Archive for the 'Jock Phillips' Category

Adieu

Goodbye to six lovely colleagues, snapped at Thursday's farewell party. From left, Helen Rickerby, Andy Palner, Ross Somerville, Jock Phillips, Janine Faulknor and Philothea Flynn

Goodbye to six lovely colleagues, snapped at Thursday's farewell party. From left, Helen Rickerby, Andy Palmer, Ross Somerville, Jock Phillips, Janine Faulknor and Philothea Flynn

Last week Te Ara bade farewell to our staunch administrator and wonderful front-of-house, Angela Mitchell; on Tuesday I suffered the embarrassment of being sent into retirement with overly generous speeches, nice wines and a very funny blog; and yesterday we farewelled five more of the Te Ara team who have helped create this taonga.

I have been in continuous employment for 42 years, but the last half-dozen have been by far the best – not just because the work on Te Ara has been so engrossing, but because we have had the most extraordinary team of people. All have believed passionately in the Te Ara project; all have been complete professionals and high performers; all have given everything to produce the very best website possible. I cannot remember a cross word between anyone – there has been a focused energy by a group all working towards a common end, and they have done their job magnificently. It has been hard work, but also fun from start to finish, with many, many laughs along the way. It has been a privilege, and a very unusual experience, to be part of such a team.

The five who were farewelled today have all made a huge contribution to Te Ara in their own individual way. They are (with the most recent first):

  • Andy Palmer, who has been primarily employed as a copyright officer. This is one of those back-room jobs which gets little public credit or glory, yet makes an enormous difference to the integrity and quality of the site. Andy has been scrupulous in his job – accurate, very sensitive towards the concerns of those supplying images or films, and tenacious at tracking down copyright holders. He has also contributed in other ways – as a fine writer (with half a dozen blogs to his credit), a brilliant photographer and the house expert on popular music of the last 40 years.
  • Philothea Flynn shared the copyright role with Andy. She did a superb job. Constantly on the phone, she developed excellent rapport with photographers, iwi and anyone with rights over images or films. Phil had a great sense of the moral rights of people, and was outstanding in negotiating images in stories dealing with sensitive personal issues such as abortion, adoption and lesbian lives. That our music stories in the latest theme are so well enriched with musical clips is because of the stalwart work of Phil and Andy clearing so many rights. Phil has been a stalwart advocate for Creative Commons and a active participant in Manatū Taonga’s Māori community.
  • Helen Rickerby rapidly became the lynchpin of Te Ara’s production process, understanding the peculiarities of our Drupal content management system like no-one else, even the developers. She was also, more than anyone, Te Ara’s social media voice – being single-handedly responsible for this Signposts blog, moderator of comments on images, an active participant in our Twitter pool and also speaking for Te Ara on Facebook. Helen has always been calm and helpful – nothing has been too much trouble. She is warm, supportive and very funny - and is also a distinguished published poet, a blogger and a great mixer of punch!
  • Janine Faulknor took over from Shirley Williams in charge of the resource team, which researched images, sound files, video clips, etc.  She quickly built trusting relationships with our major providers and established new agreements with TVNZ, the New Zealand Film Archive, Archives New Zealand and Getty Images. She provided most of the resource research for our Places entries, and operated the mouse expertly at our regional launches. An expert on television and popular music (at least judging by her expertise in the Dom Post quiz!), she provided brilliant clips for the entries on television and Māori and television. Janine also rapidly proved herself an outstanding manager – well-organised, reliable and totally supportive of her team, yet capable of being tough if always fair. So when I wanted to step back from the management of the team she took over and has done a superb job – and she is also a really nice person!
  • Ross Somerville leaves after a very long and impressive career in reference publishing.  He was in charge of the editing and production team at the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and established the incredibly high standards of editing achieved by that magnificent work.  So when I was given the task of developing Te Ara, I had no hesitation in inviting Ross to Join me. Together we worked out the core principles of Te Ara – the length of entries, their structure, the nature of topic boxes and further sources etc. Ross oversaw the selection of our web developers and technology partners. That the look and elements of a Te Ara entry have lasted so well is a huge testament to the care and intelligence he bought to the task. Ross has an amazing eye for verbal infelicities and inconsistencies, and his final reads of our stories have improved them immensely. He was also a great manager, admired with warm affection by the people who reported to him for his loyalty and knowledge. Ross is also refreshingly cynical, a great tease and very funny. He has been really important in helping to organise the good times which have kept us all sane.

So it is with great sadness that we see these five outstanding people leave Manatū Taonga. They can do so knowing that they have each, in their own way, contributed enormously to both the success of the project and the huge enjoyment we have all had in helping to build Te Ara. Travel well, you five, and I hope you will join me in looking back on the last few years of work as among the high points of your very different lives.

The five Te Ara staff who are staying on – from left, Kerryn Pollock, Caren Wilton, Nancy Swarbrick, Emily Tutaki and Melanie Lovell-Smith

The five Te Ara staff who are staying on – from left, Kerryn Pollock, Caren Wilton, Nancy Swarbrick, Emily Tutaki and Melanie Lovell-Smith

Te Ara’s Creative and Intellectual Life launched

Sam Neill launching Creative and Intellectual Life

Sam Neill launching Creative and Intellectual Life

Last evening a sparkling celebratory event at The Paramount in Wellington saw Sam Neill launch the Creative and Intellectual Life theme of Te Ara.

The presentation interspersed highlights from Te Ara’s new theme, projected in mammoth size on the big screen, with living cultural performances. Along with Sam Neill’s droll humour, there was a powerful welcome in the form of a haka pōwhiri performed by Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti, two contrasting poems from Hinemoana Baker (one about death and the second a humorous comment on rugby), a gripping performance from the New Zealand School of Dance and music afterwards from Rio Hunuki-Hemopo with guest artists.

Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti performing a haka pōwhiri

Ngā Tai Hononga o Marutawhiti performing a haka pōwhiri

Creative and Intellectual Life comprises 103 stories organised into nine sections and about 3,000 resources in the form of images, sound files, graphs, maps, interactives and film and television clips. The best way to enjoy this feast of new content is to begin reading and browsing; and I fully expect (and hope) that you will find it hard to stop. But, just to whet your appetite, here are a few of the themes running through the stories that struck me and which I presented last night.

Multi-media creativity

Much of the creative art we included doesn’t fit into neat pigeonholes by genre – rather, it spans media. Albert Wendt, novelist, is also a painter; Douglas Wright, dancer, is also a marvellous writer. And artists in one medium interact with others. Last night, for example, we showed Colin McCahon’s wonderful ‘Walk (series C)‘, a painted tribute to his friend James K. Baxter which ‘walks’ along Muriwai Beach contemplating Baxter’s life and recent death.

Poet Hinemoana Baker performs

Poet Hinemoana Baker performs

Cultural diversity

New Zealand creativity has been enriched by the dialogue of Māori and Pakehā, with each drawing on the other – Māori used western traditions of literacy and music; Pakehā modernist such as Gordon Walters drew on the Māori koru. And the country has gained hugely from distinctive cultural traditions: English choral music, Scots pipe bands, and Pacific humour and music.

The importance of land and the natural world

The tapering cocoon of the case moth inspired the shape of the Pūtōrino, the Māori flute. European painters made the land their favourite subject – from William Hodges melodramatic take on Cook Strait on Cook’s second voyage, to Karl Maughan’s hyperrealism. Even in film, a young Brian Brake, better known now for his photography, first made his name with a lyrical documentary, ‘The Snows of Aorangi‘ (1955), the first New Zealand film nominated for an Academy Award.

Senior editor Jock Phillips takes us through some highlights of Creative and Intellectual Life

Senior editor Jock Phillips takes us through some highlights of Creative and Intellectual Life

The body

The body is a site for wearable art, whether a stunning kahu huruhuru or a 1980s fashion design. And the body is an instrument for creative culture – the vigorous pūkana in kapa haka or the voice of Malvina Major.

Institutional support

Creative culture rarely comes from the isolated tormented artist. It flourishes more when institutions encourage it and give it a home – in the form of galleries, museums, festivals, publishers and the award of prizes.

Some of the amazing dancers from the New Zealand School of Dance

Some of the amazing dancers from the New Zealand School of Dance

International recognition

Finally this theme provides many examples where New Zealand creativity has impacted on the world, and the world has stood and applauded. They include Te Māori at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Neil Dawson at Paris’s Pompidou Centre, the Flight of the Conchords on the Simpsons, Lorde at the Grammy’s, the Symphony Orchestra in Vienna, and New Zealand at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (second from left) with guest artists

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (second from left) with guest artists

This is just one journey through a wonderfully verdant forest – take a look and we hope you can follow your own pathway. Whichever route you take, we can promise plenty of glorious stops along the way. Enjoy Creative and intellectual Life!

Sam Neill chatting with launch attendees

Sam Neill chatting with launch attendees

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki – artist, scholar, critic, historian, battler for humanities

Tāne raising the sky, from Cliff Whiting's carving 'Te wehenga o Rangi rāua ko Papa' (click for image credit)

Tāne raising the sky, from Cliff Whiting's carving 'Te wehenga o Rangi rāua ko Papa' (click for image credit)

Tērā te uira e hiko ana mai,
Ka wāhi rua i runga o Rakaumangamanga
Kua hinga te tōtara o Te Waonui a Tāne

Te Ara today mourns the loss of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki. Jonathan was one of our finest contributors, who wrote Te Ara’s entry on Contemporary Māori art – ngā toi hōu. His essay says much about the man: it is a beautifully written piece which Jonathan completed about six months ago as he battled ill health – but he was determined to get it done. With elegant and polite emails he kept me fully informed of his progress, and when the entry arrived it hardly needed to be touched.

And the story that he tells was close to his own interests and passions. He had first studied as a painter under the radical expressionist Rudolf Gopas and was among the artists represented at the pioneering Canterbury Museum exhibition in 1966: ‘Maori culture and the contemporary scene’. He recounts how Māori artists were able to combine modernist aesthetics and Māori traditions into work that has been among the nation’s most creative of the past 50 years. Just think of some of the names – Ralph Hotere, Cliff Whiting, Para Matchitt, Emare Karaka, Robyn KahukiwaMichael Parekowhai and Shane Cotton. Truly Aotearoa would be hugely poorer without such work enriching our world. Jonathan was one of the great supporters, documenters and interpreters of this movement, and we are delighted he felt able to tell that story for Te Ara.

Jonathan’s championing of Māori art is not his only contribution to New Zealand’s culture. I first came across him when he was a young lecturer at Canterbury University who was researching architectural history, especially the Gothic revival. He recently made clear his desire that one of this country’s major expressions of that tradition, the Christchurch Cathedral should, if possible, be restored. His interest in architecture flowed through into his study of Māori history – I recall his beautifully paced presentation to the last New Zealand historians conference on the extraordinary history of the Mataatua wharenui.

After Canterbury University, Jonathan moved to Te Papa, where he directed the art team, and then went on to the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. Along the way he battled fearlessly for research in humanities, helping to get the humanities included within the Royal Society and, in turn, he was recognised by that august body with the Pou Aronui Award in 2012 for his ‘outstanding contribution in the development of the humanities in Aotearoa New Zealand’.

Finally, I recall a man who was always warm and generous towards his peers, who was extraordinarily thoughtful of others, and was a complete gentleman (in the very best sense) in his behaviour. I did not know him well, but I always felt as if he personally really cared about my welfare.

So, Jonathan, rest easy. We will raise a glass in your memory and in gratitude for what you did to bring cultural history to life.

The mighty pen

Poet and academic Bill Manhire (click for image credit)

Poet and academic Bill Manhire (click for image credit)

At a moment when we seem to be remembering the contribution that the sword of war made to our nation’s history, it is salutary to recall that the pen is even mightier. Today we highlight the release of five fascinating and beautifully written stories which tell the history of writing in this country and the contribution it has made to the sense of ourselves. They are Fiction, Non-fiction, Criticism and the arts, Intellectuals and Publishing.

Lydia Wevers, in a nicely measured survey of novels and short stories, suggests something of the range of approaches in our fiction writing. I was struck by the contrast in the styles and interests of the female authors from the male in early New Zealand fiction – women’s tended towards romance, while men wrote rollicking pioneering accounts. However, things are never that straightforward – several women confused the issue, such as Edith Lyttleton, who published about back-country men under the name G. B. Lancaster, and Iris Wilkinson, who wrote, among many other works, a novel about men at war, Passport to hell, under her pen name Robin Hyde. There is much to explore and recall in the fiction story, but I particularly invite you to look at two great film clips that focus on the literary beginnings of Katherine Mansfield and Ngaio Marsh, and a sound recording of Frank Sargeson talking about his realisation that he needed to write with a New Zealand voice.

Alex Calder begins his excellent study of New Zealand’s non-fiction with the problem that the genre has always had a negative identity – it is, as Calder writes, ‘everything published that happens not to be fiction, poetry or drama’. He prefers to use the term ‘creative non-fiction’ to emphasise that just because the subject is the empirical world, the act of writing about it is no less a creative exercise. The subject matter he canvasses ranges from studies of exploration, Māori life and pioneering, through to biographies, history and feminist critiques.

Some of Anne Salmond's history books

Some of Anne Salmond's history books

‘Creative’ writing, whether fictional or documentary, is greatly assisted by three factors – a community of writers, a culture of debate and criticism, and a publishing industry to print and distribute writing. The three remaining stories treat each of these in turn.

Chris Hilliard tackles the community issue in an original discussion of the existence, or non-existence, of ‘intellectuals‘ in New Zealand. He suggests that, by comparison with 19th-century Britain or Europe, colonial New Zealand lacked the supporting structures to allow intellectuals to flourish. But from the 1930s, as university colleges became established and the depression invited searching questions, communities of writers and artists emerged. Christchurch’s artistic and intellectual community, including the Caxton Press, The Group and Tomorrow magazine, looms large in the story.

The Christchurch intellectuals, and especially Allen Curnow, also have an important place in Rebecca Rice and Mark Williams’s elegant exploration of criticism of literature and the arts. They suggest that until the 20th century, apart from newspaper reviews, there was little sustained arts criticism in New Zealand. Crucial to its emergence was the appearance of serious magazines and journals – Phoenix, Tomorrow, Landfall and, from the 1970s on, And, Antic and Art New Zealand. Good writing feeds off dialogue and debate.

Lead type thought to have been used by William Colenso in the 1830s for printing some of the earliest New Zealand publications

Lead type thought to have been used by William Colenso in the 1830s for printing some of the earliest New Zealand publications (click for image credit)

Finally, New Zealand writing could never have flourished in the way that it has without the huge contribution of the publishing industry. In a fine, comprehensive overview Elizabeth Caffin shows how long it took before New Zealand-based publishers provided a welcome to local ‘creative’ authors. There was early publishing, but it tended to be missionary works for Māori, government gazettes or almanacs for settlers. Fiction writers and historians had to look overseas for an outlet. Local publishers Whitcombe and Tombs concentrated on educational works and A. H. & A. W. Reed on populist topics. It was not really until the later 20th century that Reeds took on more serious work, overseas presses set up local houses, and a host of smaller local publishers emerged to encourage creative writing in different genres. Not that the story of publishing in New Zealand is one of ‘onwards and upwards’ – Caffin ends this valuable survey with comments about the impact of e-publishing and the increasing concentration of multinational publishers, as they have merged with each other in recent years.

But, at a time when over 2,000 titles are published in New Zealand each year, when people flock to literary festivals such as last weekend’s WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, when last year one of our novelists won the Man Booker prize and two years ago the government invested much time and money promoting New Zealand at the Frankfurt Book Fair, surely we can claim that creative writing has become central to the country. Long live the New Zealand pen! Or, at least, the Kiwi keyboard.

Heritage South

Our stately venue – the Southland Masonic Centre

Our stately venue – the Southland Masonic Centre

If you want to walk in the footsteps of the past, then the far ends of the country are good places to start. The far north has an extraordinarily varied number of historic locations, from the earliest surviving European house to the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed; and the deep south was the location of early European whaling and sealing ventures and of hugely important early interaction with Māori.

Such thoughts occurred to me last weekend when I was privileged to attend the second Southland Heritage Forum in Invercargill, which was held in the rather grand Southland Masonic Centre. Even before reaching the forum it was wonderful to be a historian exploring a place where grand Victorian buildings and ornate memorials abound – there is history at every turn.

The forum was the initiative of Heritage South, which was established after an earlier forum, held two years ago, that brought together many people from throughout the province who are passionate about protecting and developing the evidences, in stone and in memory, of the past. The definition of heritage that grew out of that initial meeting is worth quoting: ‘Heritage means those things inherited from the past, that we wish to pass on to future generations and which define the culture and character of the south, its communities and people.’ I love the way this definition locates heritage as central to local identity. I am impressed, too, by their wide understanding of heritage – from physical objects and places to memories and traditions, from Invercargill’s wonderful Civic Theatre to Gore’s ‘rolling r’. The forum recognised this breadth by highlighting especially the district’s heritage foods – will I ever forget the oyster soup at the Heritage Dinner on Saturday night?

Driven by a group of energetic women, especially Cathy Macfie, Rebecca Amundsen and chairperson Rachel Egerton, the Heritage South has achieved a lot over the last two years:

  • 12 newsletters
  • four informal gatherings at the Thornbury Vintage Machinery Museum, the Hokonui Pioneer Village, the Waikaia ‘Switzers’ Museum, and Te Hikoi Museum in Riverton
  • a Heritage Month in March 2013, with another projected for March 2015
  • continued development of the Southland Oral History Project.

Then there was the weekend’s forum. It began with an evening on the First World War. Between songs and skits recreating scenes from the Great War, provided by the Southern Institute of Technology, and (of course) a stop for Anzac biscuits, there were talks on the war, with Aaron Fox discussing Southland’s contribution, large in numbers, to that conflict. Over the next two days there was a refreshing mix of keynote speakers, panel presentations and workshops. Jane Leggett gave a brilliant survey of some of the conflicts and choices that heritage advocates had to confront, and there were some fascinating short talks. I enjoyed Graye Shattky’s description of the work of the neighbouring Central Otago Heritage Trust, Jim Geddes’s impressive account of the success of the Hokonui Moonshiners’ Festival, and Win Clark’s pertinent engineering tips on how to preserve old masonry buildings.

Lying behind the discussions was a larger issue. Heritage South is now tasked with developing a heritage strategy for Southland. It is clear that if heritage is to flourish, then it cannot simply be a matter of talking to the converted. There is a need to attract new audiences, to make heritage pay, to align it with tourist goals and to find ways of using the region’s heritage assets to attract people to the deep south. What is it that would get people to leave Auckland and fly south to explore history? Was it vintage machinery, was it a Burt Munro trail, was it whaling and sealing sites, was it Invercargill’s Victorian buildings, was it the early Māori–Pākehā encounters, was it flax-milling or was it whisky?

Sculpture of Burt Munro and his Indian motorcycle – the beginning of the Burt Munro trail

Sculpture of Burt Munro and his Indian motorcycle – the beginning of the Burt Munro trail

The group pondered a catchy slogan – several humorous suggestions were offered: ’It’s swede as’, ‘Of gorse its Southland’, ‘Southland for slow tourists’ and, with Hokonui in mind, ‘The spirit of Southland’. Certainly the Southland Museum provides no answers. It has magnificent objects, but its two signature exhibitions – on tuatara and the Sub-antarctic Islands (much as I find them fascinating) – hardly awaken interest in other attractions just outside the door.

The problem is for Southlanders to solve and, given the energy and creativity of those behind Heritage South, I am certain they will indeed evolve a strategy. So watch this space – and thank you Invercargill for hosting me so warmly on a cold winter weekend.

Click to read a post about the same forum by David Butts, Manager, Heritage Operations at Manatū Taonga – the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.