Ex Cathedral: The Bishop’s Opening (and Closing) Gambit

May 31, 2012

The various bodies that have made the decision for the diocese have determined that we will take a conservative approach, and we will look after safety as a priority.” Gavin Holley COO Christchurch Anglican Diocese*

Conservative? Not as people at the Cathedral demo demo last Saturday understand the term, including the protestor with a T-shirt emblazoned with “Destruction con”. They are calling for a tea break in the “deconstruction” of Christ Church Cathedral to consider alternatives before there are no options- and very little cathedral-left.

On YouTube there is a nostalgic 2009 time lapse video* of the large chess set in play in Christchurch’s Square, with the Cathedral reassuringly in the background.*

The graphic video* captured by a Japanese tourist Mr Shogo Asawa just a few months later, seconds after the Cathedral’s spire speared into the ground during the fierce earthquake of 22 February 2011, shows the chess men toppled like the statue of John Robert Godley as dust billowed and shocked bystanders tried to make sense of what they had just experienced.

15 months later, in the now denuded inner city, more than 770 commercial buildings having already been demolished, with a further 1800 plus on death row, including the centrepiece Anglican Cathedral. These numbers will probably rise if in-progress engineering evaluations deem buildings irreparable or insurers rule them uneconomic to repair.

In recent weeks the Anglican Church has been playing lightning chess with the deconstruction of the Cathedral after Bishop Victoria Matthews played her early gambit about “making the Cathedral safe”.

The aggressive Bishop’s Gambit is one of the oldest chess openings on record, showing up about the same time as Galileo was supposedly dropping two balls of different masses off the Tower of Pisa.

423 years later, in an affair with a different kind of gravity, Bishop Matthews who has been accused of dropping the ball now that the remainder of the Tower of Christ Church Cathedral has been dropped, with the rest of the historic building due to be taken down to a height of 2-3 metres pending further developments.

Rule number 1 of gambit chess is that you play for higher goals than just regaining or retaining material. Not much Cathedral building material has been retained so far: the machines used have been gobblers not nibblers. With the tower down it may be easier to deconstruct rather than destroy, but don’t hold your breath.

There have been some belated white knight moves in response to the Bishop’s opening gambit and rooks are waiting on the fringes ready to pounce, but the pawns have been sidelined. It is like a waiting move at chess-the one you have to make first to open up the end game play. But what is the big game plan and what are the lines of defence for Black?

Deconstructionism

In an advertisement in The Press last week, the Wizard of New Zealand, (channelled by Ian Brackenbury Channell), says Bishop Victoria Matthews “will be deconstructed” at a rally outside the Canterbury Museum last Sunday.

More bishopbludgeon than bishopric the Wizard announced that “I have examined the Bishop’s foundations and have discovered that they are built on sand. She is in a very dangerous state, being seriously cracked, and I can see no evidence that she can be made safe.”

He calls her “as dull and bland as her beloved Cardboard Cathedral”, but refers to himself modestly as having “attractive Gothic features”.

Some do indeed see in the irrepressible Wizard’s visage unmistakeable gargoyle like features; others more unkind mutter bats in the belfry but the Wizard from Oz is not to be taken lightly in debate even if his Janus-faced Volkswagen makes it difficult to know whether he’s coming or going.

Echoing her words regarding the Cathedral, he stresses that the Bishop’s deconstruction would be carefully done in order to rescue the real treasure within.

His derision is derived from Derrida. The term “deconstruction” was coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology . Derrida opted for deconstruction over the literal translation of Martin Heidegger’s concept of Destruktion to suggest “precision” rather than “violence”, though when it comes to the Cathedral some may be quite happy with the original term.

Deconstructionism is a philosophical theory of literary and other artistic criticism. It has been described as “a tendency to subvert or pull apart and examine existing conventions having to do with meaning and individualism.”[1]

Christ Church Cathedral is certainly being pulled apart-and so is the good citizenry of Christchurch, with two more demo demos coming up. The issues are by no means black or white.

Anglican minister Philip Robinson has spoken in defence of Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews, who he says has taken the brunt of “vicious accusations, anger and abuse”. There has certainly been a lot of playing the woman not the ball and a fair bit of No Minister in both the political and ecclesiastical settings.

It was revealed last week that what remained of the tower needed to be taken down quickly. The remainder will be deconstructed, with the blocks numbered, so that they are available for the possibility of a rebuild in the future. Until such time as the rebuild is possible, the site will be made into a place of reflection and prayer.

The decision to demolish the Cathedral, which has been made following a “make safe” request from CERA. However, the speed of the demolition process has caught many people, apparently including CERA’s Roger Sutton, by surprise.

The notion of carefully numbered stones, being reverently placed back in the jigsaw box for later rejoining is a little ludicrous. We’re not talking about chess pieces being returned to the chess box ready for the next game..

New City Councillor Peter Beck, the former Dean of the Cathedral, was one of 4 who voted against the recent Christchurch City Council motion passed to ask the Anglican Church to halt the demolition to provide time for reflection and reconsideration.* “The cathedral that was was an icon of the city that was”. He wants a new Cathedral that “will pay due homage and respect to the past that we value so much and build for the future, embracing and symbolizing the future city we dream of…”

The dialogue with the public about the future cathedral has really only started after the Anglican Synod got some belated parish priest and parish pump traction four weeks ago.

A favorite chess tactic is the often surprising and usually quite elegant Diversion. Just when everything seems to be as it should, one move exposes the truth which is that things aren’t exactly as they seem.

But it does seem that the end game is nigh. There will be few pieces left on the inner city chess board. The centre piece is about to bite the dust. But don’t dismiss the importance at this stage of the game of the humble pawns. Bishop and pawn versus knight and pawns endings can be interesting.

*Blinks
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91VRWtgS99o Chess-time links photo 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2SWleuCgn0 Second after the February 2010 Christchurch quake
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/6802337/Church-promises-dialogue http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6816651/Cathedral-files-released
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/6846722/Christ-Church-Cathedral-tower-nearly-gone
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/6940947/Councillors-ask-for-cathedral-demolition-halt
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/6943458/Anderton-backs-cathedral-rally
www.savecanterburyheritage.org.nz/

#Lyall Lukey 31 May 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/ http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The Christchurch Arts Centre- Closure and Opensure

June 4, 2011

 It is the nature of the work when you are working with heritage fabric. Each stone has to come down and be put back in place. It’s very time consuming.”  Deane Simmonds    Christchurch Arts Centre Trust Board 

We were told recently that the restoration of the quake–damaged Christchurch Arts Centre could take 10- 15 years. Each historic building was red stickered after the lethal 22/2 quake and  all the tenancies except one have been ended.

Among the terminated are the Dux de Lux, the former Student Union building before the University of Canterbury’s move to Ilam and Annie’s Wine Bar, part of the former library. The building occupied by the Dux was designed in 1883 for a merchant by Francis William Petre, the architect of the now badly damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and bought by the university in 1926. After it became the Student Union in 1929 many of us UC alumni spent much time in the building honing our skills in Billiards I and Snooker II.  

Former tenant and Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke says that the Dux- wood and brick, not stone, but still historic-could be fixed and ready in weeks. He has offered to help fund the repair work.  

We understand the Trust Board’s position that limited repair funds have to be prioritised.  But it’s not good enough to say “If we spend money to fix the Dux de Lux, what happens if we run out of money for the Great Hall and the Clock Tower”. At least the Great Hall has now got its correct name back, but this is an obtuse argument. 

Let’s make opening the Dux second priority after sorting safety issues. Apparently work to make the outside of the Arts Centre buildings safe is almost finished. Once it is, reduce the cordon inside the Arts Centre precinct a little, confining it to the old stone buildings. This would get the Dux in a row of functioning businesses, including the one lease still operating, the cheese shop in the back of the old Registry and others on the Montreal Street fringe which are able to open in the short to medium term, including some of the food and craft stalls in part of the stall area near the Dux. 

As well as closure some people want “opensure”. I look forward to at least part of the Dux reopening, like Ballantynes,  for New Zealand Cup week,  and maybe even before the Rugby World Cup starts. It will be another positive step to drawing people back to parts of the inner city, but it will only happen if the Trust Board takes a more flexible approach.  

Until the February 22 quake, the Dux contributed 20% of the Trust Board’s income. If the social needs of the shaken citizens of Christchurch don’t stir the Board into action you’d think self-interest and self-preservation would. A torrent of letters to the Press, including one of mine, is now finally evincing a response*.

A Sinke fund is better than a sinking fund.  We need to shed some more light on the way the tenancies of the Dux de Lux and other Arts Centre businesses have been handled and sheet home the Board’s responsibility to be more responsive to the needs of its own stakeholders, of the citizens of Christchurch and of visitors from outside the city and the country. 

Unless there is some early  engagement of the public inside a social bridgehead on the south east corner of the precinct, as Yeats may have repeated, the Centre will not hold.

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post. 

*Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5067900/Rebuild-on-but-timing-unclear
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/5099388/Talks-positive-but-Dux-reopening-an-unknown  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/5124923/Arts-Centre-was-seconds-from-collapse  [Added 10/6/11]

 #Lyall Lukey 4 June  2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz


Strong (e)motion: 22/2/11 Christchurch Quake

February 25, 2011

Waitangi dawn ceremony ended with a Maori elder prophesying the destruction of Wellington in a huge earthquake … “I’ve seen body bags lying in the streets of Wellington…I have seen the roof of the Beehive lying in the debris of the streets of Wellington.” ‘   Kerei Tia Toa recounts his 38 year old prophecy 6 Feb 2011*

I suppose the rather symmetrical date 22/2/11 should have provided a clue, but even 38 minutes warning would have been helpful this week as Christchurch people faced a second huge seismic test, after the more than 4,600 quakes experienced in the city since the first major Canterbury  earthquake in early September last year, as the heart and soul of the Garden City was ripped out by the incredible power of nature.

I was at a Rotary lunch meeting at the venerable Canterbury Club three days ago when the 6.3 killer quake struck at 12.51pm on Tuesday (See the before and after satellite images below*).

Once we’d picked ourselves off the ground after the 40 second rollercoaster I was almost the last out onto the corner of Cambridge Tce and Worcester Boulevard as Rotarians formed an orderly queue to exit. The 7.1 4th September quake hit at 4.36 a.m. in the dark when we were in bed.  Now we were in our best bib and tucker on public display, so no unseemly jostling here and certainly no panic, not at the Canterbury Club anyway.

I’d tried to phone my wife and daughter and Sue at my office on the way out without any luck. I jogged as fast as I could via the Boulevard and The Square back to our offices on the corner of Cambridge and Manchester taking some badly shot iPhone video as I went.

In the Square the dust was still rising from the fallen spire and the injured and dazed, apparently mainly visitors, huddled in small groups. There were ominous piles of mute rubble spread out on the North West side of the Cathedral.

Given the time of day it was obvious that more tourists would have been in the building and, as I heard later, up on the viewing platform just above where the spire first swayed, then buckled and finally snapped off like a discarded stone icecream cone, a sombre counterpoint to the controversial Chalice only 30 metres away.

More than 20 are still entombed in the Cathedral, which looks grievously, perhaps even terminally, damaged

[Another big aftershock as I type rattles the windows and shakes the house].

The Press Building was shattered. We’d had lunch just three days before with an old friend who works in the Press Mon-Wed. They were about to move out of the Square to their new office next week. It turned out that Myles was having his lunch break in the Square and saw the spire come down.

Gloucester Streets and New Regent Streets were like blitzed London as I walked down the middle of the road to avoid falling debris. In New Regent Street people were trapped, but at least at ground level, with passers-by helping them out.

As I approached the damaged Manchester St bridge I first thought that the second floor of our building Mancan House had come down, but it was just the perspective and the intervening rise at the bridge. Then as I drew nearer I could see that the PGG building near our offices on the other side of the road had almost totally collapsed. (See satellite image*)

Sue was safe with our next door business neighbours, but the water from burst mains was about to pour in over the front step of our offices. I got my laptop and bags and we shifted a PC off the floor out of reach of the water. We couldn’t get to our server-the room was blocked. The aquarium was tipped over in the lounge area. I doubt if the rising flood would have saved any goldfish.

In September there was hardly a sign of damage at work but quite a bit at home. This time it was the reverse, but I didn’t know that when I tried to get home, having had no response from Sylvia on the landline and cellphone.

I had to go North to get to the South West to our place at Kennedys Bush 13 ks away from the city centre. I couldn’t get across town to my daughter’s office/apartment in a 2nd level brick building near the Botanic Gardens, my first attempted port of call. Brick buildings have been quick to tumble and I was concerned about her.  It turned out that she was at an Arts Centre café nearby and saw a structure disintegrate in front of her as much of the precinct was badly damaged.

I decided to head almost to the airport to get on the ring road back home.  I gave an 80 year old couple who were walking to the airport without luggage a ride from the middle of Fendalton. It took an hour to get to Burnside High on Memorial Ave and from then on it was plainer sailing.  Motorists were mainly better behaved than usual and where there were no lights were actually courteous. I saw only one large 4WD jump the queue and throw his vehicular weight around. Unfortunately, just when you wanted a large liquefaction sump to open up and swallow the vehicle, there was none immediately to be seen but plenty elsewhere.

People were walking home out of the CBD clutching bags and briefcases in scenes reminiscent of 11 Sept 2001. It will be a long time before many are able to return. This time it wasn’t the twin towers that were down-but the 3 tallest structures in the city were badly damaged, with the tallest, the 14 story Grand Chancellor Hotel on a Pisa-like lean looking set to fall at any time.

It was apocalyptic-one’s worst dream.

[Another really big aftershock –turns out to 4.4, epicenter only 5 kilometres away].

The 6.3 quake on Tues was near the same epicentre as the 5.1 quake 5 days after the big but bloodless 4th September Quake but hugely more destructive than both because it was so shallow and so close –about 10 kilometres from the city centre.  $NZ6-6 billion  damage initially-now total may be $NZ20-25 billlion.

I doubt if I’ll manage to get back into my offices. They’re once again well inside the expanded inner city no-go cordon. Even though the building is modern, it’s by the river. This time huge liquefaction has stuffed the foundations of many riverside buildings and caused the PGG building nearby to totally collapse with many fatalities.

The city will be like a doughnut for a generation -a series of villages huddled  around the outside of a hollowed out centre. The flight to the suburbs caused by the building of malls pell mell could now be irreversible. Hopefully the Cathedral can be saved and rebuilt; it’s an important civic symbol. But much of the heritage and tourist fabric of the city has been rent asunder.

I doubt if we can host the Rugby World Cup in terms of venue and accommodation. That for some might be a disaster but, of course, the real disaster this time is the loss of life, including at least 60 foreign students and tourists. Several people I know are missing. I am one of the guilty and impotent survivors.

As we struggle to come to terms with this new disaster just when as a city we were in recovery mode from the September quake we all can take heart from the incredible outpouring of help and concern from people all around the country and all round the world,

Less helpful is the nutter website ”Christchurch Quake”*- registered on September 20 to an address in Utah in the USA -which suggests the destruction wreaked across the city was a result of ”lesbians running loose on the South Island as if they own the place”…

With a home address like that you do have to take its comments with several grains of salt. Among other incendiary accusations, the website alleges that the earlier September earthquake, which coincided with the start of Gay Ski Week in Queenstown, was a warning from God to ”End the Evil – or else!’. God’s geography was obviously a bit odd in this case; he was out by a long way.

The website now claims that the 4th September earthquake warning had not been heeded, leading to Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which has killed more than 100 people with more than 200 still missing. He’s also been a bit tougher on  Christchurch churches this time,  yet not all of them have women bishops. (See the satellite images of our two cathedrals, before and after*).

Kerei Tia Toa’s Waitangi Day recounting of  his earlier vision of a great Wellington earthquake takes interprovincial rivalry and one-upmanship to a new seismic level. Watch that space.

In the meantime, Christchurch will be re-shaped and renewed as a low-rise city but it will take a generation and a renewed pioneering spirit. 

PS  Just before the second quake I  returned an almost overdue book to the Central Library. I certainly  saved myself a big fine: it will be months before we can get back into the central city. It was Jonathan Franzen’s 1992 novel Strong Motion and it was about a Boston seismologist and a series of unexpected  earthquakes in an area previously thought safe from seismic shocks. 

[Another large tremor to punctuate this blog. It would be nice if it was a full stop,]

Please add your quake comments below.

*Blinks

http://www.abc.net.au/news/infographics/christchurch-quake/beforeafter.htm  Satellite images of the city before and after the 2nd quake
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4623103/Earthquake-prediction-for-Wellington 
www.rotarysouthpacific.org    Rotary Earthquake Appeal-please help
http://quake.crowe.co.nz/   Rt hand column shows exact location.
 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4691733/Riverside-properties-face-destruction-after-quake  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4699592/Website-blames-Christchurch-quake-on-gay-community   

 #Lyall Lukey 25/2/11      
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The Hobbit Hoohah

November 6, 2010

Little Jack Warner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, What a good boy am I!
   
         Trad.(almost)

 Warner garnered an extra subsidised plum or two and some early Christmas presents after meetings in Wellywouldbe two weeks ago to discuss the production locale for the The Hobbit, Parts I&II due for release in 2012 and 2013.

Forbes, a US publication for the financially well endowed, headlined Prime Minister John Key’s announcement   “Labor Dispute Resolved, New Zealand Economy Saved”.   Certainly the $630 million movies were worth keeping, but are subsidies the way to save the economy? Farmers and manufacturers might have a different view.

On the surface the hoohah was more Extras than Star Wars and Andy Millman would have had a field day.  JR Tolkien, now third on the current deceased entertainers earning list, would be somewhat surprised to have his children’s book in the middle of all the hoopla-and even more surprised at being treated like royalty with his latter day royalties  (Michael Jackson 1,  Elvis 2, Elvish 3).

The talent for the parallel B movie HamsTo Be or not To Be,  shot in 1D and black and white was  a line up of the usual celluloid goodies, baddies and uglies.

 Slimdog millionaire Sir Peter Jackson scored the twin roles of St Peter and a cameo reincarnation of Elliot Ness  from The Untouchables;  Robyn Malcolm aka Cheryl West was cast-and then outcast- as a gangster’s moll after she tried to crack the Whipp and get a more equitable status for her non luminary colleagues; while Helen Kelly, President of the Council of Trade Unions, played first her own father, with her personal “spoilt brat” attack on Peter Jackson, then Ginger Rogers, with her backwards  fancy  fast  footwork. Prime Minister John Key was cast as his former self, a consummate dealmaker and gladhander after coaching in how to avoid fluffing his lines.

But were bit part actors really in danger of being paid an outrageous fortune? Or as Malcolm delicately put it, no doubt harking back to her own acting roots,   “Would I really, in the words of Cheryl West, want to root my own industry?”   

It did all look a little incestuous for a while. The Government  and key industry players were afraid that the movies would go west-or maybe east-depending on the size of the filmic inducements offered. On all sides the truth was stretched further than a Hollywood limo. On TV1’s Hobbit poll the Hoi polloi was split virtually 50/50 over the Government’s hobbledehoy  approach.

Labour couldn’t be too critical. They’d been big Lord of the Rings patrons. Pete Hodgson, one time Minister of LOR, could still land a role in Hobbit I as the Wizard of Was without the need for any makeup.

It was not just multinational Warner versus battling Kiwi actors. The union boycott also had an international aspect too with the temporary presence of Australian actors union import Simon Whipp who tried to whip up a frenzy using the high profile target of Peter Jackson. All he did was provide a convenient whipping boy for the government.

It was hard to be immune to Ian Mune’s  grizzled actor charms in a post-Paul Henry Breakfast  appearance. His Chicken Little piece put the industrial relations issue into perspective. The sky was not going to fall if there were good faith discussions on pay and conditions and on getting a fair suck of the residual royalties sav.  The players needed to be wary of being outfoxed (or, in this case, outwarnered) while clutching their heads and running for cover.

The game of chicken was suddenly halted  but it was too late. The attempted union boycott had handed Warner the plump plum duff on a plate. They wanted and got a guarantee that future industrial action would not jeopardise the Hobbitt productions. The law change from employee to independent contractor was faster than Burt Munro and suited the chief suits if not the thespian Indians.  But other factors, especially the higher kiwi dollar and subsidy sweeteners, weighed more heavily in the likely balance sheet . The main creative talents  of Hollywood  are exhibited by accountants and their legal sidekicks. It’s all about the money, stupid.

Given to quick decision making, Jack Warner once commented, “If I’m right fifty-one percent of the time, I’m ahead of the game”-a sentiment with which our dealmaker  PM would be quick to concur. The film industry is worth about $3 billion a year and could have sunk like the Titanic if the Hobbitt production been shifted, though Titanic producer James Cameron has just announced that Avatar 2 is set to be filmed in New Zealand.

All this helps the tourist industry, all though just how much and in which ways, is debatable. Middle Earth at the bottom of the globe (or the top, if you refer to the Wizard of Christchurch’s upside down map) will attract new tourists to have a gander at parts of wan Gondor land as well as some remnants of Gondwanaland.

The DVDs of the two Hobbit movies will have an NZ tourist promo. At least there will be people in both even if the long and the short of it is that some will be vertically challenged.  But even a population of hobbits is in stark contrast to some of the pristine people-less 100% Pure New Zealand avid advids which have sublime sets but no human stars, let alone any extras.

Of course, in an age of computer generated special effects  live actors and natural scenery are being augmented and in some cases replaced digitally. The film industry  provides young IT people with a marvelous mix of creative projects and deadline discipline at Weta Workshops and elsewhere working on big budget movies with a high quotient of digital visuals.

This burgeoning  industry must have been a big if unstated factor in keeping the Hobbits here and points to the real salvation of the New Zealand economy: productive innovation through teamwork and technology. The presence of such a creative and productive digital galaxy, built up through the LOR trilogy and other big budget blockbusters, is a great asset for the future-and not just for movies-when the Hobbits are history.

Now Secretary of State Hillary (not President) Clinton has come and gone, apart from the defence effects of the still unclear nuclear policy thaw, the big question is how far did the PM get behind the scenes  with advancing a free trade timetable? This is much more important to the country’s  future economic strategy than  domestic subsidies  piled on thick like a premiere red carpet.

Middle Earth has already done the deal with the Middle Kingdom but a free trade agreement with the USA would really be The Deal of the Century .

Perhaps the APEC meeting next weekend will get the Asia-Pacific free trade ball rolling faster.  Russia might even want to play.

Relevant Warner  Movies
The Country Kid meets the Gold Diggers,  The Big Shakedown  Dark Victory  Looney Tunes  Yankee Doodle Dandy  Damn Yankees , Dirty Harry  A Piece of the Action  The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu   Independence Day  Risky Business  Deal of the Century  Strictly Business  The Hudsucker Proxy  Godzilla Raids again  Free Willy 3: The Rescue  The Devil’s Advocate  Eyes Wide Shut  Looney Tunes: Back in Action  Superman Returns  Cop Out  Clash of the Titans   

  *BLINKS
The Hobbit, Part I (2012, co-production with New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and Spyglass Entertainment)
The Hobbit, Part II (2013, co-production with New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and Spyglass Entertainment)
http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/4268360/Why-would-I-      want-to-root-my-industry 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4279251/Jackson-I-feel-enormous-gratitude [see poll results]http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4280779/Hobbits-its-all-about-the-money 

 #Lyall Lukey 6 Nov 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog


Conservatorium-The Sound of Music or The Sound of Silence?

November 2, 2009

“…Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.”    
       

                                                                       Simon and Garfunkel  

Will the nearby new civic halls be alive with the sound of music or will the University of Canterbury’s proposed National Conservatorium of Music at Christchurch’s unique Arts Centre be art garfunkled?

This is another Christchurch Sturm und Drang in a tea cup. It’s been depicted in black and white, but if the conservatorium goes ahead the outcomes are certainly not all black, as painted by some opponents, though they may be a paler shade of white than portrayed by some proponents.

I have been open, but with some reservations, to the concept of building the Conservatorium on the vacant Hereford Street site to complete the original 1873 vision of progressively building a university campus in a gothic revival style. This vision didn’t include the mock Tudor building now occupied by the Dux de Lux, for which we ex-town site students have so much affection. Owner and opponent Richard Sinke seems to have got his Dux in a row rather more adroitly than the UC and the City Council.

Perhaps it’s time to try to clarify some of the thinking behind the concept and to do some rethinking.

The proposal

The proposal for the Arts Centre site is for a building that will replace existing inadequate facilities for music at Ilam, to which the University of Canterbury finally decamped in 1974. Its centrepiece would be an auditorium: “Performance would be the focus of our programmes at the conservatorium. An auditorium would be necessary for rehearsals and performances by staff, students and others… .the School of Music would flourish as a centre of musical excellence with a focus on conservatory-style training in the performance of classical music, providing the highest calibre artistic education for gifted musicians, in particular in strings, piano and voice, and with the possibility of developing a specialised opera programme.”

There is obviously a major international performer behind the concept who fully understands the need for top class rehearsal and performance facilities!  So far so good.

Conceptual Confusion

 The proposed site is in the heart of the city’s cultural precinct, which attracts residents and visitors. The prospectus states: “Entry to the Performance courses (piano, organ, orchestral instrument, recorder, brass band or voice) is limited. Places are awarded on the basis of a School of Music audition held in October 2009.”

There are many professional and amateur performance opportunities in the city. Christchurch is home to a symphony orchestra and the country’s second biggest, if currently somewhat shaky, arts festival. There are also efforts being made to breathe new life into the opera scene.

But there seems  to be some conceptual confusion which stems from a blurring of the related but quite different dimensions of music education and music performance:   “Students would also be able to pursue their interest in a comprehensive study of music, including musicology, music history and music education.”

Music education and music performance are at different ends of the knowing/doing continuum and should not necessarily be lumped together. For example, UC’s Bachelor of Music prospectus lists six pathways available within a Bachelor of Music:  Composition; Digital Music, Sonic Art and Recording Technology; Music Education; Music History, Culture and Research; Musicianship; Performance (Instrumental and vocal).  Presumably all but the last are capable of still being taught at Ilam-as is all or most of a Bachelor of Arts in Music, which contains a wider range of subjects than just music.

We shouldn’t confuse a more general music education, as in Stage I Music, with performance imperatives for those who wish to specialise in music. Apparently  Stage I music lectures will still be held at Ilam, with some staff, not students, doing the commuting;  likewise other music programmes would continue to be offered at Ilam for the likes of students studying for a double degree.

Rectification of Terms

What is a conservatorium? The eighteenth century French origin of conservatoire, as in conservatory of music or theatrical arts, was the word for an orphanage.  Early schools of music originated in orphanages where a musical education was given. An orphanage detached from the Ilam campus is what some fear if the Arts Centre proposal gets the go ahead.
Confucius emphasised calling things by their proper names. Perhaps it’s time for the  rectification of names and for dropping the inflated term “National Conservatorium of Music” in favour of the more descriptive “UC Music Performance Centre”, with an appropriate stress on music performance more general music education. The Music Performance Centre would be something to which serious music students “graduated” to in their second or subsequent years. The School of Music, as the umbrella organization, would span activities at Ilam as well as in the Arts Centre. Some music subjects, not necessarily performance related, are useful for those pursuing education or other careers. 

Design

The overshadowing weight of the design of the four story building is a big issue. The “edifice complex” was one of the reasons why Elric Hooper wants to knock it out of court.

One of the FAQs on the UC website: “Q: Could it be smaller? A: The current size is considered to be necessary for a facility of this sort. Further, it is no higher than the surrounding buildings and the quadrangle it creates will be the largest of the quadrangles”.  

The “all Arts Centre” or “all Ilam” dichotomy is a false one and perhaps has led to the  building being overspecced, not in terms of rehearsal, recording and performance spaces but in terms of staff and administration offices.  We can’t tell. The design has been pulled from the UC Conservatorium website.

The university needs to avoid acting like a homing cuckoo depositing an inappropriately large egg in a rather small nest, thus destroying the organic ambience of the present centre when a more sympathetic approach would enhance it.  

I’ve been been involved in a charitable organisation which, just prior to pushing the button on a new building on an old site, saw the need to have an eleventh hour rethink about the function and design of the building after neighbours raised objections. Substantial design and location changes were made and produced a final outcome acceptable to all parties. Perhaps it’s time for UC to move towards the middle ground.

Finance

If following the Special Consultative Process, the Council resolves to proceed with the proposal, the recommended structure would involve the Council borrowing the funds required to build the centre ($24.355m million), leasing the land from the Arts Centre and providing working capital to Civic Building Limited (CBL), which would be responsible for the development.

CBL would then have a long-term lease agreement with the University, up to 200 years, which ensures lease payments are sufficient to Recover the whole construction cost of the building over 50 years, meet all maintenance and refurbishment costs, pay the interest on the required loans, repay the debt and ensure the structure is cash-flow (and rates) neutral to Council

The financing of the project is the only part open for consultation. Recent Council deals have raised suspicions about the consultation process, or lack thereof. In this case it’s limited to the funding modus operandi not the wider concept. Some previously concealed financial data, eg the price tag for the Conservatorium, has only just surfaced as the Council hearings began because the Ombudsman has once again prised the facts from a coy Council pleading commercial sensitivity and pursuing its own interests in the shape of subterranean staff car parks.

Sinke’s lawyer Margo Perpick says: “There is a strong indication that the city council has predetermined the outcome of the consultative process.” The Arts Centre Trust has already applied to the City Council for “boundary realignment” for six allotments on the proposed music school site.

 Despite all this, the financial arrangements appear to be a reasonable way to achieve a visionary mix of civic and university goals and bring some more life to the city centre.  

Promise and compromise

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of either/or thinking. It is possible and desirable to keep a substantial presence of the School of Music at Ilam, particularly the lecture components and some administration and to have a second hub, the UC Music Performance Centre, at the Arts Centre.

Having some music staff and students working and performing in the centre of town would add to its vibrancy, attract more visitors and provide significant spin-offs for businesses in the inner city. But not all UC music education needs to be in the new separate from the main teaching and learning Ilam family.

The creation of a performance focussed building at the Arts Centre site would, as proponents aver, provide a central city location for the University and be useful for other University events such as the UC in the City Lecture series and alumni events. “This location has the potential to maximise audience numbers and community participation at such events and also at School of Music concerts.”

A modified concept can still be aspirational without being overblown.

Let’s have high quality music in the Arts Centre-in the new auditorium, in the Great Hall and elsewhere throughout the city centre, with UC performers  sharing their talents in a mix of non-profit and commercial contexts.

The Arts Centre is already a showcase, a meeting place, a marketplace and a performance venue for theatre, film and music.  It is no longer an education facility and is not zoned for tertiary education. 

The cosy coterie of proponents  and lack of real consultation has aroused suspicions and raised hackles, but on balance, with some rethinking and redesign, I would support the concept. To make it work some of the more avid supporters might need to get out of their own way  and discard a take it or leave it approach – and some of the critics who have been trying to sink the proposal might need to open their minds a little to a vision still softly creeping.

A modified concept and  revised design offers the prospect of filling in the longstanding gap in the Arts Centre with a blended porcelain filling rather than a transplanted gold-capped tooth. It would foster town/gown connections and enhance the vibrancy of the heart of the city’s cultural precinct.

The Arts Centre “one of New Zealand’s most significant historic and cultural attractions” could then be renamed Christchurch Arts and Music Centre and be alive with the sound of music seven days a week.

“We want music seven days a week, seven days a week will do
Any more than this would be greedy, just so greedy, too true….”      
                                                                                                                       

                                                 Mark Walton  7 Days a Week

Lyall Lukey 2/11/09 

 http://www.lukey.co.nz/   http://www.smartnet.co.nz 

 BLINKS

http://www.music.canterbury.ac.nz/conservatorium/building.shtml

http://www.culturalprecinct.co.nz/

http://www.soac.org.nz/     Save Our Arts Centre from inappropriate development.

Heritage Alert  Graphically illustrates just how significant the proposed building will dominate the Arts Centre site and how totally unsympathetic the proposed new building will be in respect to the existing heritage buildings.

Sound Of silence – Simon & Garfunkel (live sound)

SevenDaysaWeek.mp3


Key and Letterman-great late showing

September 26, 2009

“…[New Zealand] my favourite country in the world to which I have not  been”.        David Letterman 

On Thursday night’s Late Show with David Letterman  the alphabetical host needed  large prompt cards, the autocue and a very audible assistant.  He still had more miscues than a chalkless (and occasionally clueless) billiards cue. He semed to have something else on his mind.*

 His guest, New Zealand Prime Minister  John Key, a numberman in a former life, just needed the autocue for enumerating  The Reasons You Should Visit New Zealand , counting down from 10. The numerical snooker shots (all black), were carefully set up near each pocket and Key potted them in an affably tradesman-like  fashion, without once missing his cue.

OK, the  lines fed to him by Letterman’s gag writers were not great, but this wasn’t a platform for genuinely genius Kiwi humour of the Conchords kind. Key came across well and delivered in what is a high pressure goldfish bowl.

The Late Show set is trapped in a seventies time warp. Had it been even a nineties Clive James Live show there would have been photos and video clips of the Wonderland Letterman referred to. The focus on the PM and not NZ visuals could have gone either way. Initially a little nervous, his genuine smile and his refusal to take himself too seriously complemented the world weary and wooden  Letterman.

Whether or not viewers remember the PM’s name, the words “New Zealand” and the fluffy fuzzies will spark new neuronal activity in 4 million plus US viewers and flow through to new tourist, convention and business action for New Zealand downstream. This is timely new energy for Key’s Tourism portfolio.

The  “20 hours travel time”  was, of course,  flogged to death.  The USA is as far away from New Zealand as we are from them, but attraction and motivation can overcome the time challenge.  

I recently hosted two NASA visitors who had been persuaded by NASA colleague and futurist Dr Jack Bacon* to detour through Christchurch en route from Houston to Tokyo to attend a high level systems strategies meeting.  Jack had been on our speakers’ circuit a year ago (and a fortnight ago completed another speaking tour here with Kathy) and convinced his colleagues to visit).  All three would endorse No 1 on Key’s top 10 list: “Unlike most of the world, we still like Americans.”

The mix of old and new media messages and this sort of word of mouth endorsement lifts the game up into new levels of business tourism. The 4 minute YouTube clip* gives the promo legs and creates potential links to The Great Kiwi Invite and other  on-line tourist promotion assets.*

Getting on  The Late Show may be an undignified Prime Ministerial pursuit in the eyes of the sniffy, but the 4 minute slot was a great free commercial. It suited Key’s persona and style.  The premeditated sponteneity worked and Key delivered, even if some of the references to Cinnabon and Lohan may have drawn the same bemused and bewildered response among Kiwi viewers, not the Prime Minister’s  prime audience, as tongue in cheek No 5  among Americans: “Get the whanau together, stay in a bach, crack open the chilly bin and slap on your jandals.”   (Cynical exponents of the cheap crack would no doubt say that that’s the only word many would recognise.)

Number 4 was: Visit in the next 30 days, I’ll pick you up at the airport.”  Swapping Cabinet for a cab?  Taxis would be a refreshing change from taxes, but the lead time for most new travellers will be a little longer, so don’t turn the meter on just yet.

Footnote: There’s also a coincidental  bonus (though that word is out of favour in NY while President  Obama is in town).  As well as achieving his main aim purpose of getting on the Late Show early, the PM finds that he can also fit in a flying visit to the UN and do a stand up turn.  He faces a smaller and more challenging audience, especially if Helen Clark slips in, and he’ll get a little less stage time than the 90 minutes the Libyan leader  highjacked the other day, but it’s still worthwhile doing while he’s in town.

Two big bites of the Big Apple and lots of other good video ops like meeting President Obama and being belle of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange!  If he can make it there, He’d make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York.

To save more travel costs he could even stay with the whanau at the temporary Libyan tent village which has been erected near by, complete with nubile security and,  unlike some hotels, running water. 

However,  if he uses this pipe opener at his UN gig  “Have  you heard the one about how we scotched the rumours about why Kiwi bagpipers were invited to play at Colonel Gaddafi’s  4oth anniversary?”  he  might get a chilly reception. 

 At least no one could accuse him of Brown nosing.

 *BLINKS

John Key on David Letterman Top 10 List 2009 Sept

The Great Kiwi Invite

http://www.drjackbacon.com/  

Lyall Lukey 26/9/09  http://www.lukey.co.nz/   http://www.smartnet.co.nz/


Stopping Tourism Going to the Dogs

August 8, 2009

 “Tourism is a major economic driver and has the potential to help get the country through the recession in good shape….Kiwis can play a part in getting people to visit New Zealand…”   John Key, Minister of Tourism

 As Prime Minister Rob Muldoon kept Finance, David Lange chose Education and Helen Clark Arts and Culture. It’s an indication of the importance of tourism to New Zealand and his own priorities that the present Prime Minister is also the Minister of Tourism.

Last month’s Trenz2009 meeting of New Zealand’s tourist industry used hindsight and foresight to spot  tourist trends. 

Delegates were told that in 1950 25 million people took an international holiday (somewhat up on the millions who had had an economy backpackers’ fare a few years before, often one way, courtesy of the Armed Forces).

In 2008 900 million took an international holiday. That is forecast to grow to 1.9 billion people by 2030. New Zealand needs to attract more than its share and the 100% Pure NZ campaign, now into its second decade, has been given a new lease of life-not without controversy.                            

 I had a childhood experience of New Zealand’s early 1950s tourist industry. 

In the early 1950s, only a few tourists ventured to these Shaky Isles. That magnet for intrepid Victorian adventurers, the Pink and White Terraces at Tarawera, had been destroyed by a volcanic explosion in 1896. At the end of 1953, during the Royal Tour, the thermally-induced Tangiwai disaster was a reminder that New Zealand was, indeed a young country, with frequent fiery adolescent skin eruptions to prove it.

I witnessed an explosion of a marital kind involving two touring American honeymooners at Punakaiki.  They were what is known today as free and independent travellers, exploring the South Island in a red sports car. They had stopped at Manderson’s tea rooms, where my mother worked, at the top of the hill, near the track which wound its way down to the Blow Holes and the Pancake Rocks.  

In bad weather this was a dramatic and frightening place. Just a few weeks before we arrived the Manderson’s daughter had fallen into the main blowhole and it took several days to recover the body.

 This day the weather was fine but the American husband stormy. The couple were travelling with two young tan Daschunds called Gin and Tonic who had left recent evidence that they were, indeed, sausage dogs in the sports car. They were thrust into the arms of my bemused mother as a “gift” before the couple sped away.

 Queen Victoria may have been particularly enamoured of the  breed,  perhaps because its German origins matched her own, but mainly because the breed was used for badger baiting and fox and rabbit hunting. Our two new pets proved to be less adept when chasing a Kiwi Possum which unsportingly shinned up a tree.

Daschunds are of only average intelligence but they are brave and will tackle much larger animals. In fact, a 2008 survey rated Dachshunds the most aggressive small dog. However, the breed also has spinal problems, due in part to an extremely long  spinal column and short rib cage.

 Having John Key as Minister of Tourism is a key part of the strategy to stiffen up the spine of the industry and stop it going to the dogs.

 In a more uncertain world some groups hitherto well represented in New Zealand’s visitor numbers are apparently staying closer to home. For example, young Japanese people seem more interested these days in playing Playstations in the comfort of home.

We have to attract the quality visitors who spend the most and impact the least on the country and give them a delightful Kiwi experience.

The new Tourism New Zealand campaign, the Great Kiwi Invite, was launched last Friday at the National party’s annual conference. It invites Kiwi to go to www.thegreatkiwiinvite.co.nz  and flick on a personal animated invitation to friends and relations offshore inviting them come down here for a holiday.  This has drawing power: when the invitation is accepted, the person will go into a draw to win one of 15 trips for two.

The New Zealand campaign, launched on the 10th anniversary of the 100% Pure Campaign targets not just the one million Kiwis who have joined the great Kiwi Diaspora, but their friends and relations. It is rather more inviting than Australia’s less than subtle “Where the bloody hell are you” campaign.

While the website will seed the campaign, social networking sites will help to multiply the message. Rather than the exhausting and exhaustive Kodak Carousel sideshows of yesteryear, travellers can now flick their images onto Flickr. 

We don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us but we do need to lift our game in terms of tourist service. We might even need to, in rugby parlance, inject a bit of mongrel into the tourist campaign, which, like many useful breeds of dogs, does not have to be 100% pure to be effective.

A bit of fun also helps leave dingos in the dust, as these video clips illustrate. But, as the All Blacks know, never underestimate the power of  a dingo to retaliate.

 BLINKS:

 The Great Kiwi Invite 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeJSfRDwQ4A&feature=related  100% Pure NZ Full 

Where The Bloody Hell Are You? Spoof

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY_XR6QnjYs&NR=1&feature=fvwp  Facelift: Where the bloody hell are you?

 Where the bloody hell are you?

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxgQ27RDDWk&NR=1   Where the bloody hell are you – New Zealand

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RenRILqwhJs&NR=1&feature=fvwp  Australia-invade New Zealand

 Lyall Lukey 7 August 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/