Archive for the 'Kerryn Pollock' Category

Singing the praises of statistics

A love of numbers: Census and Statistics Department staff hard at work in 1946 (click for image credit)

The joy of numbers: Census and Statistics Department staff hard at work in 1946 (click for image credit)

Let me confess, I love working with statistics. I have gone so far as to like the Statistics New Zealand and New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings pages on Facebook. Social media at its best!

Te Ara is littered with stats so I get to indulge my fascination fairly regularly. We have stats on the most popular sports by gender, temperature variations and cannabis use. Themes on the places of New Zealandethnic groupsiwi and economy are full of numbers.

This superabundance of stats makes for a lot of work – they need updating unless their significance is historic. We’ve been able to turn our attention to such updates now that the first build of Te Ara is complete. So far we have updated the New Zealand Peoples and Iwi entries in line with 2013 census results, and we have begun work on census updates for the Places entries.

These jobs are huge but made so much easier by Statistics New Zealand’s excellent main website and its data hub NZ.Stat. Unlike the websites of some other national statistics offices, both of these are pretty intuitive and straightforward to use. If I can’t find what I want, an email or phone call to the helpdesk invariably yields a quick answer. So thanks Stats NZ, you are great.

Stay tuned for more new numbers on Te Ara later this year.

On earthquakes and updates

Rock fall at Redcliffs, February 2011 (click for image credit)

Rock fall at Redcliffs, February 2011 (click for image credit)

Now that Te Ara’s first build is complete, we have turned our attention to the mammoth task of updating existing content. We are yet to finalise our approach to updating, but we recognised that one set of entries had to be done first – the Canterbury region and places entries.

We added revised and new content to Te Ara very quickly after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, but left the Canterbury entries as they were pre-quake. Pragmatism largely guided this decision, because we were fully occupied with our Social Connections and Government and Nation themes, but we also knew we should wait to see how the impact of the quakes on the region played out. Online encyclopedias are more responsive to change than their hard-copy counterparts but have the same responsibility to deliver accurate and complete information.

We have now published a new section on the quakes in the Canterbury region entry, and have updated text and added new visual resources through this and the Canterbury places entry. So many of the sites captured in existing photographs were either damaged or destroyed, and it was a sobering task combing through the entries to ensure we noted all the quake-related changes.

They are now full of quake facts and resources. For me, two new films we’ve added speak to the complexity of the quakes’ impact. An extended clip from Gerard Smyth’s compelling documentary When a city falls records the moment the 2011 quake struck and its immediate aftermath as terrified people gathered in the dust-filled city. Viewers get some insight into the horror of that day. The other film, a short piece on the Gap Filler project, portrays some of the positive community-building initiatives that came out of the quakes. These two films appropriately book-end the new content.

Party time

Amos Pollock takes a swing at the piñata during his dinosaur-themed fifth birthday party (click for image credit)

Amos Pollock takes a swing at the piñata during his dinosaur-themed fifth birthday party (click for image credit)

The end-of-year party season is upon us, and this prompted me to see how well Te Ara does parties. I plugged ‘party’ into the search box and was greeted with an array of entries and images about political parties – not quite what I had in mind.

Super-stylish 1970s dinner party featuring matching outfits and wallpaper (click for image credit)

Super-stylish 1970s dinner party featuring matching outfits and wallpaper (click for image credit)

Luckily, the party-on variety soon cropped up in the image and media page. After party pills comes this fabulous 1970s dinner party where the guests’ attire merges with the floral wallpaper. Then there’s a 1956 film of a chimps’ tea party at the Wellington Zoo, a decorous garden party in 1900 and a 1930s-style outdoor dance party. Remember The Gathering? One big party at Tākaka to see in the new year. I went to the 2000 monsoon Gathering and was reminded why buying a cheap tent is never a good idea. Matariki heralds the Māori new year, and we are now seeing more mid-winter Matariki celebrations.

Pōhutukawa fairies party with native birds in this Avis Higgs illustration (click for image credit)

Pōhutukawa fairies party with native birds in this Avis Higgs illustration (click for image credit)

We’ve got writer/artist Avis Higgs’s cute pōhutukawa fairies party, public humiliation at a stag party and a 1955 cross-dressing party. These blokes in drag are not quite so elegant.

