Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett – WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

I’ve had this song in my head since I saw Peter Garrett recently. Not at the Midnight Oil concert, but at the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of view session at The Piano. It was the last talk in a series of goodies that formed WORD’s suite of Christchurch Arts Festival offerings.

CoverPeter Garrett – musician, former Aussie federal politician, activist – appeared in conversation with the able and amiable broadcaster/journalist Finlay Macdonald, and followed the session with an audience Q & A and a book signing.

Peter’s book is a memoir of his life and career called Big Blue Sky. He found writing it both challenging and gut-wrenching:

It’s not just about what you remember, it’s how honest can you be.

He talked about the reformation of Midnight Oil and the series of concerts they are undertaking, including such stunner venues as Alice Springs and a rainforest in Cairns. Peter reckons they are sounding even better than their heyday.

His broad and expansive knowledge of Australian history as well as other topics made him a thoroughly engaging speaker. He talked politics, music, and more – and his move into federal politics made a lot of sense because he strongly believes:

The system cannot work unless it is infected by people who want it to work.

Peter went with the Labour Party instead of Green because he was “allergic to moral superiority and preachiness”.

Peter Garrett

There was plenty of music talk for the aficionados. He shared musical influences and passions – The Beatles, Neil Young, Rage against the Machine, Aborigine bands. Recalling seeing Muddy Waters play at ANU university, Peter got shivers right there on stage. So did we.

Peter Garrett signing books
Peter Garrett signing books. Flickr IMG_2529

More Peter Garrett

Midnight Oil fan family follows band to Christchurch Adele Redmond, The Press

Discover works in our collection by:


Strange relationships – John Safran meets Te Radar: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

The appearance of Mr John Safran in Christchurch managed to pack out The Piano venue on Sunday with a fair audience. He was matched with NZ’s very own version of himself, Te Radar Esq., who pointed out that although they both looked very similar, you could easily tell them apart as John was the one with the accent. Unless of course you were from Australia, in which case Te Radar was the one with the accent. Simple really.

Te Radar and John Safran
Te Radar and John Safran. Flickr IMG_2509

Yet simple John’s new book Depends What You Mean by Extremist: Going Rogue With Australian Deplorables is not. In fact it might be claimed that one reason for writing the book was because most other media didn’t like the tangled web of stories John had discovered in his very own Aussie backyard. What he’d found happening in the world of political radicals was not easily reduced by the popular media spotlight to black vs white, or local vs outsiders.

There are many reasons people are in involved in anti-Islam rallies, and it’s not always politics.

In the world of Australian extremist groups things have become very complicated, says John. “Out in the street things are so messed up, it’s hard to pick things apart.”

John has found a very diverse range of cultures and people marching for the reclaim Australia and anti-Islam causes, some of them strange and unexpected bedfellows. An anti-immigrant campaigner with Aboriginal and Italian lineage hanging with white nationalists, a Sri Lankan pastor opposing multiculturalism, and leaders of anti-immigrant rallies opening their speeches by acknowledging the land they were standing on as belonging to the Aboriginal community.

Some have claimed the lack of media interest in John’s stories proves the “bubble” caused by social media and the internet is real, the so-called echo chamber where we only pay attention to things and ideas that meet our world-view and beliefs.

Yet people have always filtered news and read newspapers and magazines selectively. We read what attracts our interest and reading things that don’t fit our understanding of the world can be challenging, so often we don’t. The internet hasn’t created that effect, it’s just made it quicker and easier to achieve – such is the way of computers.

What John has discovered is that thanks to social media on the internet, the “unsayable often becomes normal when repeated over and over”:

The world changed as I was writing the book. The anti-Islam street movement tried to portray the rallies as ‘normal’ not extreme, but I found they were led by some very extreme people. It was like the fringe and alternative had become mainstream or at least mingled up with the mainstream.

John Safran
John Safran. Flickr IMG_2501

Te Radar asked John if he’d become less optimistic about the world as a result of writing the book? John’s response was that he had definitely got a bit paranoid hanging around with extreme people. Ironically he thought that getting out on the streets got him out of the echo chamber that the average person might inhabit.

But the idea that he may be humanising these people by writing about them in a book was not something he was trying to achieve. He is more driven by the comedian and artist in him, not so much the need to be a writer:

I can’t moralise about anything ‘cos I’ve always done something in the past I shouldn’t. But I don’t think people read my book and think the things these groups are saying and doing are ok.

A few questions from the audience stirred things up, with a bit of heckling that just came across as try-hard or even embarrassing. Mostly it was all very civilised and well-behaved. I don’t go to a lot of these events, so maybe that’s normal in Christchurch.

I’ve enjoyed reading the book and it’s definitely an eye opener. And thanks to John seeing the irony in much of what he saw happening, very funny too, although perhaps more in a gallows humour way.

John Safran’s ability to just rock up somewhere Louis Theroux styles and ask people the questions going begging, without being beaten to a pulp, continues to amaze me. An audience member shared the story of the New York commuters cleaning anti-Semitic graffiti from the walls of a train with hand sanitser, and John himself thought that the antidote to all this extremism is just to expose these people to the world.

All of which made me think that maybe John Safran is using humour to wake us up to the way people under our very noses think about the world. Does this make him the comedic hand sanitizer of the Aussie extremist world?

Talking about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

In an engrossing event at Christchurch Art Gallery, Reni Eddo-Lodge was in conversation with playwright Victor Rodger. She talked us through her thought-provoking debut book Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. This collection of essays seeks to unpick and challenge white dominant ideology.

Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger
Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger

The idea for the book grew out of a 2014 blog post in which Reni, a young British journalist of Nigerian heritage, wrote of her “frustration that discussions of race and racism were being led by those not affected by it,” and that when she tried to talk about these issues was told that there wasn’t actually a problem or accused her of being angry. The irony of marking this line in the sand was that suddenly lots of people wanted to listen to Reni’s point of view – including a full (mostly white) art gallery auditorium.

There are a number of themes in the book. One is history, and Reni is keen for black Britons to write themselves back into history. The British connection to slavery and to Africa is deep. I studied economic and social history 1750-1875 at A-level and slavery and colonialism was barely mentioned. I find this appalling because:

  • a) hello – where was the cotton for the cotton mills coming from?
  • and b) it has taken me until the last week or two to realise this.

It is this kind of oversight that Reni is trying to point out.

Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge

Whiteness isn’t the default. Whiteness isn’t neutral. There are other ways of doing things; there are other points of view. Which is actually quite liberating if you think about.

Reni was assured and matter of fact, and very easy to listen to. Another topic she highlights is feminism. What is the point of feminism that is only for white women and doesn’t have a space for black women and others? Issues don’t happen in isolation, and overlap and intersect all the time.

This truly was a session to make you think about and observe how you experience the world, to make you want to explore further by reading her book, and to shift your point of view.


Shifting Points of View: Fail Safe Fail Better

The first session of WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View sessions at the Christchurch Arts Festival is Fail Safe, Fail Better with Witi Ihimaera, Lianne Dalziel, Clementine Ford, Hana O’Regan, Glenn Colquhoun and Victor Rodger. It is on at the Great Hall in the Christchurch Arts Centre, this Friday 1 September, 7.30pm.

Failure. It’s a great theme. When children learn by it, we call it exploration.

Margaret Mahy once said that her publisher would ask her to rewrite her stories up to eleven times.

The panel will bare their souls; sharing their failures, successes and how the lessons they bring have shaped their lives.

Its okay to fail. Buddhism suggests we take the lesson, learn, and evolve towards a higher truth.

Try this for an exercise in freedom. Think you’re a failure at art? Take a piece of brown paper and screw it up into a ball. Freeing, or what? Tear out the rough shape of the leaf by hand. Decorate your leaf with a crayon. You can colour with dye and a paintbrush, or leave natural. Display your leaves around the room!

Come along to the Great Hall at Christchurch Arts Centre on Friday; reflect on life and how the struggle to survive can spark the creative mind.

WORD Christchurch tweets

Listening to Reni Eddo-Lodge

This is a slightly odd blog. I don’t know a huge amount about Reni Eddo-Lodge, and because of the way her session at the upcoming WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View series at the Christchurch Arts Festival is titled, I want to go into it with as open a mind as possible and without too many preconceptions. Additionally, I’m a few places down the holds list for her book so won’t get to see it before I see her.

Reni Eddo-Lodge

However, I can tell you about why I want to listen to her. I vaguely saw the title of her book and WORD session, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, on Twitter and then came across a book review in The Guardian and the concept piqued my interest. I’ve been reading quite a lot about diversity, racism and colonialism and also getting my head around intersectionality, so when I saw that Reni was coming to Christchurch I jumped at the opportunity to listen to her. I want to leave my white privilege at the door and make the most of a chance to gain insight into someone else’s perspective.

In this day and age, listening may be one of our most valuable tools.


Quick Questions with Rebecca Vaughan – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to Shifting Points of View, WORD Christchurch’s suite of events at September’s Christchurch Arts Festival.

Today, it’s actor Rebecca Vaughan who is performing in Jane Eyre: An autobiography and also appearing in Madwomen in the attic:

An actor, a novelist and a librarian share their views, their favourite heroines, and improvise their own tales of women with great hair fleeing gothic houses. Rebecca is joined by Karen Healey and Moata Tamaira (librarian from our very own Christchurch City Libraries), in a session chaired by Rachael King.

Rebecca Vaughan. Photo by Ben Guest. Image supplied.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

It’s my first time in Christchurch, so I’m really looking forward to having a good explore of the whole city!  I absolutely love just wandering the streets of a new city, and seeing where my instincts take me.  I also imagine I’ll take a visit to the Art Gallery (one of my passions!)

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are a hugely important, and often underestimated part of forward thinking culture.  To allow free access to so much information: literature, history, reference books, geography, children’s literature, the list is endless, is vital to towns and cities.

And although we have so much information at our fingertips via the internet – libraries are places where communities can meet: storytelling for children, and reading groups for adults, just for starters!  An invaluable resource.

What would be your “desert island book”?

Gosh – that’s hard!  For fiction – it would probably be Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body – although I’d also love an unending supply of historical biographies – probably by Alison Weir!


Share a surprising fact about yourself.

To the surprise even of myself, I became a vegan two years ago.  I thought I would miss cheese so much it would be impossible, but it’s amazed me how much of it was habit, and now I don’t miss it at all!  (Oh and I also performed for the Netherland’s Royal Family!)

Madwomen in the attic — Rebecca Vaughan, Karen Healey, Moata Tamaira, chaired by Rachael King
Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Wednesday 6 September, 8.30pm

Following a performance of Jane Eyre: An Autobiography with Rebecca Vaughan, sit back and enjoy dark tales of Gothic houses, damaged men, plucky heroines and secrets lurking in attics. What is the enduring appeal of the Gothic women of literature? Who are the forgotten women, and the doppelgangers? An actor, a novelist and a librarian share their views, their favourite heroines, and improvise their own tales of women with great hair fleeing Gothic houses. Rebecca is joined by Karen Healey and Moata Tamaira, chaired by Rachael King.

If you like women with great hair fleeing Gothic houses, follow the faaaabulous @PulpLibrarian on Twitter.



Fight for your (women’s) rights – Clementine Ford – WORD Christchurch

CoverFight like a girl kicks off with an author’s note “I hope you enjoy it, and find it galvanising!” Well, this book is absolutely galvanising — and upsetting, eye-opening, rage-inducing. It comes down to this: Girls, women, trans women — it’s ok to be angry, in fact if you’re not, you should be:

If you are a woman living in this world and you’re not angry, you’re not paying enough attention. Not to your own life, not to the lives of other women and not to the lives of the women who’ll come after you. (p 281)

Clementine Ford. Image supplied.

Next month you can hear Clementine in person at a WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View event, part of the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Fight like a girl — Clementine Ford
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Saturday 2 September, 3pm

Join Australia’s online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere Clementine Ford as she outlines her essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Introduced by journalist Beck Eleven.
Find out more and book your tickets.(one session has already sold out, soz)

Talk of feminism is always timely. Just look what our politicians Meritia Turei and Jacinda Ardern have been dealing with.

The book covers all the topics you’d expect: body issues, diets, sex, gaslighting, girl gangs, and references feminist pop culture touchpoints like Broad City, Parks and Recreation, and Jessica Jones.

Fight like a girl has enough personal backstory to make you understand the things that set Clementine on the path to righteous feminism, particularly in the area of reproductive rights and mental health. She also sets it straight about the online abuse she’s suffered for ten years.

But where I think this book comes out strongest is in its observations:

Why do some women come out against feminism (we’ve seen several high profile NZ examples of this)

… it all comes back to the same thing – women capitulating to the system in order to be given some notion of power within it. (p. 145)

What is privilege?

If you’re not forcing yourself to routinely interrogate the benefits you enjoy in society, it’s all too easy to tell yourself that other people are inventing their disadvantages. (p. 148)

Why do some women hate men? Because they have compelling reasons to. 

Instead of berating feminists for being misandrists, perhaps these men should start taking responsibility for the abominable, destructive and dehumanising treatment of women throughout all of history up to and including the present day. (p.159)

Clementine relates examples of rape culture: Brock Turner, Stephen Milne, the Four corners case, and more. The effect of the cumulative examples is to make you want to change EVERYTHING.

Follow Clementine Ford on Twitter.

If you want more New Zealand stories, I recommend the TVNZ On Demand series So this happened – “real stories of harassment verbal and physical as told by those who have experienced them”.

More feminist reading on our website

Quick Questions with Glenn Colquhoun – WORD Christchurch

Glenn Colquhoun. Image supplied.

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to Shifting Points of View, WORD Christchurch’s suite of events at September’s Christchurch Arts Festival.
Today, it’s New Zealand doctor, poet, and writer Glenn Colquhoun.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I think just walking around the city again, taking it in. I haven’t been there for 3 years or so so it will be nice to scratch its back again.

What do you think about libraries?

I love them. I feel connected to the world when I’m in a library. And to a specific locality  at the same time. And I feel like I’m around people who love stories and books. Libraries are full of kindred spirits.

What would be your “desert island book”?

I’ve just bought Les Murray’s ‘Bunyah.’ So it would be a perfect chance to glory in it.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

 I am made of 37 trillion cells that have no idea who I am.

Glenn Colquhoun appears in:

Glenn Colquhoun’s latest book is Late Love: Sometimes doctors need saving as much as their patients.
Read his NZ Book Council profile for more information.



Quick Questions with Witi Ihimaera – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to Shifting Points of View, WORD Christchurch’s suite of events at September’s Christchurch Arts Festival.
First up, it’s the wonderful New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera.

Witi Ihimaera. Image supplied

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

Hanging with people who know how to party.

What do you think about libraries?

You can learn stuff there and take home new worlds and friends in the books you borrow.

What would be your “desert island book”?

Right now it would be Valley of the Cliffhangers by Jack Mathis.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

 I love B Movies of the 1940s and 50s, the badder the better.

Witi Ihimaera appears in:

Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand’s most important writers. His book The Whale Rider was made into a successful feature film. His autobiography Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood won the General Non-Fiction Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His latest book is called Sleeps Standing: A Story for the Battle of Orakau (and it includes a Māori translation by Hemi Kelly). It is to be published in August.
Read his NZ Book Council profile for more information.



Sarah Waters and the joy of book-talks

Sarah Waters and Carole Beu
Sarah Waters and Carole Beu, Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9220

In an earlier post before I went to see author Sarah Waters speak as part of Shifting Points of View, I admitted that I’m often wrong about how I think her stories are going to play out – and I now know why Sarah’s novels always have such agonising twists!

She is even more intelligent than I expected.  Amazingly well read and educated. So she will always be one step ahead of me. Damn.

The whole book-talk thing was not what I expected, as there was a lot of dancing around what actually takes place in the novel, as some attendees haven’t read it yet. But I got a fascinating insight into how Sarah puts together her novels. She starts with around two months of research, although she said her latest book is taking a lot longer, perhaps up to four months.

Sarah Waters' books - UBS bookstand
Sarah Waters’ books – UBS bookstand, Flickr, 2015-09-07-IMG_9212

The first half of the book was a “bit of a bugger to write” with a lot writing, rewriting and editing. But the second part was easier, as she enjoyed seeing her characters grow.  It was interesting hearing her speak of characters in her latest novel The Paying Guests, Lillian, Leonard, and Frances as though they are real people, just showing how much thought is put into each one.

My favourite quote from the night was when she described The Paying Guest as “a love story complicated by a crime”. That sums up the novel perfectly.

I definitely recommend attending an author talk if you get the chance. I am looking forward to my next one.

Outreach Library Assistant