Hamilton: where the energy is

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John Mercer’s black and white images showed activist Hamilton in the 1970s and ‘80’s.

John Mercer’s black and white images showed activist Hamilton in the 1970s and ‘80’s.

Hamilton’s Pecha Kucha – held in September during the 2018 Festival of Architecture – provided captivating stories of social activism and placemaking activation in Hamilton from the potent 1960s through to the kinetic present.

Curated by architect Antanas Procuta and musician of much capability Brooke Baker, the presentations were woven together by MC and provocateur Dr Richard Swainson.

In among the energy of the current young professionals and artists, such as muralist Paul Bradley, architect Daniel Smith, designer Alexander Wastney, and café-ist musician David Smith – who are each making subversive and highly visible interventions in the city’s fabric – there was also the reminder of the public social vigour of the 1970s and 80s. Through photojournalist John Mercer’s black and white images, we viewed the protests against nuclear persuasion and Springbok tours, support for women’s rights and the Whina Cooper led hikoi, and the street theatre of a youthful Laird McGillicuddy Graeme Cairns and his kilted kin battling Alf’s Imperial Army. All in the hub of a populated Garden Place and a bustling Victoria Street.

Musician Jade Brown spoke movingly about changing lives through acquiring music capability.

Musician Jade Brown spoke movingly about changing lives through acquiring music capability.

Architect Matt Grant – in six minutes and forty seconds – comprehensively portrayed Hamilton’s most important architect of the ’60s through to the ’90s, Aalto-influenced Rod Smith. Heritage Architect Carolyn Hill provided an academic and philosophical re-thinking of conservation values with the demolition of John Scott’s landmark 1974 Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre within the landscape of an aggrieved Tuhoe people.

Most moving were the talks of musician Jade Brown, transforming young difficult lives through the purpose, pride and focus of acquiring skills in violin playing (true!), and of crafter Ryan Thorpe, having the survivors of the Kaikoura earthquake each design and fabricate their own working longboard.

Providing the slow picture was the long-term placemaking vision and realisation of planner Dorothy Wakeling, who with husband arborist John has spent some 25 years transforming the harsh and barren crags of Winstone’s Scotsmans Valley quarry to a rich living arboretum as a backdrop for artistic intelligent and creative endeavours in their Waitakaruru Sculpture Park.

Pecha Kucha 37 was sponsored by another of Hamilton’s current instigators of meaningful placemaking, Foster Construction. The audience left well-stimulated and primed. – Antanas Procuta

The audience was treated to stories of activism and activation in Hamilton.

The audience was treated to stories of activism and activation in Hamilton.

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