Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Writer's Walk ... #125

This fun and educational walk starts at Chaffers Marina (to the east of Te Papa) and follows the waterfront to Te Papa and Circa Theatre, across the City to Sea bridge to Civic Square then back to the waterfront finishing at Frank Kitt’s Park. Text sculptures with quotes by well-known New Zealand writers, including Katherine Mansfield, James K Baxter and Maurice Gee, are found along the way. Pick up a brochure from the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Centre. This Wellington feature had an interesting history in its creation.

In mid-2000 a small group of members of the Wellington Branch of The New Zealand Society of Authors met to consider how they could make writing more visible in the city. They were aware that literary tourism was a growing phenomenon and considered various ways of building on the interest already generated by the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace. Wanting to draw attention to Wellington’s wealth of writers among both local people and visitors they decided that a series of plaques creating a writers walk, such as exists in Sydney and Dunedin, would be a good starting point.
At the end of 2000, they accepted typographer Catherine Griffith’s designs for the plaques and then began a long process of discovery as she explored methods of casting, and considered what scale and materials might be most appropriate.
The committee then investigated various materials for use in the plaques. Bronze was too expensive to use on the scale they were now imagining. With the help of Richard Taylor of Weta workshop various compounds were experimented with but all seemed too fragile. Finally they were directed towards Stresscrete in Otaki where they met Ron Seymour – a man who can knows that anything is possible in concrete.
Wellington City Council gave a generous grant, as did the Lion Foundation of New Zealand, the Community Trust of Wellington and the New Zealand Community Trust. Some sponsors were matched to particular writers: Victoria University of Wellington sponsored Bill Manhire and Vincent O’Sullivan’s sculptures, Learning Media sponsored Patricia Grace, The Dominion sponsored Robin Hyde, The Evening Post sponsored Pat Lawlor, and the Bank of New Zealand (who have been the sponsors of the Katherine Mansfield short story award since 1959) sponsored Katherine Mansfield’s sculpture.
Generous individuals were also critical to the fund-raising. A group of Lauris Edmond’s friends clubbed together and raised the money for Lauris’s sculpture. Peter Biggs, who has always been passionate about the poetry of James K Baxter, sponsored Baxter’s sculpture personally and his company sponsored Maurice Gee, while Christopher Finlayson joined Dr Diana Mason in sponsoring Bruce Mason. His Excellency, Mr. Jorge Alvarez, Ambassador to Mexico held a very successful fund-raising evening in his residence (which happens to be Katherine Mansfield’s childhood home in Karori).

No comments: