It is 70 years since Mabel Howard (1894 – 1972) became New Zealand’s first woman Cabinet Minister. She first entered Parliament in 1943, after winning the Christchurch East by-election on 6 February. In 1946, she won in the newly-formed electorate of Sydenham. In May 1947, Mabel was voted into Cabinet by the Labour caucus, on the death of Dan Sullivan.
A memorable moment in NZ political (and social) history is Mabel holding up bloomers. This was part of a debate in Parliament, to demonstrate variation in clothing sizes.
Jim McAloon’s biography of Mabel in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography details her interesting life and career. She came into politics via the union movement, and working with her MP father Ted Howard.
Mabel was a Christchurch City councillor for a number of terms: 1933-1935, 1938-1941, 1950-1959, 1963-1968.
Mabel was a colourful character. There are fab Mabel photo ops you can see on DigitalNZ. She was bullish, efficient, conscientious, determined, and hard-working. Her life and career demonstrate her ongoing concern with women’s rights, equal pay, consumer protection, and social welfare. She was a fighter. A trail-blazer.
Mabel Howard Women in the Council Chamber Christchurch City Council
This brief political biography originally featured in an Our City O-Tautahi exhibition from 19 – 30 September 2006, featuring Christchurch’s own “Women in the Council Chamber”, initiated and co-ordinated by Cr Anna Crighton.
BIRD + YOUNG sounds like a firm purveying fancy jewellery. But for Hera Lindsay Bird (poet) and Ashleigh Young (poet, writer, editor), it is words and ideas that are the things they are making and selling. This WORD Christchurch event at the Christchurch Art Gallery auditorium was introduced by WORD’s programme director Rachael King and chaired by Amy Marr, the Visitor Programmes Coordinator of the Art Gallery.
Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet whose works have pretty much gone viral – you might have read the one about Monica from Friends, and that Keats one – everywhere, BAM! Ashleigh Young is a poet and writer who recently became the first New Zealander to win Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize, worth US$165,000 (NZ$230,000), for her collection of raw, real, beautifully honest essays, Can you tolerate this? Their books are both on the shortlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
It was a soggy evening, but that didn’t deter the crowd. It was full to the gunnels.
How do they get time to write when they work full time (Hera at Unity Books, Ashleigh at Victoria University Press)? It ain’t easy, but great employers help. Hera gets a paid day off each week. Ashleigh’s boss has offered time off for writing, while keeping her job open.
What followed was a discussion that ranged widely – from influences, to the IIML, sexy stuff, humour, and processes – with a good amount of Q&A time (surprise fact: lots of questions asked by men). Here’s some of the things we learned:
Ashleigh edited Hera Lindsay Bird’s book which she said required barely a single change. She read the manuscript on the floor, weeping and cackling.
Hera enjoys reading crime fiction, humour, and heaps of poetry. She’s currently reading the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend.
Ashleigh has lots of self help books concealed on her Kindle.
Ashleigh said she can’t remember not wanting to write (but always knew she’s need a day job to pay the bills)
Hera’s parents had star charts – not for good behaviour but for writing, and she would get paid to write poems. She wondered if her Coromandel hippy parents fancied her as the next Laura Ranger (remember Laura’s Poems?)
Hera feels the support of her family and knows that even if she writes something explicit, her Dad will be chill with it.
If you are at all into thrillers, you have probably heard of this New York Times bestselling author of Orphan X and its sequel The Nowhere Man.
But did you know his skills extend way beyond the crime genre? He’s also a Shakespeare-tragedy scholar and a writer of comic books. Gregg will be interviewed by local crime reviewer Ken Strongman. After the talk, there will be an audience Q & A and book signing, with books available to purchase on the night. Book your tickets now.
Gregg has a contract for three more Orphan X novels, and Bradley Cooper’s production company has picked up the film rights. Gregg has experience writing for television, so he is on screenwriter duties for this movie adaptation.
I asked my Dad – who is thriller and crime buff – a few questions about Gregg:
You’ve read books by Gregg. Tell me a bit about them.
As mentioned I have read three of Gregg’s books over the past year. My first taste was Don’t Look Back about a year ago. A great story about a single mother on an adventure tour group to Mexico, concerns over being trapped by a dangerous predator and secrets wanting to get safely back home to her son. Great “edge of the seat” stuff to keep you glued to the pages.
I then noticed the highly acclaimed Orphan X which I read next a few weeks later. Evan Smoak is the man. Taken from a group home and trained in undercover operations it has more potential thrills, twist and turns you think you could handle. It is no surprise Bradley Cooper is signed up for the movie.
I was hooked by now, so read one more of Gregg’s books to confirm my theory. I read Tell no Lies in May of last year and this one was based in San Francisco, a counsellor with ex cons and suddenly anonymous threats from a killer. No rest again as the action is maintained.
He is bleeding good, one of my favourites.
What are the best things about his writing?
The joy of his books is the immense variety, realism yet excitingly dangerous and ever changing scenarios. Some people may only like to read them during the day as those noises from inside your house could be the precursor to something evil.
Are you keen to see him in person? What would you ask him?
If I happened to meet Greg my question would be how hard is it to switch from comic book to a serious badass thriller.
I confess I didn’t read all of the books in my eyewateringly large pile of holiday reads. But I accidentally went all #AotearoaReads and it was ACE.
First up, I finished Can you tolerate this? Personal essays by Ashleigh Young. She tells stories about her family and relationships, but also little histories that have captured her imagination – a boy with a rare skeletal disease, a French postman and his project with stones. This combination of the personal and something more expansive (in both space and time) is a winner. I gave this book to my little sister at Christmas time, and she has whisked it away to London (where today it is snowing). She’s going to love it.
Editors Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew have again created a brilliant buffet of thoughts and words. You can dip in anywhere and read something that’ll grip you to the last full stop. It’s joyously diverse in topic – kererū, Rugby World Cups, tikanga, Hudson and Halls. It is also geographically varied. The stories are not just set in Aotearoa but range from London to Iceland as well as Kiwi locales like Poplar Avenue and Ashdown Place.
Tell you what reminds me of listening to Radio New Zealand. You’ll find yourself deeply immersed in something you never knew about, and didn’t know you were interested in. That’s magic.
2016 has seen the publication of a bunch of great and interesting New Zealand books, with plenty of strikingly attractive covers. Here are my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of the year:
Number one is Mansfield and me: A graphic memoir by Sarah Laing, published by Victoria University Press. The cover, as drawn by Sarah, is a thing of beauty. It also draws you into the compelling counterpointing of Sarah and Katherine Mansfield – the very heart of the book.
Here’s what Sarah had to say about her cover design:
It’s quite a different proposition designing your own book cover as opposed to designing for others. I had a couple of other options but it was pretty easy to settle on the one I liked the most. I took Mansfield’s profile from a famous 1915 photograph, and tried to draw my own to match it. I wanted to echo the vase/profile illusion, and also to have us facing each other, when, in so much of the book, our stories run in parallel. Later in the book, Katherine and I share a cup of coffee, and I used to print from my coffee cup as a motif in the background.
Well, for my second book, I asked Elliot Elam to draw me a picture, though I didn’t know what the picture should be … Maybe more importantly, a stranger is picked out of the anonymous crowd and made knowable. Without getting too lofty… in a way that’s what I wanted to do with this book of essays: attempt an impression of things that otherwise would have rushed by.
Ashleigh Young [my editor] has a friend called Russell Kleyn who is a really great photographer and she set me up with him. I had quite a different idea; I have quite a funny portrait of myself and I wanted a really Dorian Gray thing, where there was a portrait of me holding a dorky portrait of myself, but it actually didn’t turn out that well.
He saw this yellow raincoat in this weird attic I was living in and he just wanted to take a few photos of that, so it was kind of a random shot. But I really like the way it turned out and that it obscures my face. What I told him was that I kind of wanted [it to have] an Yvonne Todd vibe about it – feminine but also a bit creepy and off.
Fergus Barrowman, VUP publishers comments on the triple victory:
The books make the covers (that is, if the books weren’t great and successful no one would be noticing the covers); all three were ferociously art-directed by the authors with only gentle pressure from the publisher.
So my three picks for best book covers also happen to be books I loved inside and out. They also are all published by Victoria University Press. So I think I can officially say it – VUP gives good cover. They have cannily produced postcards to show off them fine looking jackets. Next stop, VUP badges and tshirts??
A Christchurch book that deserves a special mention is a picture book produced by C1Espresso, and edited by owners Sam and Fleur Crofskey. Let’s take a walk looks at Christchurch places before and after the earthquakes. It was written by Nicole Phillipson, and the exquisite illustrations are by Hannah Beehre. The design and layout – with all its fascinating fold outs – is by Alec Bathgate & Tahlia Briggs.
The cover of the Gecko annual is a zingy orange red with a dash of gold on the cover. But it’s the contents that are a symphony of beaut design work. Have a look at Kim’s blog post for some pics from inside the annual. It’s a stunner.
Take part in Scorpio Books Lit Quiz (fingers crossed for a respectable showing).
Get the kid along to a Children’s illustration workshop to hone her My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls drawing skills.
Hear Mr Yipadee in action at South City Paper Plus.
And of course enter all the comps with the goal of winning books and/or book tokens.
Christchurch events and competitions for NZ Bookshop Day
Here are some of the competitions and Christchurch events as listed on the Booksellers NZ website:
Favourite book photo competition
Take a photo of your favourite book in an inspired location, post it on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtags #scorpiobooks and #nzbookshopday to win a $200 Scorpio Books voucher. Entries close on 31 October, winner announced 5 November.
12 favourite books for only $12 each on NZ Bookshop Day
Scorpio staff have gathered together 12 of their favourite books and for a special deal on NZ Bookshop Day, they will be $12 each. In store only. While stocks last.
Books in Schools
Make a purchase at Scorpio Books on NZ Bookshop Day and choose a Christchurch school to receive 15% of your purchase to spend on books of their choice!
Children’s Illustration Workshop – Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford Street
A free workshop on Children’s Illustration with Lynne McAra, the illustrator of Toby Goes To Grandma’s and Toby Goes Cycling. 2:30pm – 4pm. Suitable for ages 6 – 12. Limited spaces available, to book a space email: email@example.com
Scorpio Lit Quiz – Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford Street
Hosted by Joe Bennett. Bring a team of up to 5 people to test your literary knowledge. $60 per table. 7pm. Spot prizes, drinks and nibbles provided. Limited spaces available. Purchase your table from Hereford St or phone 377 8462.
Readings from our Favourite Books – Scorpio Books, 113 Riccarton Road
Local authors share and read from their favourite books, in conversation with Chris Moore.
Browse and listen to all time favourite stories. 10am-4pm
Join illustrators Jenny Cooper and Helen Taylor instore between 11.00 and 1.00. Storytelling with Zac McCallum at 2.30pm. Spot prizes for the best costumes, download colouring competitions from the website.
Mr Yipadee, a best-selling Kiwi children’s musician and author, making it big in the UK. His songs have messages of positivity and FUN and children LOVE him. He is coming home to help promote his new book Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells, and will be singing a few songs and signing books. He will appear at the following Paper Plus stores:
FESTA is a “biennial weekend celebration of urban creativity” and one of the coolest events on Ōtautahi’s calendar. It is on this Labour weekend, kicking off with the SuperWOW disco at the Dance-o-mat on Friday 21 October, and ending with PechaKucha on Monday 24 October at 7.30pm. The unmissable big event is Lean Means on Saturday 22 October.
I had a chat to FESTA’s director Jessica Halliday to get a flavour of FESTA 2016.
What is FESTA?
It is about creating a collective positive experience for the people of Christchurch and visitors.
FESTA helps people reconnect to the central city, to rebuild that severed relationship. A big street party is a positive experience, and connects them with places that are regenerating. It catalyses changes in architecture and design. The collective making of a big project like this is a microcosm of the cooperative way we can work together.
What’s on at FESTA 2016
Lean Means is on Saturday 22 October, and is the biggest event of FESTA with 10,000 to 15,000 people expected. There will be 18 projects to experience. The tallest is around 6 metres and most are about 4 metres. Some will be integrated into existing structures.
There is a full programme of events with a lot of workshops, speakers, and a symposium on the resuse of materials (organised by Rekindle working with Objectspace), and a session with artist Hannah Beehre on drawing Christchurch architecture. Events for kids include creative junk and mutant monster workshops.
If you want to experience a Human Library, Talking Books and Freerange Press bring together a collection of passionate experts on a range of topics including the state of the city,music, and brewing beer. You can book a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book.
Utilising waste streams – Sustainability, Re-use
Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam is a specialist in urban installations and interventions and the creative director of FESTA 2016. He developed the concept, visited, and gave lectures and design workshops, and also met with New Zealand and Australian studios. The idea is to get a brief and a budget, then look for waste materials in the vicinity to be reused. Using such materials requires a lot of research.
The materials for Lean Means are lightweight – plastics, cardboard, bottles, post-consumer plastic bags and are local to the studios. The pavilion for the Ōtākaro Orchard is made of hundreds of metres of frost cloth from the Big Barn in Sydney – it can come over easily on the plane with the students as it’s so light.
Re-use is part of what FESTA is now. Students were re-using stuff anyway, with one of 2014’s projects using plastic bottle rejects on their way to China for recycling. They went on to be recycled after appearing at FESTA CityUps.
FESTA closes the loop with connections back to sustainability all the way through. Cassels will be there, and they are working on cleaning up the Heathcote, and Punky Brewster have a focus on reducing water in beer sales. There will be a second hand market with upcycled things for sale.
We are trying as best as we can to make it consistent.
Art and architecture
CreativeNZ funding has enabled three artists from three different disciplines to be involved: Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, artist Julia Morison and movement artist Julia Harvie.
Julia Morison has been integrated into a team from Massey University, School of Design at the College of Creative Arts. Her philosophy is that art shouldn’t be a “brooch pinned on at the end”, and that artists should be involved in informing the development of projects.
Moving artist Julia Harvie will suspending herself of the COCA gallery gantry and weave herself a nest from coppiced hazel shoots. The performance teases out ideas of making a city that nurtures children, and what parents can do to influence the creation of that environment.
Help FESTA transform Christchurch by supporting Lean Means, and share in a positive reimagining of the city – full of lights, colours and people. This Labour Weekend, we will transform central Christchurch with a large-scale reimagined city called Lean Means, live for one night only, free and open to all, on Saturday 22 October.
FESTA 2014 – CityUps
FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales
FESTA 2012 – LuxCity
Libraries and reading
As a kid, Jessica went every week to Hornby Library. Her main preoccupations were:
The lucky winner was Jorja who came along with Casey, Zac (librarian at Halswell School), and me. Jorja also scored a signed copy of Andy’s newest book The 78-storey treehouse (Kia ora Macmillan!)
Jorja’s question was:
What was your inspiration to start writing books?
Andy talked about his time as an English teacher. His students didn’t like books much, so they started making up stories, then photocopying copies and leaving them in other classrooms and the library. Even earlier, as a schoolkid, he drew cartoons for all his friends.
One of the books that inspired him was at his Nana’s place. Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter featured scary stories like a girl setting her dress on fire by playing with matches. The stories were funny and totally over the top. His Very Bad Book is based on that book and in it kids do really dangerous things, and their parents give permission … Baaaad parents!
At first the stories did seem weird – but people didn’t realise how weird their senses of humour are! Andy writes with the philosophy “I think this is funny – hopefully lots of people agree with me”.
I am interested in unusual ways of looking at things.
Advice for young writers
I’ve never personally eaten a dead fly.
But someone’s dog did just that during a piano lesson, so it slipped into one of Andy’s stories. “Little details are really fun”.
His top tips for aspiring writers:
Read a lot of books.
Get your own notebook and write in each day. 3 to 4 minutes, then build up to hours. It’s the same as training for a sport. Practice!
Write out chapters of books that you love. This will give you insight into how a story is made. Imitate – get better at making it up.
Learn to touch type.
Andy has a collection of first lines and reckons a lot of work goes into the first line. Except in the Treehouse, where it’s always Andy addressing the audience. A bit like Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton.
Andy’s a fan of Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne – a black page, a white page, a marbled page … and as Jorja found out – a BLAM! and a KABLAM! page.
Thanks to all of you who entered, and all the Mums, Dads, caregivers and teachers who helped. There were so many great entries – here are some questions you had for Andy Griffiths:
Did you have a tree house when you were a kid?
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to an 8 year old boy that loves to write?
Hello, my son Thomas would ask Andy Griffith if he could tell us about any tree house stories there will be in the 91 storey tree house. His idea is to have a bungy jumping level at the top of the tree : )
My seven year old daughter would ask how old he is. I would ask if he liked to write stories at school and what did the teachers think of them?
My son Freddie would ask why is your sense of Humour so weird? Lol I would ask him at what age did he realise he wanted to be an author or at least thought about it and what a fab movie his books would makes.
My question for Andy would be: if you hadn’t become an author, what other career would you have chosen?
“will there be a 91-Storey Treehouse?”
(He pestered the book store daily while waiting for the 78-Storey Treehouse to arrive!) Mac
I have read all your bad and treehouse books! You are very naughty, but I do have a question! Why do you always use the number 13 in your treehouse books?
How come you involve Jill Griffiths but not your daughters? (:
with great respect, osher
My question is Have you ever actually made a treehouse, and if you have what was in it?
I would ask Andy if he would add a slide to his treehouse that could take you to different countries.
I would ask Andy if he would extend his treehouse to have a level to attract aliens so we could study them and have marshmallow eating competitions.
To Mr Andy Griffiths:
You write great stories but are you any good at drawing?
aNdy, is all your stuff in your books real? tHomas aged 10
tHis is the best I could get out of Thomas, he is reading so his nose is in his pile of books. mUm and Dad have the tv muted, peace and quiet. his friend Alex has your latest book.
Elsie (8 years old-budding author)…..wants to know” What is it like to be an author?”
On 19 September 1893 women in New Zealand got the vote. Campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard, had fought for years for Māori and Pakeha women’s suffrage.
The Press editorial on 20 September 1893 stated:
We believe that a very large number of women do not desire to vote. 
Election day was Tuesday 28 November 1893. The Press reported:
The pretty dresses of the ladies and their smiling faces lighted up the polling booths most wonderfully, and one envied the returning officer and poll clerks whose duty it was to pass in review such a galaxy of beauty.
About 10,000 Christchurch women voted, with only a few incidents:
At the Provincial Council Chamber some peculiar scenes took place. In one instance a man and his wife and daughter came to vote. The man first wished to go into the recess to instruct his wife how to vote. The poll clerks removed him. Then he went into where his daughter was recording her vote and wished to instruct her. This also he was prevented from doing much to his chagrin.
40 years later the first woman was elected into the New Zealand Parliament. Christchurch woman Elizabeth McCombs had been heavily involved in working for the community. She won the Lyttelton seat in a by-election September 1933, after the death of her husband James. She held the seat until her death in June 1935. 
100 years after women got the vote, the Kate Sheppard National Memorial was unveiled by Governor-General Dame Catherine Tizard. The words on the Memorial end with the words of The White Ribbon editor, Nelly Perryman, from 1918:
We, the mothers of the present need to impress upon our children’s minds how the women of the past wrestled and fought, suffered and wept, prayed and believed, agonised and won for them the freedom they enjoy today.
This feature was first published in our quarterly magazine, uncover – huraina. It is our newest channel to help you explore and celebrate the resources, content, events, programmes and people of Christchurch City Libraries, Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi.