christchurch, next Wednesday 7 March, 7pm at the salubrious venue of The Piano. Francis is in New Zealand as a guest of New Zealand Festival Writers and Readers. He has written seven books, on topics as diverse as science, history, theology, and politics. The Child That Books Built was a love letter to literature, and his first novel Golden Hill won the Costa Award for Best First Novel – it’s “a rollicking, suspenseful tale set in mid-18th century Manhattan, the novel pays loving tribute to the literature of that era”. Francis Spufford appears in conversation with Chris Moore.



Joyce is heading along to the session, and asked Francis some choice questions:

I read in a previous interview that you wished you’d had the gumption to write fiction earlier in your career. What held you back? And did you ever feel pigeon-holed by your publishers and readers?

The short answer is cowardice. I was and am a great believer in the scope for non-fiction to do adventurous things, revealing things. I never felt pigeon-holed or limited by non-fiction. But still, it seems to me that fiction draws much more directly on the writer’s understanding of human character and human behaviour. When you write a novel, you dip your pen in your own psyche, inevitably. You have to. And for a long time I was afraid that I didn’t know enough to write imaginary people without making a fool of myself.

The sex scene in Golden Hill was particularly squelchy, torrid and memorable! Traumatising as a reader, how on earth did you manage to conceive the scene and write it?!

Good! I wanted it to be clear that both parties were doing something completely disastrous, carried away by different kinds of fear: but which was very pleasurable to them both in the moment, in a greedy kind of way. I wanted the reader to be peeking through their fingers going ‘No! No!’ yet also feeling the gross turn-on of what they were doing. And to this I could bring the pre-Victorian novel’s ability to be a lot lewder than you were expecting, complicated by the grossness being channeled through a very book-dependent narrator who, though mischievous, is really not enjoying themselves at this point. That’s about six literary ambitions for one episode of torrid squelching.

I loved the contrariness, passion and conviction of your youthful characters, especially juxtaposed with the complacency and corruption of New York’s elder figures. Do you see that generational gulf in action in modern society too?

Isn’t it permanent that youth is contrary and passionate and idealistic, and age is complacent and corrupt? (Or at least corrupt-seeming to young people.) Having said that, I do think this is a moment in history when, in the U.K. and the US at least, the fears and the weaknesses of the middle-aged and the old really have led us into stupidities at which young people are rightly gazing with horror – because they’re stupidities at their expense, at the expense of the future. As a fifty-something writer I enjoyed getting to be, temporarily, twenty four-year-old Mr Smith and nineteen-year-old Tabitha.

Golden Hill portrays a young New York and embryonic America, with considerably more time passed do you see the USA as a successful society?

I think America grew up into a reservoir of idealism and principle which the world needs, and has benefited by incalculably. But I think that contemporary America, like the embryonic America Mr Smith visits, is also a culture which is not very self-knowing: a place which, to a dangerous degree, contrives to forget the darkness which has always been the flip side of its virtues.

Quickfire Questions!

Last time you cried?

While watching *Coco* at the cinema.

Book you wish you’d written?

Marilynne Robinson’s GILEAD.

Favourite biscuit?

I’m a slut for the chocolatey ones.

Describe the role of public libraries in 5 words

Portals to past, present [and] future.

Thanks, Francis!


Podcast – Euthanasia

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Euthanasia: It’s one of those topics that people seem to have an opinion on, whether they support it, don’t support it, or remain resolutely undecided. As New Zealand debates ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill (the closing date for submissions is midnight on Tuesday, 06 March 2018), hear from advocates both for and against euthanasia and assisted dying.

Voices against euthanasia and assisted dying
– Jane Silloway Smith (Director, Every Life Research Unit): Overview
– Richard McLeod (Principal, McLeod and Associates): Legal arguments
– Dr Amanda Landers (Immediate Past Chair, Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine): Medical arguments
– Nuk Korako (National List MP, Port Hills): A Māori perspective

Voices for euthanasia and assisted dying
– Maryan Street (President, End-of-Life Choice Society NZ): Overview
– Andrew Butler (Litigation Partner, Russell McVeagh): Legal arguments
– Matt Vickers (husband of campaigner Lecretia Seales): Personal story

Transcript – Euthanasia

Find out more in our collection

Cover of Assisted dying Cover of A good way to go Cover of A good death Cover of The quality of mercy Cover of -- to Die Like A Dog Cover of Lecretia's Choice Cover of To cry inside Cover of Before we say goodbye Cover of Unbroken trust Cover of Fighting for dear life Cover of Death talk

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

22 February 2011 / 22 February 2018 – Remembering

Seven years ago Christchurch was hit by an earthquake that killed 185 people. It’s a sad anniversary, and sometimes it is hard to know how – or where – to commemorate it. For the last seven years, my way has been to walk and think and take some photos.  This morning I visited the former CTV site on the corner of Cashel and Madras Street. Ōtākaro Limited has landscaped the site, and it opened to the public today.

Sign at the Former CTV site
Sign at the Former CTV site. Thursday 22 February 2018. Flickr Former CTV site #IMG_6489

Diagonally across the road, is the 185 empty chairs installation by Peter Majendie.  This is an artwork that rends your heart. I’ve only be able to stand near it, and somehow felt the chairs were sacred. But today, Peter and some helpers were cleaning the rain and water off the chairs so I joined in and helped. It felt profound.

File reference: 185 chairs #IMG_6501
185 empty chairs, Flickr 185 chairs #IMG_6501

See photos from the former CTV site and the 185 chairs.

We have a list of commemorative events on today, and places that you might like to visit: Thursday 22 February 2018 – Earthquake Commemorations.

Wherever you are, whatever you feel, however you choose to reflect – you are not alone. Arohanui, Ōtautahi.

Find out more:

Good advice from All Right?:


Thursday 22 February 2018 – Earthquake Commemorations

The seventh anniversary of the 22 February 2011 quake is on this Thursday 22 February. There are places where the community can come together to reflect, and remember.


Service at the Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial

The seventh anniversary of the 22 February Canterbury Earthquake will be marked with a public Civic Service at the Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial site. The service will begin at 12:30pm at the Memorial site on the corner of Montreal Street and Cambridge Terrace. The service is expected to take around 45 minutes, followed by the opportunity to lay floral tributes at the Memorial Wall across the river. It will be livestreamed on the Christchurch City Council website for those who can’t be there.

View the Public Civic Canterbury Earthquake Memorial Service livestream, from 12.30pm, Thursday 22 February:

Find out more:

Oi Manawa Canterbury National Earthquake Memorial
Oi Manawa Canterbury National Earthquake Memorial. Flickr 2017-02-22-IMG_8702

River of Flowers Earthquake Commemorations on 22 February

Flowers on the Avon, River Road, Flickr CCL-2012-02-22-IMG_1173
Flowers on the Avon, River Road, Flickr CCL-2012-02-22-IMG_1173

Community groups come together to commemorate, remember, console, update and look to the future. All welcome at any of the five sites this year:

  • Otautahi The Bricks hosted by Avon Loop Res Assoc.
  • Medway ‘Bridge’ supported by Avebury House and Avon-Ōtākaro Network
  • Wainoni/Avonside at Wainoni Avonside Community Services
  • Avondale/Burwood by Burwood Christian Centre
  • Moncks Bay at the Christchurch Yacht Club

The sites will be hosted between 12.30 and 1.30pm, Bring a flower to drop in the river.

Find out more:

Information from the River of Flowers page on Facebook.

The former CTV site – a “peaceful and reflective memorial to those who lost their lives”

Ōtākaro Limited reports that the landscaped former site of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building will be open to the public from 22 February.

Read The Press article: CTV site work on track for completion before February 22 Christchurch earthquake anniversary

The site is now owned by Crown development company Ōtākaro, which has been working since October to turn the space into a peaceful and reflective memorial to those who lost their lives.

185 Chairs – Earthquake Remembrance Art Installation

Some people find this a place of contemplation and remembrance. The 185 chairs installation was created by artist Peter Majendie and is currently located on the corner of Madras and Cashel Streets.

185 white chairs - Madras Street
185 chairs. Flickr 2017-02-22-IMG_8626

Earthquakes and Butterflies – Theatre of Transformation (22 to 25 February at the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral)

Earthquakes and Butterflies is an exciting professional theatre piece directed by Helen  Moran, shaped from the life stories of a cluster of people whose lives crisscross like the fault  lines under the city. Based on the novel by Kathleen Gallagher, Earthquakes & Butterflies is full of hope, humour and tenderness – strangers help unasked, generosity is freely given and shelter is for sharing.

Find out more about performances and tickets.

Our community remember the 22 February 2011 earthquake in a number of ways – by visiting a particular place, or by having a moment of silence and remembrance. We share that reflection together, wherever we are.

Big little books – The BWB Texts Collection

The last book I got out of the library was huge a whopping 800 pages. It was a little daunting and I wondered it would be easier to read if it was a series of smaller books. Bridget Williams has a great series of little books called the BWB Texts Collection. There are some seriously good reads in this collection and all of them are short. There are some great short memoirs, and other interesting topics like combining motherhood and politics, and the Australia vs New Zealand debate.

BWB Texts are available in book and eBook format.

There are even big little books with local flavour. With the seventh anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake coming up, there are some great books on Christchurch and analysis of the earthquake – or find out why Christchurch was once nicknamed Cyclopolis.

As well as the BWB Texts Collection. Bridget Williams Books has these other great New Zealand eBook collections: