It’s all go portside at the moment, as we at Lyttelton Library watch the repairs proceeding apace from our temporary perch up the hill in the Recreation Centre’s Trinity Hall on Winchester Street. The in-progress library now has a dashing white coat of paint (goodbye pink!), lovely new double-glazed windows, and a smart new resident outside…
This gorgeous bronze sled dog, nicknamed Hector, was sculpted by Mark Whyte and stands guard by what will be our new customer entrance. He’s looking towards Quail Island, where his real-life predecessors were housed and trained. Hector is there to recognise and celebrate Lyttelton’s contribution to exploration in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and he symbolises the courage, commitment and comradeship of all those involved. (He’s also a hit with local kids and tourists – it seems the thing to do is have your selfie taken with Hector wearing your sunglasses!)
Meanwhile, inside the library, the new spaces are starting to take shape. Here are a few shots of the work in progress:
We’re enjoying our current sojourn in sunny Trinity Hall (particularly with Jenny the giraffe watching over everything) and looking forward to next year, when we’ll be back in the heart of things (and the Saturday market) again!
Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008. The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.
When it comes to city-building and urban planning people in Christchurch have more to say about this than they ever have. We’re at a crucial point in our recovery where most of the old that will go has and we’re getting a clearer and clearer idea of what the new will actually be like. It’s an in-between place, a liminal place, and not necessarily a comfortable place.
So picking the brains of experts in the field of governance, sustainability and city planning seems like a good idea. Sure, we might all have opinions about how to make a city that offers a better life for its inhabitants but they’re not necessarily well informed ones. What do the experts think?
On the panel for this session were French experts Marie-Anne Gobert of Lyon, Cécile Maisonneuve of Paris, Mark Todd of Auckland property development company (and literary prize sponsors) Ockham, and former Christchurch resident (who now lives in Sydney) Barnaby Bennett.
Radio New Zealand presenter Kim Hill had what turned out to be a reasonably challenging job, in keeping the discussion moving along, correctly interpreting the French accents, and managing the audience input – tasks she undertook with her characteristic gentle belligerence.
Speaking of the audience, this was bar far the most vocal crowd I’ve been part of in the festival so far. Christchurch people are, generally speaking, fairly undemonstrative in these kinds of events but this topic generated much spontaneous clapping (mainly when Central Government was pinned as having failed in some respect) and vocal affirmations of the “hear, hear” variety.
I guess when an author is discussing their work we’re happy to sit and listen, but we are all, to some extent or other, experts in our own city and people attending this session obviously have a reasonable level of engagement with the subject matter.
The main points that stuck out for me were –
Local authorities need to be willing to take risks and to experiment, to try small-scale pilots of things to learn if they work and then be scaled up if successful. Failure, particuarly when small, fast and comparatively inexpensive aren’t cause for shame or embarrassment, they’re a crucial way to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Good public transportation is vital.
Engagement with communities needs to be iterative.
Stratification of the rich and poor is really bad for cities and the people who live in them
Public-private partnerships can work if the terms are clearly defined
The question and answer session at the end was unfortunately rather overshadowed by a gentleman (I use the term loosely) from Southland who ranted on and on and even with prodding from Kim Hill simply refused to get to the point, prompting her to ask –
I appreciate this dystopian polemic, sir…but is there a question?
The crowd was actively booing him and telling him to shut up at this point and by the time he insulted Barnaby Bennett’s dress sense, he’d lost pretty much everyone. It was the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen at a literary festival.
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.
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?
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.
When a letter from SCIRT arrived in our mailbox earlier in the year, detailing the works to be done to the underground pipes on our street and those on surrounding roads, it was greeted with pleasure. The prospect of being able to ‘flush without fear’ after days (or even merely hours) of rain looked to be close at hand with the remediation of the nearby earthquake damaged storm-water and sewer pipes.
The road cones, signs, trucks and workmen arrived, did their job and departed. Or at least 3 out of the 4 of the traffic management crowd did. The little orange cones stuck around. Some of their whānau disappear for a bit, but still visit regularly for a party in the middle of our street or the neighbouring ones, for no apparent purpose.
Some days it seems my travel to and from work is book-ended by roadworks and the cones, and they appear on every second road in between. When I find myself faced with yet another un-notified unexpected detour, down a street going in completely the opposite direction to which I need to head (and of course I have allowed no time for in the morning rush of school and preschool drop offs), part of me thinks ‘suck it up, princess, the east side of town has been dealing with this for YEARS not just months!’ and yet I often still have the urge to scream and swear. I manage to resist, if the children are in the car. Usually.
I suppose I should be grateful I’m not in the traffic jam on the M25 in England, as depicted in the novel Jam. Or perhaps I should borrow some soothing, calming music from the library, and play it in the car during my travels…
Some residents in the city have even been sufficiently moved to write letters to the Press to express their feelings about the humble items.
What is your experience of road works? Have you found road cones to be little orange triangles sent by Satan to torment you at every turn, or are they bright happy indicators of important progress happening across our city?
Two photographs caught my eye when I was flicking through a very old copy of the National Geographic magazine.
The first was a photograph of the Minack Theatre (a famous open-air theatre in Britain):
The second photograph in the same article was of an elderly woman, Rowena Cade, sitting in an upright wheelbarrow. I’d never thought of using a wheelbarrow as a seat, but it looks pretty comfy!!
Between 1931 and 1983 (when she died) Rowena Cade planned, built and financed the Minack (in Cornish this means ‘a rocky place’) Theatre. This stunning theatre is carved into the granite rocks of Porthcurno in Cornwall.
“During that first winter of 1931-32, she laboured as apprentice to her gardener Billy Rawlings and his mate Charles Thomas Angove. Using the skills of the two men, granite was cut by hand from a pile of tumbled boulders. Stones were inched into place. The terraces were in-filled with earth, small stones and pebbles shovelled down from the higher ledges. All this work took place on the slope above a sheer drop into the Atlantic.”
Rowena had a superb mix of qualities including creativity, foresight, ingenuity, and sheer determination. She overcame so many obstacles: a challenging location; physical constraints; a world war where resources, money and materials were scarce; and age (she worked on the theatre until her mid-eighties!).
What an inspiring woman and what a remarkable achievement! Just the sort of inspiration many of us in Christchurch like to hear about now that we are faced with a long rebuild journey ahead of us.
The Minack Theatre has been added to my bucket list. If you have included an inspirational addition to your bucket list lately I’d love to hear about it.
Aside from the National Geographic magazines that you can find in our libraries, library members can also access the digital archive of the National Geographic magazine. Coverage is from 1888 onwards up until the most recent issues and includes articles, maps and photos. The National Geographic Virtual Library is a fantastic resource to browse through.
Thank you to Phil Jackson, Theatre Manager of the Minack Theatre, for providing permission to use the images contained in this blog post.
“Are you from Milwaukee?” asked the assistant attending to my very early morning coffee needs at a mall near one of my favourite libraries. My brain raced into overdrive – did I look Milwaukeean? Had I in fact been to Milwaukee in this life or a past one and conveniently forgotten?
It was not yet 8:30 – and I could not answer the first question of the day. It looked set to be a challenging twenty four hours. But I got it in the end: “No, I’m not from Mall Walking” I replied, at which my coffee almost doubled in price.
We’re all in the grip of Rebuild Christchurch fever right now. You can’t open The Press nowadays without being hit around the chops with all things green. We want to walk along the Avon, bicycle our thighs into submission and grow vertical gardens. And the library has the books for you to become something of an authority on this topic:
But what about our indoor spaces – how green are they? Winter is on its way and the call of the mall is strong. And this is where mall walking comes in. It’s a popular new trend, with both Northlands Mall and Westfield Mall allowing walkers in from 8am to walk in the safety and comfort of their deserted precincts.
In the interests of local research I joined a Mall Walking Group. Initially it felt strange to be tramping in such a cavernous space with so many shuttered shops. I allowed myself a James Bond fantasy moment involving Daniel Craig, but was pulled quickly back to earth by the snippets of pensioner conversation that drifted past.
After a few laps I stopped for my legitimately earned reduced-price coffee. I thought how easy it would be to snidely deride the mall walkers. Yet were I in a foreign city watching early morning Tai Chi in a mall, I would be raising my cappuccino in support, whilst penning tetchy Letters to the Editor on the greening of our malls!
But, how about you – how green is your mall and will you be striding through it any time soon?