Look beneath the surface during Seaweek

Book cover of The Power of the SeaKiwis love the sea and luckily we have a chance to properly celebrate it every year with Seaweek. The theme for Seaweek this year is “Look beneath the surface – Papatai ō roto – Papatai ō raro”.

There are lots of Seaweek events that Cantabrians can head along to:

Find more Canterbury Seaweek events on the Seaweek website and look for resources about New Zealanders and the sea on our catalogue. Seaweek runs from Saturday 28 February to Sunday 8 March 2015 and is run by the NZ Association for Environmental Education.

View out the window at New Brighton Library

Unknown Superiors: Erewhon Calling – Experimental Sound in New Zealand

Even to lifelong natives of one race or another, New Zealand is often summed up in one word: boring. The long white cloud of our original name seems in the 21st century to consist of ennui, repression, angst and mundane order coupled with rigid expectations and an ingrained fear of singularity.

Aside from technological advances, some loosening of morals and the allowance of more wiggle room in sexual politics, there is little difference between modern New Zealand and the country Bill Pearson was writing about sixty years ago when he argued that being different = trying to be superior.

So may the heavens smile upon the random eccentrics who buck the trend and spend their time fashioning flame-powered pipe organs, or learning how to press records with Frankenstein-ed washing machine parts, or utilising the power of the sun to make a robot play guitar. In Erewhon Calling – Experimental Sound in New Zealand, Bruce Russell has compiled a vibrant celebration of the “antipodean misfits and malcontents” who devote their hands, hearts and ears to staying as far away from the oeuvre of The Exponents as is humanly conceivable.

In an expected esoteric fashion, this collection derives its title from Samuel Butler’s satirical novel Erewhon, in which the eponymous fantasy land is, as Russell retells it, “defended…by stone sound sculptures which make such ‘hideous noises’ that…’however brave a man might be, he could never stand such a concert.’ ” An almost-reversal of “nowhere,” Butler’s novel allegedly satirises blandly-Victorian principles (I barely made it fifty pages in so I’m inclined to take the internet’s word for it), and by merging Butler’s title with that of The Clash’s classic album London Calling, Russell nails the spirit of these brilliant weirdoes.

Although perhaps brilliance is too light a term for these unknown superiors, such as Alastair Galbraith and his eight note fire organ that harnesses the power of bunsen burners to produce distinct notes. Also to be found within these pages is the ingenuity of Geraldine’s Peter King and his lathe cut approach to record pressing, for which he uses a home-made machine cobbled together from washing machine parts in a process so unique, it has attracted the attention of such far-flung artists as Beastie Boys and Pavement.

Even Christchurch City Libraries’ own Adam Willetts earns a spot for his experiments with solar-powered robots (or ‘solarbots’), which were given the ability to make music on an electric guitar in order to transform the live performer into the furniture itself.

So for those of you feel like celebrating New Zealand Music Month by leaning on the more intriguing side of things, Erewhon Calling should provide you with a great starting point (I’d also recommend Russell’s Left-handed Blows – Writing on Sound 1993-2009), plus be sure to join us at New Brighton Library on Saturday 25 May as Adam performs with his home-made modular synthesisers and takes us on a musical journey which promises to be anything but boring.

Art at work

Image of Kaitiakitanga
Created By Gavin Britt, July 2008

I don’t think e-readers are ever going to have the same aesthetic appeal as books. I like the look of books. More than that, I like the look of rooms full of books interspersed with some art .

There are times when I forget to really look at my surroundings, but I do have fond memories of the artworks in Christchurch libraries: the beautiful art deco mirror at New Brighton (by Maureen J. Stewart), the stunning circular carving that graced Bishopdale (pictured right) and the lovely print behind the membership desk at Redwood (Tangaroa: The Fishing Man by Michael Tuffery).

But it is the art at Central that I miss most of all. Which is why I am so taken aback that there aren’t any large glossy tomes on Art in Libraries. It is a book that is crying out to be written.

However you can make a start on exploring this topic with the beautiful Living with books. Move on to look at our library art collection and maybe take a trip down memory lane to visit our Tukutuku panels. You could even treat yourself  to a road trip that takes in cool little art galleries around New Zealand. Or you could just pop along to the staff art exhibition at New Brighton this month where you get to see library art by librarians.

How about  you, do you too still haunt the corridors of long-gone public spaces – glancing from side to side at the art work you maybe took for granted?

Librarians get crabby

Clothes,  unwanted pies, beer bottles and seaside driftwood have occasionally appeared in our return bins.

But on Monday at New Brighton Library, a more unusual return was discovered.
Charlie the crab was found in the box, presumably recovering after returning his library books.

Powerful Performance @ New Brighton Library

Kapahaka group performances are a wonderful way to achieve so many things. Watching Central New Brighton School’s  kapahaka performance yesterday at New Brighton Library, I was  reminded of how important it is for children to perform in a supportive environment.

The kaiako – teachers – brought out the best of the group of over 5o children and the tauira – students – had a great time performing to the maximum of their abilities. There were newbies and oldies but the way everyone performed together was encouraging to see and a pleasure to hear. They always bring out those goosebumps!

From Bailies to Brighton – looking back at NZ Music Month

May Music Month at Shirley LibraryA regular feature of NZ Music Month at New Brighton Library, Sophia Bidwell and her partner Jeremy Brownbrooke treated patrons and staff to another fabulous performance of traditional and contemporary folk music for violin, mandolin and piano accordion.

Their repertoire for this performance included a variety of tunes, several composed by Jeremy. As I listened I found myself envisioning a walk in the Scottish highlands; a saucy encounter in a French café, and a quiet Guinness in an Irish seaside village. The latter was further brought to life by the library’s backdrop of sand, waves and seagulls (but not the Guinness, sadly).

Whilst their individual styles appeared to contrast (Jeremy with a look of intense concentration on his face and Sophia seemingly relaxed) they created a harmonious sound which was well settled after eight years performing together. Jeremy casually implied that playing this music on the violin was essentially easy but admitted that the dexterity required to take these tunes at speed … took a little longer to acquire.

When I asked Sophia why she chose the piano accordion she told me that whilst she had learned classical piano, she was unable to haul a piano from flat to flat in her days as a student. So, her father passed on one of his piano accordions –  thus providing a more portable, if more complex, solution to Sophia’s need to stay in touch with her passion for playing music.

Music Month is over for another year but you can keep on listening to the kind of music that Jeremy and Sophia play by borrowing from  the libraries collection of world music or listening online to the wonderful resources of Smithsonian Global Sounds, Naxos and Contemporary World Music.

The Secret Life of Librarians


Forget fuddy-duddy shushing type librarians, these guys are LOUD!


For the first time, Library Staff from nine different Libraries in Christchurch are showcasing their paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, and even unique upcycled furniture.

The Bookish Artists Exhibition is currently up and running at the New Brighton Library until the 31 October.

Come and have a stroll by the sea, you will certainly enjoy the art and the view at this incomparable venue!

Stringophilia At New Brighton Library

StringophiliaAs the rain kept coming down and the chill wind crept under even the thickest garments on Sunday, those seeking shelter in New Brighton Library were treated to a sublime performance of singing strings. Cathy Irons (violin) and Tomas Hurnik (cello), both Christchurch Symphony Orchestra musicians, performed a number of pieces together and solo, including compositions  from Stamitz, Prokofiev, Telemann and Bach.

While many people arrived especially for the performance, others who were just happening by couldn’t help but stop and listen on in wonder. It quickly became apparent that there were nowhere near enough seats for all in attendance and the popularity of the event brought a warmth to the library which was sorely needed on such a chill day. The performance ended with a generous amount of applause and people went on their way with lifted spirits and the knowledge that they had heard something a little bit special.

From a personal point of view it was so nice to be at work and to have the opportunity to listen to some wonderful music being performed by such accomplished musicians. Thanks again to Cathy and Tomas for providing those present with a marvellous experience.