Cakes and keys: turning 21 in 1961 (click for image credit)

Cakes and keys: turning 21 in 1961 (click for image credit)

Our Birthdays and wedding anniversaries entry is party central. I love Jacqueline Fahey’s evocative painting ‘The birthday party’, with the exhausted nana staring glumly at the viewer, surrounded by party detritus. The adults are having much more fun at this birthday party (which happens to be my son’s fifth). This entry would not be complete without the ritual that is downing the yardie on your 21st. This 21st of 1961 is a tad more demure.

My favourite party entry is the Nightclubs one. From the glam to the seedy, it’s a fascinating history of public partying in New Zealand.

Giving voice to an aria

The music for Aria: a dawn song, by Christopher Blake

The music for Aria: a dawn song, by Christopher Blake

Te Ara’s new story on New Zealand composers, written by William Dart, charts the development and maturation of a home-grown composing tradition. In a story devoted to music it was necessary to make lavish use of sound and video recordings and we haven’t stinted in that regard – readers can listen to the likes of 19th-century pioneer Alfred Hill, composing giant Douglas Lilburn, and contemporary composers Eve de Castro-Robinson and Jeremy Mayall, who combines electronic music and turntablism with taonga puoro (Māori musical instruments) to great effect.

One of the more exciting resources for those of us who worked on this story was Christopher Blake’s Aria: a dawn song. This short piece for solo flute was composed in 1991 for the opening of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs (which, in 2000, joined up with the history and heritage parts of the Department of Internal Affairs to become Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which is home to Te Ara). The ministry had a framed copy of the score and we hoped to use this in the entry and bring it to life with an accompanying recording. Alas, Dawn song had never been recorded.

Being a resourceful bunch, we saw this as an opportunity rather than a problem. We needed to get Chris Blake’s permission to publish the score on Te Ara, so asked him about a recording at the same time. Chris is CEO of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and so had no shortage of suitably qualified musicians at his fingertips. He arranged for principal flute Bridget Douglas to play the piece and it was recorded at the end of a larger NZSO recording project.

We are delighted to present this recording of Aria: a dawn song to the world at a time when the first build of Te Ara is ending and a new phase beginning.

Tennis’s first matinee idol

'Anyone for tennis?' Anthony Wilding around 1910 (click for image credit)

'Anyone for tennis?' Anthony Wilding around 1910 (click for image credit)

On Tuesday 9 September two albums containing black and white photographs of New Zealand’s greatest tennis player, Anthony Wilding, will go under the hammer at Cordy’s auction house in Auckland. There aren’t a lot of photos of Wilding – in New Zealand-based public collections at least – so this auction will be of interest to libraries and collectors alike.

Wilding was renowned for his physical fitness and his so-called ‘manly brand of tennis’. His first biographer, A. W. Myers, described him as tennis’s first ‘matinee idol’. The photographs in these albums show the idol in action at Wimbledon in 1910.

Anthony Wilding was born in Christchurch in 1883. His family were a sporting lot and the house was full of sports equipment, trophies and visiting sportspeople. At 17 he won his first tennis tournament, and he also excelled at football and cricket.

Like his father, Frederick Wilding, Anthony qualified as a lawyer and, after studying at Cambridge University in England, intended to join his father’s Christchurch practice. However, he had played competitive tennis throughout his studies and the lure of life on the international tennis circuit won out over law in sedate Christchurch.

Wilding was undoubtedly the top male player of his era and remains New Zealand’s most successful international tennis player. He won the Wimbledon singles title from 1910 to 1913, the doubles title in 1907, 1908, 1910 and 1914, and the Davis Cup as part of the Australasian team from 1907 to 1909, and again in 1914. He won a bronze medal at the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912 and collected various English and European tennis titles.

Wilding was killed during a First World War battle near Neuve-Chappelle in France in 1915, when he was at the peak of his sporting career. At age 31 he would have had a few years more competitive tennis left. He is commemorated in the Anthony Wilding Memorial Challenge Shield, a men’s inter-association team competition instituted between 1921 and 1922, and his name also adorns a retirement village in Christchurch.