Christchurch’s Arts Centre reopening soon – hurrah

Over the past five years, returning to the city of my birth, Christchurch, New Zealand, was often like returning to school – but the old three R’s rule of reading, writing and ’rithmetic had been replaced with different R’s – I often had to ask if it has been reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-to-rubble. Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the inner-city, my old stomping ground, demolished because of quake damage, many were reduced to rubble or relocated.

Of course many of my favourites have another R as they remained-open or have reopened after minor damage was repaired, while a few had to close temporarily while neighbouring buildings were ‘de-constructed’.

A few of my special city-centre places in the remained open (or just closed briefly) category are, The Classic Villa; Canterbury Museum; Botanic Gardens; and The Antigua Boat Sheds.

Two months before the September 2010 quakes, a mayoral candidate said if he became mayor he would apply for World Heritage Status for the city’s unique Gothic Revival buildings. It seemed no city in the world had such a collection of Gothic revival buildings ‘of such high quality and so well preserved’ and I went to the Great Hall in the Gothic style Christchurch Arts Centre, another of my favourite places in the city, to hear about the proposal. He said, “these Victorian buildings date back to the 1850s and as a group are of enormous international significance. They represent the outcome of the furthest migration of any group of people in human history.” He continued, “They are more than bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of our city”.

See more I’ve written about our Gothic buildings post-quake.

A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat
A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovatt

I’m now back at the Arts Centre, very fortunate to get an escorted, behind-the-scenes, peek at the work being done in this part of the ‘heart of our city.’ Andre Lovatt the Arts Centre CEO, who values the heritage buildings in our city, is showing me around. He knows that ‘with enough time and money, you can do anything’ and time and, money has been and is continuing to be used on this collection of buildings. (Donations welcome to help this work – see their website)

Although the Gothic style is usually associated with churches the mid-Victorian architects used it in other buildings such as Canterbury College in 1873. Other buildings were added and eventually the college became Canterbury University. Over a century later the University moved to a new campus in the suburbs.

With plans to demolish the buildings locals demanded they be kept and eventually the empty buildings became the Arts Centre, which incidentally, my father had said would be a waste of money for the city and ‘should not be saved.’

A number of architects designed the individual buildings, the most well-known being Benjamin Mountford: it’s been said that the Great Hall was a good example of ‘his ability to adapt the Gothic style to colonial circumstance and to produce magnificent buildings within the constraints of limited resources.’

Much of the Arts Centre is reopening this year (2016) and there is anticipation and excitement by retailers who hope to return to the centre and by Cantabrians in general who look forward to being able to enjoy the area again. Check their website to find out the dates various buildings will be opened – and I’m hoping a New Zealand craft market will eventually open there too.

use hh IMG_5974webThe Fool by Sam Mahon  is one of my favourite pieces of public art … I wonder where it will move to within the Arts Centre grounds.

The Fool in its original spot outside the Court Theatre
The Fool in its original spot outside the Court Theatre

A new sculpture to be installed within the Arts Centre is the twin to this one by Antony Gormley  – which is in the Avon (between Worcester and Armagh Street bridges.

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I believe one of the first places to open this year will be Rutherford’s Den. This Kiwi, Ernest Rutherford, is one of the greatest scientists of the modern age, and he studied at this college from 1890 to 1894: this den is where he conducted some of his earliest experiments and is now a  museum and information area. The Den was extremely popular before the quake and now that it has been  totally updated I can see even more locals and tourists visiting it.

For more information about the wonderful Arts Centre, check their website

Here are some photos taken during my visit in February 2016 – as you can see there were workman everywhere.use arts centre 2016 (67)web

Including skilled stone masons

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Funky inner city hotel in Christchurch

Good coffee/tea station in my room
Good coffee/tea station in my room

Funky, with attitude, BreakFree on Cashel (street) is one of the biggest and newest of Christchurch hotels, it has a modern urban feel and all rooms include a
smart TV and free fibre-optic Wi-Fi.

It certainly epitomises a city reimagined and is handy to many tourist attractions and great cafes restaurants and bars.

Bought ‘as is’ after the quakes (10/11) the company has done lots of work refurbishing, updating, and most importantly, seismic strengthening.

For me, it was a great base to explore the city and after a hearty breakfast, I set out on walking tours, tram rides, New Regent St, Re-Start Mall, the Quake City Museum, punting, and of course, the wonderful Botanic Gardens in the Christchurch Art Gallery.

The local city council has created a great app which you can find on your App Store or Google play (findchch.com) which will help you find your way around.

I'm shown around the hotel
I’m shown around the hotel

The test of any hotel for me is would I stay there again? Absolutely. Although I was their guest on the sixth floor this time I would willingly pay – and you it has a range of rooms for you to choose from. I suggest you check out their website and decide which is best for you. I was shown around the different configurations of rooms – from the smallest to the largest I’d be happy in any of them.

Thanks for hosting me Breakfree. Here are some photos I took of those rooms:

NOTE: This is one of a series of posts about Christchurch. See this recent post about the 2010/11 quakes – an elephant in the room and one about Christchurch as it is.

Kate Sheppard: suffrage hero or that bloody woman?

Christchurch in particular is proud that local woman, Kate Sheppard, was the leader and figurehead of the suffrage movement that resulted in a petition that ensured all New Zealand woman were able to vote from 1893.

New Zealand is the first country in the world to give women the vote: married, single, migrant, indigenous, poor, rich, with or without land, working or not – all women were able to vote with the passing of the 1893 Electoral Bill.

Notice we kiwi did not use the word ‘suffragettes’ as we’d the vote some twenty years before that term was coined!

Born to Scottish parents, Kate came to New Zealand in 1868 with her widowed mother, and New Zealand honours her by having her image on our ten-dollar note.

Every Suffrage Day, 19th September, a few women gather at the Christchurch memorial panel to pay tribute to all those wonderful women by placing white camellias and purple balloons on this inner city sculpture. Note this is at the corner of Worcester Boulevard & Cambridge Terrace – although with post-quake (2010/11) plans it may be moved.

A punk rock musical about her struggles with the Prime Minister (Seddon) has recently been performed at the Christchurch Festival .. called That Bloody Woman, it had good reviews so I look forward to seeing it soon – apparently some were initially ‘shocked at the opening scenes’ when her sexual behaviour was exposed but ‘this quickly abated as the story developed’ I was told.

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Pedestrian crossing signal in Wellington NZ.  Began a temporary installation but now here to stay

The memorial was unveiled in 1993, the 100th anniversary of this historic event. It has six women on it with Kate Sheppard holding the petition in a wheelbarrow which is how the petition was delivered to the steps of Parliament in Wellington. The side panels show women in typical everyday (1893) settings – gathering shellfish, teaching, factory sewing, farming, caring for families and nursing. These are flanked by bronze panels telling the New Zealand suffrage story.

Here are more pictures about one of our favourite kiwi women.

 

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Three cheers to ‘that bloody woman’ I say!

Dame Ngaio Marsh – New Zealand’s Queen of Crime

One of the worlds queens of crime, Dame Ngaio Marsh  was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and a while ago I wondered if her house had survived the quake: I’d assumed ‘yes’ given it’s wooden and is in a relatively unscathed part of my old city.

The “Ngaio Marsh house” suffered only minor damage during the  2010 /2011 quakes that rocked the city.  Sited on the lower Cashmere Hills meant the damage to the area was less than other places the city and Canterbury – a chimney had been demolished and the sewerage pipe was broken but repairs have been made to both.

Their website said “The house was well shaken, creating a considerable mess with small items and books widely distributed over the floor. However, nothing of special significance was lost apart from a few pieces from Ngaio’s glass collection.”

So, the house remains basically as it was and is still open to visitors – as are most things in Christchurch.  See what Wiki says about our beloved Christchurch treasure –  Dame Ngaio Marsh

I took these photos during my last visit to the house in May 2010 – my first visit was for a fairly wild party in the early ’80s – not long after her death!

Just some of her books .. how many have you read?

Eliza’s is one of Christchurch’s grand ladies

Apparently named ‘Eliza’s’ after Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, this boutique B&B Hotel is a very grand lady – and like Audrey – elegant

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Like many buildings in the new settlement of 1800s Christchurch, it just grew.  The land was bought in 1856 and the building started in 1861, predating the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral by some twenty years. This ‘growing’ means it can’t be easily classified as Victorian or any other architectural style: Eliza’s personal style includes gables, bay windows, projecting dormers and door and window hoods.

On the morning of the September (2010) quake, while photographically documenting the quake damage, I had walked past this beautiful building, just a couple of streets away from my apartment. I was relieved to see it too had apparently survived the 7.1 shake. Of course inside it was a different story.

Pleased they had no guests to evacuate at 4:30am, they quickly got to work demolishing the damaged chimneys and multiple fireplaces – involving some 60 tonnes of bricks – then repairing the destruction they had produced.  On the day of the quake they had Russian guests arrive and a week later they were hosting a wedding. Just like the movie, the show must go on!

Nearly six months later it was a different story and during the February 6.3 quake, with all the rooms occupied, nature ripped walls apart, cracked skirting boards, buckled window frames and toppled wardrobes. Luckily the chimneys had gone; there were no injuries to staff or guests; and the foundations and structure were sound. Add another eight months, 1.5 million dollars, heaps of hard work and Eliza’s doors were open once again.

Making jewellery for Christmas
Making jewellery for Christmas

When I arrived Harold and Ann were hosting their staff Christmas party and everyone was busy making jewellery under the guidance of Beadz Unlimited. (Christchurch’s first bead shop and now in historic New Regent Street after being quake-shaken out of the wonderful Gothic Art’s Centre)

When the front door opens, I’m immediately impressed with the ornate staircase that’s in front of me –it was built in Scotland with New Zealand’s native kauri. Over the years many distinct groups of people have climbed these stairs.  As well as guests from around the world Eliza’s previous inhabitants have included mothers and nurses during its maternity home persona; it’s also been a private home, accommodation for ‘genteel ladies’ and a boarding house for St. Margaret’s Girls High.

Ann and Harold bought the building in 2004, and all the rooms have local heritage names – I’m in The Masters which has wonderful leadlight and stained glass windows. (With a hotel of this standing of course the bed, bathroom, fittings, and linen, were all wonderful and spotless – so take that as read!)

Along with the history of the building in each room, they also have a guest-book: I like this as it gives us guests’ time to write a considered response to our stay. From Spain to Switzerland, UK to the USA, France to Australia (and of course us Kiwi), it seems the world has not only stayed here but loved to too! I read many comments on the great hospitality, the friendly hosts, the homemade ANZAC biscuits, and the fabulous breakfasts. Seems Ann is a great believer in the old adage of eating breakfast like a king: it certainly provides enough tasty fuel for the day.

I notice, alongside other framed accolades, a certificate showing they won a 2013 community garden award; the garden is very colourful with wisteria and white daphne providing fragrance alongside the 130 plus roses.

The World Travel Guide says this of Eliza’s – ‘With beautiful period features, Eliza’s history spans three centuries. This grade II historic, wooden house was built during 1861 by one of the city’s founding fathers, was restored in 1981 and has been turned into wonderful accommodation ever since. It’s within easy walking distance of the gardens, museum, and New Regent Street while just around the corner is Victoria Street which has many tasty restaurants and bars. The hotel’s delicious cooked breakfast sets you up for your day of exploring the city.’

I have a vehicle from my favourite rental car company to explore the region, and my first task when I arrived was to feed the lions at Orana Wildlife Park – and, with all the walking I did there I should have had an Eliza’s breakfast first!

I can well recommend Eliza’s Boutique Hotel for a wonderful few nights in Christchurch; New Zealand’s 2nd largest city. With so few buildings of this age, Eliza’s is a real asset in the city – tell them I sent you🙂

 

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The world needs more wizards!

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“The world needs more wizards” the Christchurch wizard told me recently.

The Wizard of Christchurch
The Wizard of Christchurch

Loved or hated, the wizard has been part of the fabric of the city for many years – I even had a friend who lived with him in Cranford St, was Uk-born, spent many years in Australia, and he washed up on the shores of New Zealand in 1974 and where he continued his performances and oratory which had begun over the Tasman Sea … or over-the-ditch as we kiwi call it. (Note:  it takes about 3-hours to cross that ‘ditch.’)

After a lifetime of events such as (Only a few, see more in his book, My Life as a Miracle)

  • Printing his own money
  • Arguing with the ‘bible lady’ in front of Christchurch Cathedral
  • Forming Alf’s Imperial Army
  • Declaring war on city fathers
  • Becoming  a tourist attraction the ‘the Square’
  • Experiments with ‘slavery for women’, and
  • Donating his body to the Gallery of Victoria
Pre quake New regent Street
Pre quake New Regent Street

He’s now a daytime resident in the fabulous New Regent Street (city centre – on the tram line too) where recently, over a coffee, hetold me ‘the world needs more wizards’.  As someone who does not understand wizardry, as the result of something The Wizard said,  I even had to Google the topic of wizards and Lord of the Rings and where I found that “in the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power and that Gandalf appears as a wizard of the order known as the Istari.

I knew Harry Potter was a wizard, but that’s the sum total if my knowledge! Not much good to me when I talk with a flesh and blood wizard.

New Regent Street survived  the quake!
New Regent Street survived the quake!

In Christchurch the latest work of The Wizard is to “keep the people of Christchurch informed of the TRUE situation concerning the future of OUR city’s icon, which is also a major tourist attraction.” Copied from his brochure which pleads to restore the cathedral ‘our city’s heart and soul.’

The land for the Cathedral was gifted in 1855 by the Provincial Council; building was begun in 1873 and opened in 1881. Over the years the council, and the people of Christchurch, (most of who are not Anglicans) have supported the maintenance of the building and I too support the rebuild of this Category 1 Heritage Building.

Our broken Cathedral
Our broken Cathedral

Has it reopened, relocated, been renovated, or reduced-to-rubble?

???????????????????????????????Returning to the city of my birth, Christchurch, New Zealand, is rather like returning to school as three R’s rule. Not the old reading, writing and ’rithmetic but a new set of R’s dominate my thoughts.

Searching for favourite places I have to ask if it has been reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-torubble. Unfortunately, with something like 80% of the inner-city, my old stomping ground, demolished because of quake damage, most have been reduced to rubble or relocated.

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Punting beside the 1880s Queen Anne building, the city’s first council office.

Of course there are many of my favourites which have another R – remained-open over the past two years, or have reopened after minor damage was repaired.  Some places and activities had to close temporarily while neighbouring buildings were ‘deconstructed’ – for instance punting in the city centre and Victoria Square are now accessible.

A few of my special city-centre places in the ‘remained open’ (or closed briefly) category are, The Classic Villa; Canterbury Museum; Botanic Gardens; Coffee House; Tiffany’s;  The Antigua Boat Sheds. Check them out!

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Up to C1 cafe’s rooftop
360 degree views of the rubble and emerging new city from C1
360 degree views of the rubble and emerging new city from C1

Two places that have been reduced to rubble and relocated are Strawberry Fare, (Bealey Ave) and C1 Café. Interestingly, Sam has just moved his café right across from his original High Street spot – into what was my Post Office when I was a child and living in the Central Fire Station. On the corner of High and Tuam, as well as the cafe he now has a roof-top garden (complete with grapes and bees!) with the best views of the city and its rebuild. Get a coffee, go up in the ancient lift, climb the circular stairway then out through the little doorway then spend time up there checking out the changed, and changing, view.

This old Post Office, built in 1932 in the Classical style, had in recent years morphed into Alice in Videoland and which is now an art-house theatre too – a valuable asset to the inner city. The Christchurch Art Gallery also has a temporary Art Gallery there, and now The Physics Room (project art space & residency) has return to its home in this building!

One of my favourites that are relocated from the city centre is the Dux de Lux – it’s sort of split into two a live music venue in Addington (Dux Live) and a restaurant on Riccarton Road (Dux Dine). Loved by locals and visitors, ‘the dux’, on the Arts Centre block, was famous for its vegetarian and seafood meals, live music, boutique beers, and casual dining.

I ate at Dux Dine a few weeks ago and can assure all this ‘new’ dux, offers the same excellent food and service. Although out of my beloved city centre, I have history here too! It’s in the old Riccarton railway station masters house where I have partied many years ago – and where the Ratana  Apotoro Rehita (minister) who officiated at my wedding, lived! (Seems the world has 6 degrees of separation but in NZ it’s about 1½)

It was good to go punting through Victoria Square then through part of the ‘red zone’. Yet again it’s sad (Seeing history demolished) while encouraging. (Seeing history being created). Enjoy these glimpses of Christchurch and come back later to see more in the reopened, renovated, relocated or reduced-torubble story of this city.???????????????????????????????

Trinty Church ( now restaurant) is to be restored
Trinity Presbyterian Church, near square, (now a restaurant bar) is to be restored
Punt through Victoria Square (used to be Market Square)
Punt through Victoria Square (used to be Market Square)
Edmonds Rotunda has had the done taken off .. anyone know what's happening to it?
Edmonds Rotunda has had the done taken off .. anyone know what’s happening to it?
Strawberry Fare has produced great food for years!
Strawberry Fare has produced great food for years!

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