FESTA’s Canterbury Tales: Better living through puppetry

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey ChaucerOf weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow

I know enough, at eventide and morrow.
The Merchant, The Canterbury Tales

In a figurative sense, shoulders play an important role in our lives, with most of us at one point or another providing a shoulder on which to cry, or to lean. In more than one instance I have shouldered the blame and the burden, not to mention given out my fair share of cold shoulders and, on rare occasions, I have been known to put my shoulder to the grind.

It is only recently that I have taken on the role of a literal shoulder, which I will be doing this Labour Weekend as part of FESTA, the Festival of Transitional Architecture, which runs from 25th-28th October. FESTA is entering into its second year of making life in earthquake-damaged Christchurch exciting and vibrant by showcasing a wide variety of creative projects, with last year’s launch attracting 30,000 people back into the heart of a broken city still finding its bearings.

2012’s LUXCITY wowed residents and visitors alike with its wondrous light installations, and the centrepiece for 2013 also looks set to set many jaws agape in amazement. In an appropriately-appropriated re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, an epicly-sized representation of The Merchant, who will be controlled by nine puppeteers, flanked by a handful of less-epic-but-still-very-impressive friars, will lead an eye-popping procession through the city, beginning at the Bridge of Remembrance and finishing in the Square. And yours truly will be playing the role of The Merchant’s right shoulder, lest you thought my introduction was mere padding.

The details are far too delicious to divulge, but in my rehearsal with the Free Theatre team I have been getting to grips with the fine art of replicating lust, resignation, and frustration via the medium of a bamboo pole attached to a billowy shoulder, which ranks high in the list of sentences I never imagined I’d type.

Getting FESTA puppets ready Getting FESTA puppets ready Getting FESTA puppets ready

The Canterbury Tales procession will be in full swing on the evenings of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October from 8:30pm onwards. We entreat you all to don your best carnival costumes, bring a tambourine or some maracas, and join in the festivities to help us cast off the recent years of weeping, wailing, and other sorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy the following:

Getting FESTA puppets ready

Remember, and share

It is two years today since the devastating 22 February 2011 earthquake. One way many people cope is by recounting experiences. Here are some ways you can do that:

CoverYou can explore our resources:

We remember …

Something about dust
and ashes and how things
fall …

The Suitcase by Fiona Farrell, in The Broken Book

We remember with aroha those lost in the 22 February 2011 earthquake.
Arohanui to all who loved you.

Remember, and share

Working on the Bridge of RemembranceIn the shadow of the 22 February anniversary, here are some ways to remember, and to share your experiences:

  • Donate your earthquake story to Christchurch City Libraries.
  • View and contribute to Kete Christchurch. The kete wants to collect and preserve your Canterbury earthquake stories and pictures. And what happened next, and how some things have changed and some have remained the same.

You can explore our resources too:

Other places to share your stories, images and research:

We remember …

‘Perilous’, precious, this life, these lives, these deaths for which

we now all gather under the sky’s great cloak to mourn.

i.m. Victims of the Christchurch Earthquake, NZ,  22nd February 2011 – Jan Kemp
Words for Christchurch

Words for Christchurch on National Poetry Day

StencilIn March and April, we brought you Words for Christchurch from some wonderful New Zealand poets. Today is National Poetry Day – so take the chance to explore these poems in all their consoling, confronting poetic strength:

“When Mother Nature got one s***-kicking
surprise for you”
Words for Christchurch: Andrew Bell – That Tuesday

The age-old question
Words for Christchurch: Mark Pirie – Water

That’s what
he now remembers. A whole library
flying at him, to the thunder and slams
and hammers of hell.
Words for Christchurch: Kevin Ireland – A house in Christchurch

Will we leave Christchurch Cathedral’s spire as rubble or rebuild it
too as a sign, like the words: Monte Cassino, Gallipoli, Anzac, signs of what
we feel is and was our innocence abroad, …
Words for Christchurch: Jan Kemp – i.m. Victims of the Christchurch Earthquake, NZ,  22nd February 2011

we are naked in the doorway
we are shaking like leaves
we are up to our neck in it

scrabbling for a handhold calling –
Words for Christchurch: Mary McCallum – Earth

Anxiety is a hand held
trauma is hands and knees on the ground
Words for Christchurch: Emma Currie – State of Emergency

our islands have dived like dolphins below the sea time & time before: our hills are sea-carved our mountains jagged from upthrust -no steadfast footing anywhere nearby- just a sure blue light of certainty that I, as a dreamer, trust- we will continue living in these unsteady lands hoping & dying & helping & building -because we are human, because we must-
Words for Christchurch: Keri Hulme – Korure

Things go on
leaving. They go on because
they leave. A leaf falls over
itself, the very.
Words for Christchurch: David Howard – REMEMBER WE THEM WILL in memory of Rhys Brookbanks

Someone is picking a library book and someone is baking bread
Someone is making love and someone is poaching eggs
Words for Christchurch: Paula Green – February

Words for Christchurch: Andrew Bell

Andrew Bell was driving through central Christchurch when the February 22 quake hit. These are his Words for Christchurch:


Driving down Lichfield Street,
that banal, modern automaton achievement,
concentration supposedly on total road awareness, defensive driving
only, deep down, even cops would admit we’re
all over the place,
thinking about an apricot and chicken Panini
washed down with a
thought about the germination of a play
or was Roy (substitute any generic Euro/Pakeha name)
giving you the evil eye because you looked
at his missus just a little too long and lateral
or a million f****** other insignificances

When Mother Nature got one s***-kicking
surprise for you, Jack (or Roy if you’d rather)
and She gonna whip your ass with some p-wave
or s-wave or whatever-wave
and suddenly I thought I’d blown a back tyre,
but She was having none of it,
raining down masonry like it was a lolly scramble
of Death.

And I, a transplant in this city, a pseud
Southern Man,
weep to see it go down, to go down
on Kai Tahu, Pakeha, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese
and so on, not the Whitebread city it used to be,
not Skinhead Central,
going down, twisting in agony over Bridle Path,
writhing in pain through London Street
and the Square, not hip, Daddy-O,
but the heart of old, white squattocracy
torn out, that heart and
trampled underfoot.

We lost, we gained,
we waxed, we waned,
we came into the heart of what it means
to be human
and we were spat out by Papatuanuku
like seeds from a watermelon.

Words for Christchurch: Atka Reid and Hana Schofield

coverSisters Atka and Hana and their family were sponsored by a Christchurch family to move to Christchurch from war-torn Bosnia 18 years ago. They’ve written a book about their story, Goodbye Sarajevo, which will be published in early May by Bloomsbury UK. They sent these Words for Christchurch:

Christchurch has been home to our family.

When we first moved there from Bosnia it was the generosity and kindness of several Christchurch families that helped us through the tough times. We will always be grateful for that and Christchurch has a special place in our hearts.

We wrote Goodbye Sarajevo at the Christchurch Central Library. The book launch was scheduled to be in Christchurch next month, at Scorpio book shop, but due to the earthquake that’s been moved to Auckland. We do hope that once Scorpio is up and running again we will be able to celebrate the occasion with our Christchurch family and friends.

Our thoughts are with the people of Christchurch where most of our family still live. Our hearts go out to many people who have lost their loved ones, their homes and livelihoods and we hope that our story can give them a glimpse of hope and some comfort in these times of hardship. To quote one of the reviews:

Goodbye Sarajevo is a beautiful story that turns from sorrow to happiness, redemption, restoration. Goodbye Sarajevo shows that sometimes out of dire circumstances, new lives, new beginnings are possible.

Best wishes,
Atka and Hana

Words for Christchurch: Mark Pirie

Mark Pirie is a Wellington poet, editor and publisher who has a number of relatives living in Christchurch. He was saddened by the deaths of so many, especially fellow poet Rhys Brookbanks in the CTV building.  He wrote these Words for Christchurch.

WATER by Mark Pirie

For Mayor Bob Parker and the people of Christchurch

After the shaking
struck, Christchurch
was never the same.

Everywhere, people
rushed to help rescue
and remove the debris.

As if in a war zone
buildings crumbled,
collapsed, becoming

mere rubble. Businesses
and jobs lost. Lives taken.
Hearts broken in homes.

The age-old question
“Why?” Yet, the human
spirit began once more.

Students, farmers arrived
for the clean-up, the Mayor
helped restore the calm.

It could be weeks, maybe
months, but he was sure
they could rebuild, drink again.

Poem copyright Mark Pirie 2011

Words for Christchurch: Kevin Ireland

Acclaimed poet and novelist Kevin Ireland wrote these Words for Christchurch.

A house in Christchurch

The whole house fell around him.
First the books were flung across
the room, then the shelves splintered

and ripped apart. That’s what
he now remembers. A whole library
flying at him, to the thunder and slams

and hammers of hell. The quake had him
on strings as it jigged him outside
where next he watched windows, walls

and chimneys sway, split and pitch.
The curious thing is that for a moment
he saw the house take off into the sky

on a choking updraft of dust.
It seemed to levitate before
miraculously recasting itself as debris.

Cities are built to become
the rubble of another age.
As a connoisseur of ruins he comprehends

inexorable truth, yet he will never
bring himself to see why his house
should be among the first to go

or how his neighbours had to die.
He has always accepted that civilisations
have an end. But when

he was in Ephesus he did not witness
the old and gorgeous houses
being torn apart by devils

in veils of dust. He looked everywhere,
but did not see one brick topple
or a single book take flight.