Archive for the ‘Films & shows’ Category

A cycling tourist asked me for directions as I walked into the city.  He then complimented me on the purple I was wearing, and I was pleased to explain that today is Suffrage Day (I actually wear purple frequently).

I was at the WEA for a talk by Margaret Lovell-Smith about the life of Kate Sheppard.  Everyone was excited because this morning’s Press carried a story suggesting the government might offer to buy Kate Sheppard’s former home in Clyde Road.  There were suggestions it could become a Museum of Women’s History, a venue for Women’s Studies, or a themed Bed and Breakfast place.

Kate Sheppard’s Timeline

Margaret had written up a timeline of Kate’s life, and gave many interesting facts about her.  I learned that Kate began her organisational career at the Trinity Congregational Church, and that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) raised funds by running an alcohol-free food tent at the annual A & P Show.   The WCTU also ran Coffee Rooms in Manchester Street (near the pre-quake site of Smith’s Bookshop) and in the Toneycliffe and Carey building on the corner of Colombo and Gloucester Streets.  The latter was where the first meeting of the Christchurch Vegetarian Society was held in 1899.

Margaret stressed that Kate’s writing was amazingly clear and easy to read.  It was dignified, detached, and wryly humorous, appealing to reason and justice.  One of her essays was titled ‘A Noble Bohemianism’ and advocated a simple life.  She also wrote of the ‘women’s sphere’ being the whole world, and remonstrated against sexist language.  Her work for suffrage helped to develop her skills as a writer, thinker, and organiser.  Kate died in 1934.

Vanisa Dhiru speaking by the Kate Sheppard National Memorial

The talk finished in good time for us to walk down to the Kate Sheppard National Memorial for the celebration at noon.  Several people spoke, including Vanisa Dhiru, whom I knew when she was Chief Executive of Volunteering New Zealand.  She is now President of the National Council of Women of New Zealand.

There has been a plethora of suffrage celebrations recently, and I’m pleased to have been able to get to a few of them.

‘It’s good to celebrate our past
equality does not come fast’


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I was moved and inspired by the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Aotearoa at the Isaac Theatre Royal this afternoon.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the Keynote Speaker and 40% of the audience were young women from local schools.  After a karakia by Aroha Rereti-Crofts, the introduction by Joanna Norris brought much cheering and clapping which continued throughout the event.  Bel Canto from Burnside High School sang two items, then Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke with an injunction for us all to be proud of our city and its history.

Bel Canto on stage, Jacinda at left

Jacinda welcomed everyone, especially the babies in the room, and observed that on this day in 1933 Elizabeth McCombs won a by-election in Lyttelton and became our first female member of Parliament.  Ordinary women who have done extraordinary things were honoured.  Jacinda told the stories of two who had signed the suffrage petition.  The first was Christina Henderson who taught at Christchurch Girls’ High School.  The second was Catherine Wiltshire who in 1876 was hailed as the ‘Greatest Female Pedestrienne in the World’.  Catherine was Jacinda’s great-great-grandmother.

Nineteen young women then came on stage to ask questions of the Prime Minister, and these are some of her responses:

Q  What lessons have you learned from the Suffrage movement?
A  Never give up

Q  Has gender affected the way you’ve been treated?
A  The path was laid by women before me.  Occasionally I note an interesting form of language, but I don’t let it distract me.

Q  Why was New Zealand the first to give women the vote?
A  We’re inclined to say ‘why not?’.  (For a long time our most popular TV programme was Fair Go.)

Q  What are the most pressing matters facing women today?
A  Low-paid work, pay equity, domestic violence.

Jacinda said her hope for women is that they will have financial security and constant confidence.  We can do it differently and do it on our own terms, and we need to choose hope over blame and fear.  Asked if we need the feminism label, she said “Yes!” and that if you believe in equality and fairness you are a feminist.  She expects the next big change in New Zealand to be pay equity which needs to be prioritised.  ‘You’ll always have a seed of doubt but you can do anything in spite of it.’

In closing Megan Woods gave Jacinta a copy of The Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy.  Jacinda stood to take a selfie with the audience, and after a karakia we all left.

‘Our P.M. tells it like it is
she absolutely is a whizz.’



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Margaret Lovell-Smith

Margaret Lovell-Smith gave a talk at the W.E.A. this morning that was illuminating and inspiring.  Titled ‘The Challenges and Rewards of Writing Women’s Biographies’ she started by informing us that the New York Times is now working to publish obituaries of the many notable women who were ignored by the Times at the time of their death, including Beatrice Tinsley, (1941-1981) the astronomer from New Zealand.  The reason so many women’s stories have not been told is due to centuries of patriarchal society where women were considered to be less intelligent and less creative.   Women were undervalued, stifled, and not able to flourish because history was always written ‘from above’.  From the 1970s Germaine Greer, Dale Spender, and others brought some women’s stories to light, and social history began to be appreciated.

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography endeavoured to have a balanced selection of entries, but this was thwarted by the fact that records of women’s lives were hard to find.  Single women are especially likely to step into oblivion because it is often descendants who keep papers and letters.  Other women may change their name at marriage and disappear from public record.

Margaret pointed out that reading biography is a good way to learn about history.  Her interest in women’s history started when she researched her own family, eventually publishing the book Plain Living High Thinking – The Family History of Jennie and Will Lovell-Smith (1995).  She has written biographies of Sister Mary Leo (1998) and Helen Connon (2004) both of which contain fascinating insights.  Currently there is much discussion of how women balance a career with having children, and Helen Connon was an early example of someone who combined teaching with motherhood in the late 19th century, although this may not have been possible had her husband not been on the governing Board.

Margaret has found that it’s usually easier to write about one person rather than a whole family.  She is currently researching conscientious objectors and people who worked for peace in Canterbury during World War One, and this work can be seen on the website Voices Against War.

I thoroughly enjoyed Margaret’s talk, and look forward to hearing her speak next week about the life of Kate Sheppard.

‘So much of history has lied
by leaving out the women’s side.’

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‘Poetry Life Hacks’ was the name of the WORD Festival workshop I went to with Hera Lindsay Bird.  This was the first time I’d been upstairs in The Piano, where the Trinity Room looks out onto the head of the ballerina painted on the back of the Isaac Theatre Royal.

Hera led us through five different exercises, all ones that she finds useful herself.  We did a lot of writing in a short time, sharing what we’d written with the whole group.  You could pass if you wanted to, but I enjoyed reading my pieces out loud and it was good to get a positive reaction.

We’d been asked beforehand to bring a poem we disagreed with, and a short poem that we love.  For the one we disagreed with (I’d chosen W.H.Auden’s “In Schrafft’s”) we were asked to write a line arguing with each line of our chosen poem, then to read out our own lines.

For the poem we love (mine was “Warning” by Jenny Joseph) we had to analyse what each line was doing, then write a poem on similar lines.  I found this a satisfying exercise, and might take this poem further.

Other exercises involved writing lines, then reading them in the opposite order, choosing metaphors from a sheet of nouns, and writing a poem that (obliquely) answered a question.

Hera stressed the importance of having a repertoire of exercises that encourage you to get something on to the page, which can be refined later.  Interestingly she told us that she sometimes writes only five poems in a year.

After the workshop I went to “You write funny!’ a session featuring five poets, which was stimulating and entertaining.   I don’t plan to go to any other sessions this weekend, but these two were very worthwhile.  The WORD prices are high for anyone on a limited income, especially with booking and credit card fees added.  Plus most of the authors will be interviewed on RNZ and I can hear them then.

“Workshops like this can stimulate
and help you write a line that’s great.”



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Yesterday was the pilot for a tour which will be run as part of the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.  We met at the W.E.A. where we witnessed a re-enactment of a Women’s Christian Temperance Union meeting.

Replica WCTU meeting

The part of Kate Sheppard, who was a leader of the suffrage movement, was ably played by Nancy McShane, herself a trade union activist for women’s rights.  She read Kate’s moving speech ‘Is it Right’, and the meeting concluded with everyone singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.  Then we boarded a double decker bus to visit sites with connections to Kate Sheppard.

Our tour bus

Unfortunately many of these were places where the buildings no longer exist.  One that’s been restored is the Trinity Congregational Church.  This is where my parents were married in 1935, and I was interested to learn that Kate Sheppard worshipped there from 1869 to 1916.  I also learned that her home 1870s-1887 was in Madras Street, where the NZIM was situated before the earthquakes.  We visited Kate’s grave in the Addington Cemetery, which is flanked by white camellias.

Kate Sheppard’s grave

Her great niece Tessa Malcolm was buried beside her in 2013.

We walked across the road to have lunch at Oddfellow’s Cafe in the old Oddfellows Society Hall.  While there’s no known link with Kate to this Hall, she did attend meetings in the Oddfellows Hall in Lichfield Street.  The cafe was busy, and the food and and service were excellent.

Oddfellow’s Cafe

Our tour ended at the Kate Sheppard Memorial which was erected in 1993 to mark the centennial of Women’s Suffrage.  After information about the women portrayed in the memorial a fitting ending was Nancy McShane talking about ongoing work for women’s rights, especially equal pay for work of equal value.

Kate Sheppard Memorial

“This was a day to concentrate
on the accomplishments of Kate.”



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Marie Shannon, artist and photographer, is the focus of an exhibition currently showing at the Christchurch Art Gallery.   There are a couple of fascinating videos to watch, and many of her photographs are of models she’s made.  I was interested in a picture titled ‘Travel’ of a bracelet with charms from places Marie has visited.

‘Travel’ by Marie Shannon, 1993

I have a similar bracelet as a souvenir of my overseas experiences.

‘Travel’ by Ruth Gardner, 2018

My silver chain link bracelet was part of a gift from colleagues when I left Auckland, and I’ve added various charms I bought on my travels.  I note that Marie has similar charms to mine from Paris, London, and Bath.  I guess thousands of other tourists have them too.

‘I’ve copied her, hope she won’t mind
these are the charms that tourists find.’

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Two stimulating artworks have been installed in windows in the Awly Building in Durham Street, opposite the provincial Council Chambers.

Until Works End

The first is “Until Works End”, a series of whimsical dioramas by Audrey Baldwin, Khye Hitchcock, and Ater D.  They encourage you to view the everyday with humour and a child’s sense of wonder.  Audrey was responsible for the “Shared Snood” in our Community Cottage, so I was especially pleased that her work was chosen for this ShoPOP project.

The Pompoms

The second work is “The Pompoms” by Shades Arcade.  These continually move and are fun to watch.

ShoPOP is aimed at activating new buildings in the central city, and part of the Enliven Places Programme.

“These windows may one day be shops
meantime they’re hosting great ShoPOPs.”

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