Thursday, 28 July 2011

filling the gaps

We all know why we loved Lyttelton's Center before the earthquake: the buildings were slightly down-at heel, but well-loved, full of character, quirky, colourful and all different from each other, a mixture of different ages, styles and materials.

From the first earthquake in September till now the center of town seemed on a slow downward slide of destruction. But I also feel we have reached the very bottom and are on our way up. Keep on reading...

Since September, building after building succumbed to increasing damage, which worsened in February and with all the aftershocks, and led to the demise and complete collapse of many of them. We mourned by attaching stitched hearts to everyone in Lyttelton and decorating the fences around the buildings with hearts, messages and colurful buntings.
The next phase were trucks, diggers, cranes, and the medieval wrecking ball, finishing off the job, and ' tidying up' the sites by removing every last brick and plank of the past, leaving behind clinically scrubbed sites, neatly filled with fine gravel and levelled off, leaving behind a scar in the fabric of the town, a ' black hole' with no asssocciation of what was there before or what the future will bring. In this phase the decorated fences were shifted and moved, all that was left was grey metal and dust.

The next phase involved a lot of 'cloak-and-dagger-antics': brave people scaled the cordoned fences at night and erected memorials: white wooden crosses with the date of the earthquake appeared on all the sites one morning, leaving some people uneasy with their connotation of death. When they were gone a mysterious structure of a small black, fabric clad house structure appeared on the site of the HarbourLight Theatre. One person I talked to said that it glowed at night! This has been replaced with three beautiful totem-like posts, spelling out in nautical flag-language a line of a poem by James K. Baxter, to coincide with NZ poetry day, built and painted by Trent Hiles.

Last week for me was the turning point, the first step up out of this deep valley! 'Gap-Filler' ( had come to town and with two dozen people the old 'Ground Delicatessen' site has been transformed. Seats and tables were constructed on site from wooden pallets, a rough-ish petanque course was laid down, eq bricks were re-used as as stepping stones to the stage (!), rocks from a stone-wall form the edge of a plant bed. There was a bbq with Trent Hiles (one of the shifters and movers) at the helm, there were tins with home baking, and most important of all people: to cart, rake, dig, haul, sand, carry, laugh, talk and eat together. It was great being there and talking about the future: about weekly events that could happen there, children's activities, talks, exercise classes, concerts, gardening, crafts activities,- whatever we dream up!

The Lyttelton Petanque Club Launch
Sunday 31 July, 12-3pm

Live music, poetry and pentanque
Bring a plate of food, some drinks to share and a potted plant.

Also last week the Eq- townplanners presented their plans how Lyttelton could look in the future, based on ideas presented by the public in the last few months. Besides other things the plans suggested a garden on top of the library with views towards the sea, a space for the Lyttelton Art Collective and an open, green gathering space in the middle of Lyttelton.

written by Bettina Evans

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