Chinese Dumplings - a recipe for connection

-        Take a group of patrons at Merge Cafe.

-        Add a small group of senior Chinese women (who don’t speak English) and a large dollop of goodwill.

-        Chop, knead and shape together to produce perfect dumpling dough, laughter and friendship.   

-        When preparation is complete, cook and enjoy food together.

-        Exchange beautiful cultural songs to show appreciation, goodwill and friendship.

This was the recipe that connected unlikely neighbours from Merge Café and the Chinese community when a group of senior Chinese Splicers taught homeless /recently housed patrons at Merge Café how to make traditional Chinese dumplings. The result was delicious food along with newly blended trust and understanding.

Courage is required every time a senior migrant steps out into our community, even when the community is reasonably familiar. Stepping out to teach (in a foreign language) a section of the community that is totally unfamiliar, requires even more courage.

This message from a member of the Chinese group says it all; ‘Made the two cultures together. We were all happy this afternoon.’

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KINDNESS - the power to transform communities

Kindness, the incredibly positive value we all understand and have experience of, was once again ramped up on the streets of the city centre neighbourhood for Random Acts of Kindness Day 2017.

Combine, two teams armed with 5000 “Little Pots of Kindness" filled with the sweetest of bush honey and “kindness cards” encouraging both the consideration of kindness and a call to action, with 19 neighbourhood "Cafes of Kindness" handing out free coffees and you have a sweeping wave of kindness through the city centre neighbourhood.

Along with all the surprise, the hugs, smiles and appreciation, what better way to describe what happened than some of examples of the impact a small act of kindness can have on each other in a community:

“This is wonderful – it’s just made our day even better” - An older couple going for a wedding anniversary lunch

One lady came up to me after “S” gave her a pot of honey and she started crying – she said that she needed this today, she’s been going through a lot of hardship lately.  

“This is amazing. I’ll go in to work with a big smile on my face today” 

Walking up Queen Street to work this morning feeling a bit jaded after a broken night's sleep and with a sore throat, the offer of a small jar of honey was so unexpected and gratefully received. A few spoonfuls throughout the day made all the difference. Thank you Splice 😊😊 

“Received this (photo of a honey pot) on the way to work. It touches me to see this is happening.” 

“After receiving your free pot of honey I was generally pleased as I arrived at work. I am a debt collector and I have the autonomy to make people's lives much harder or much easier, depending on the level of commitment they make to resolving their situation.  A person called me this morning to settle a significant debt they had really battled to raise money for. They had mentioned they had not been overseas for many years due to their debts and that this was their last debt. Let's just say they have some extra cash in their pocket now, can take that overseas trip and will not be worrying about that debt ever again. Let’s put it all down to a small pot of honey.” 

You can read the full list of feedback here

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A special Splice thank you must go to the following people and organisations, who make the spreading of kindness possible: 

Kindness Splicers – the residents, students, workers and others, who generously were able to find the time to put normal life aside for a morning and pluck up the courage to hit the streets to give kindness to others on a Friday morning.

Hikutaia Honey – Barbara and Allan for their honey and the warmth of their hospitality, as the team knuckled down to manually fill the “Little Pots of Kindness” that create the magic that touches the hearts of those who receive them.

Methodist Mission Northern and Aotea St James without whom the work of Splice in connecting the threads of community would not be possible.

Activate Auckland Council – for their contribution to the funding of the action and understanding, that a city that invites kindness, is a place we all want to live, work, study and play in.

Cospak and Mainfreight – Cospak who gave us a great deal on the jars and lids and Mainfreight who readily came to the party in delivering them from Auckland to Opotiki.  Kindness from business in support of community engagement and enhancement is always welcome from an NGO who can’t always stretch to cover all avenues.

Active Building Management and Network Media – communication within the city centre can be tricky without a swanky marketing budget.  Our thanks to these two and others for getting the message into a good number apartments and in front of people on the Red Bus that circulates the neighbourhood.

Kindness Cafes - it is heartening to engage with so many neighbourhood cafes, who see themselves as active participants in their community and leapt at the chance to be part of the day.

Finally to Everyone who engaged in Random Acts of Kindness, acts big and small, on this day and beyond – keep up the good work and - practice makes perfect.

Active Citizens - Coming Soon to Auckland

Earlier in the year, the Splice team had a couple of meetings about how we could continue to raise up the people in our community. Gareth had heard about a program called Active Citizens, and set to work to see if it could be the toolkit we needed.

Active Citizens is a social leadership program developed by British Council UK. It promotes intercultural dialogue and sustainable development. Active Citizens has been incredibly successful in over 46 countries launching almost 8000 social action projects and creating over 210,000 global citizens. 

So after a taster workshop in April, John (our Chaplain at Large) told me and five other Splicers that we were going to Fiji to see how we could bring Active Citizens back home. I was ecstatic.

Then John told me we were sleeping eight to a room, with cold showers and no internet! I was slightly less ecstatic. Nevertheless, 2 months later I stepped onto a plane at 2am, armed with a lot of Vodafone roaming data, dry shampoo and ear plugs.

SIDENOTE: We actually forgot to take a Splice team photo together. This is the superwoman half the team. Barbara Manarangi, Tara Solomon, Serena Solomon, Maddy O’Dwyer.

SIDENOTE: We actually forgot to take a Splice team photo together. This is the superwoman half the team. Barbara Manarangi, Tara Solomon, Serena Solomon, Maddy O’Dwyer.

Over the week in Fiji, the Active Citizens course was very engaging, exploring concepts through movement, games and open conferencing. The master-facilitators (Professional World-Changers in my opinion) delivered the content in a way that encouraged us to unpack concepts instead of reducing them down into academic one-liners.

Our Amazing Facilitators: Charo, Karen, Michael, Apolonia.

Our Amazing Facilitators: Charo, Karen, Michael, Apolonia.

I realised how easy the course made it to be open minded, to listen to hear instead of listening to reply - we weren’t looking for one right answer, so we didn't have to agree or disagree on anything. I discovered a really beautiful space in conversation where the ideas got bigger and bigger while the barriers disappeared. 

When we practiced facilitating, I found myself enjoying creating conversations between others even though I am naturally quite outspoken, and once would have been quite happy to tell everyone how I was saw things.

My biggest revelation was learning something I thought I already knew how to do. I learnt the difference between being tolerant of someone different to you, and being authentic with someone different to you. I realised that even when we hold different beliefs around life, God, LGBT+ communities and all those other things that can seem so important, our inter-connectedness is always precious and always worth investing in.

Ravuni, Frank, Ana, Sai and Sevu

Ravuni, Frank, Ana, Sai and Sevu

On Wednesday, we went to Cautata village to visit a group of woman selling crafts to build infrastructure in their little community. We sat in a beautiful bright blue hall they had raised the money for and there was a formal Kava Ceremony. When I talked to the village woman they told me how they loved village life but also how small it was. One woman told me of how she sold mats for over a year to buy a boat for her husband to start a little fishing business. The village was so hospitable providing an array of afternoon treats and Tara sought out fresh coconuts, we watched a young man wield a machete expertly to open them. One of the ladies offered me a puppy with big green eyes for just $50 FJD, I had to work very, very hard to say no. Then the Fijians began to sing songs of the different provinces, and we danced.

The sign outside the Caucata Woman's Kitchen & Hall

The sign outside the Caucata Woman's Kitchen & Hall

The night before we left was Cultural Night and I have to describe the quality of dancing for you (not something I could personally contribute to). David from Columbia had snake hips and could get almost anyone on their feet & on beat (again, not me); ALL the Fijian’s moved like water; Peruvian Charo made it look effortless, and Ingrid belonged in a ballroom. But the biggest stars of course were Tara and Serena with ‘if you’re an Active Citizen and you know it, clap your hands.’

I tried to convince the kiwi's to do a rendition of Fred Dag's 'if it weren't for my gumboots, where would I be?' or Split Endz - 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat' to no avail. Wayne sung Hallelujah and we all melted into the night (the Kava might have helped).

Iavil, Gareth, David, Frank, Sai & Wayne performing on Cultural night. This is the only photo with all the Splice boys in it!

Iavil, Gareth, David, Frank, Sai & Wayne performing on Cultural night. This is the only photo with all the Splice boys in it!

Having done the course now, I think I could expand on the official description of Active Citizens. It’s about giving anyone and everyone the skills to participate meaningfully in their communities, to splice together different kinds and take charge of making a difference.

The Splice team haven’t hashed out the details of our plans for Active Citizens yet but very soon we will begin making the course available to the city centre communities, and then… well, those plans are still top secret. (My personal goal is to create an army of community superheroes!)

The AC team and the Caucata Villagers: Superheroes united!

The AC team and the Caucata Villagers: Superheroes united!

At one point we learnt about a southern African bantu word – Ubuntu. It describes identity in terms of an individual’s relationship with others and is sometimes explained as:

“I am because you are, because we are.’

That’s what I’ll be remembering while I continue to practice my new Active Citizens skills.

That and my one run-in with a fruit bat.

Click the right side to scroll through photos.

 

Thanks to Splice, Waitemata Local Board and all our Splicer's for this wonderful opportunity!
Maddy

 

If you’d like more information about the Active Citizens program, visit https://www.britishcouncil.org/active-citizens or email maddy@splice.org.nz .

 

 

Sharing Food and Telling Stories

Throughout history story sharing has been a process whereby connections were made and trust was built both between individuals and within communities. Exchanges often took place while trading with a pedlar, participating in shared work or while preparing or sharing food.

Today, story sharing continues to provide a means to ‘know’ others, to recognise ourselves in them, and to understand our differences through sharing experiences; but in this fast-paced world, how often do we take the time to share our stories and really listen to others?

In order to do our work of connecting and building community in our city centre, Splice needs to hear people’s experiences of living in the city centre.

In any community, it’s impossible to ‘assume’ what people want or need.  Add in the huge diversity of cultures and languages in Auckland city centre, and it’s even more complex.

Splice recently gathered together a group of Auckland city centre Chinese residents, many with little or no English, to enjoy shared food and tell their stories about arriving and living in New Zealand. With the help of a wonderful group of volunteer interpreters information was recorded and will be used to plan,  with members of the Chinese community, what ‘we’ and ‘they’ can do together to make the city centre a neighbourhood where they feel at home.

Story sharing can, without a doubt,  capture people’s hopes, dreams, and vision and provide the collective power to turn ‘ME’ into ‘WE’ in terms of building community.

The Enjoyable Business of Splicing with Business

The Auckland city centre neighbourhood is a resource rich environment, abundant with the skills and willingness of a raft of locals, e.g. the Auckland University students with whom Splice collaborate around public spaces every year, the bi-lingual residents who help us cross the language barrier in the absence of the team’s ability with Mandarin…the list goes on.

It is also the businesses of the neighbourhood, both local and further afield, who are willing to pitch in and play their part in building a community of courage and compassion. 

Splice’s contribution to fundraising for the Lifewise Big Sleepout 2017, was an approach to local restaurants asking “Can You Spare a Meal” to be auctioned over Trade Me.  A “splicing” and all-of-community approach, where the generosity and willingness of the business community and the compassionate desire (and tastebuds) of the general community, were brought together in order to raise funds to effect change in the lives of another sector of the community, our neighbours without homes.

On 1 September Splice will be going back to the street for Random Acts of Kindness Day – raising the profile of kindness, as a key element to building positive communities we value and love. The project has the support of Hikutaia Honey, a hefty discount on 5000 jars and lids (Cospak Ltd) and an offer to transport the empty jars in Auckland, to meet the honey in Opotiki (Mainfreight).  Businesses one and all, who have a genuine willingness to widen their perspective beyond their own bottom lines, to support the prospect of something bigger and in this particular instance kinder, for everyone.

So a special thank you from Splice, to all of the businesses who splice with us and in particular for those who supported the “Can You Spare a Meal” campaign and for those in support in the build up to Random Acts of Kindness Day. 

Here they are: 

"Can You Spare a Meal" - The Caker, Madame George, The Lantern Alley, Saigon, Citizen Q, Carmen Jones, Gemmayze Street, The Hipgroup, Marvell Grill, Café Hanoi, Monsoon Poon, Heart of the City, Britomart Group, Trade Me.

Random Acts of Kindness Day - Hikutaia Honey, Cospak, Mainfreight, Active Building Management.

“Individually we are one drop but together we are an ocean” - Ryunosuke Satoro

Neighbours, Feijoa ZeppElin & Heritage Conveniences doth a small green fruit festival make

As the month of May drew to a close Splice in partnership with the Guild of the Feijoa (est. 2015) climbed the spiral staircase to TABAC for the annual festival of celebration of the tasty green fruit and community connection – “A Most Unanticipated Feijoa Festival”.

Come one, come all of the neighbourhood and they did – residents, workers, reps from: CCRG (resident’s group), Downtown Dogs, Chessmates, the Waitemata Local Board, splicing students from Auckland Uni, Tai Chi’ers, the Civic Trust, ACPC etc – new apartment neighbours lured in as they happened to pass by (and then stayed the whole night) even visitors from the Caribbean.

Understanding local history is often a cornerstone to building a collective sense of belonging to a place.  So it was with this year’s festival speaker Hannah Alleyne and her aptly named presentation “A wee story about Auckland city’s heritage toilets”, the type of social history too often hidden away in the water closet.  As an early example of inequitous user-pays (and as designated by male burghers of the city council) while Women’s “restrooms” once required the spending of a penny, Men’s “toilets” operated free of charge.

With The Guild of the Feijoa, Celebratory Jug once again up for grabs, local judge Chris van Ryn of Freestyle Photography www.freestylephotography.co.nz – a man who knows more than a thing or two about photographic composition, had the tricky task of adjudicating the winners of this year’s competition “The Neighbourhood Feijoa - a photographic study of small green fruit in their neighbourhood". 

From the individual shots, to the plethora of photos from local groups, winners were sought - including the supreme winner, local resident Julie’s stunning montage of feijoa zeppelin.  Absolutely no photoshop involved in this creation, though there were apparently some questions being asked around Devonport about a hybrid-pohutukawa bearing green fruit.

Good fun, plenty of conversation and connection - great neighbourhood.

The Language of Shared Food and Culture

Ni Hao – a Kiwi Christmas Dinner!

Language need not be a barrier to sitting down and eating together and so it was just prior to Christmas last year at the Auckland Chinese Presbyterian Church Hall in Vincent St, when Chinese from local apartments were invited to come “splice” over a traditional Kiwi Christmas dinner.

The evening festivities had it all - Santa in traditional red suit with presents, a surprise visit by the Auckland Street Choir, turkeys, gravy and a liberal distribution of pavlova.

With the invaluable help of some bi-lingual splicers, traversing the language divide was a lot of fun, as connections and understanding revealed themselves across the evening.

The city centre neighbourhood is incredibly culturally diverse.  By the official numbers Chinese make up a significant proportion of the residential community.  There is now a local Chinese WeChat group – WeChat being a well-used social media platform by Chinese.  Go to “AKL City Centre Neighborhood” if you can read Chinese and want to meet new neighbours and stay informed.

Regardless of your cultural heritage, if you are someone who believes that being welcoming and building connections between people is both interesting and important then feel free to get in touch or keep an eye on the Splice Facebook page.

In the forthcoming Year of the Rooster - 2017, Splice will be looking to facilitate further opportunities and you’re welcome to join in the fun.

Xie xie.

 

 

Healing Art

As a celebration and culmination of the Jean Marc Calvet Tour of 2017, Aucklanders got the chance to leave a mark of hope on the city centre. Splice teamed up with Auckland Libraries, the Fringe Festival and Resene to arm the public with paint, brushes and an empty wall outside the Central Library.

As with the rest of the tour, the theme was suicide prevention and artful healing. The wall was filled with messages of hope and declarations of love (in many different languages), self-portraits, a mural of our Chaplain at Large, and a beautiful Jean Marc Calvet mural in the centre of it all.

The event was a great example of community, compassion and courage. Those who claimed they couldn’t paint spent hours engulfed in the art-scape, kids painted with strangers, and streeties alongside professionals in nice dresses or suits and ties. The community artwork will remain up until the street art is painted over or fades, a nod to the transience of the city.

 

Thanks to Wayne Hapi for performing, and Resene for the paint sponsorship.

Just old enough to remember ‘Scotch ‘n Soda’!

I dislike brands so much that I will cut off labels, or ‘black ink out’ logos on my shoes and so on.  Forest Gump told me that I should never advertise someone else’s product, only my own.  He is right of course!

But there is a brand that I like, not because it does anything for me other than prompt a memory.

‘Scotch and Soda’ is a clothing brand that I have purchased twice.  The first time in an op shop on Karangahape Road, $40.00 for a ‘Scotch and Soda’ shirt.  The second time, another shirt, but this time in the department store that I only ever ‘browse’ in, Smith and Caughey.  On the last day of their last sale I saw a ‘Scotch and Soda’ shirt on their going going gone rack, $25.00!

 

I was just old enough to remember, maybe kindergarten days.  It was time for Santa Claus to begin appearing at events and in malls. My father was a ‘Service Manager’ at the time at a garage selling Vauxhalls and Chevrolets.  Clive was the name of the boss.  He seemed a very kindly man, very quiet, smoked something very smelly, and drove cars with names I couldn’t say, like Wyvern and Corvette.

I was just old enough to remember this time when Clive invited all his staff to his place. It was early evening I think, and we were all squeezed into the front room of his house.  I remember this being a big house in town, but when I see it now it was a very small modest stucco bungalow.

I now suspect the huge crowd that I think I remember gathered, was not so large after all, but I do remember being squeezed in, and the same smell of the cigar that Clive smoked. Clive stood by the fireplace and he had a glass in his hand.  I think he often did.  And then it started to happen! Clive started asking everyone around the room what they wanted to drink. ‘Scotch and Soda’ was the drink that somehow implanted itself in my mind, and so when Clive asked me what I would like to drink, of course I said ‘Scotch and Soda’!

The huge room of mainly men bursting forth with laughter.  I was terrified but tried not to show it.  For the next twenty something years I’m sure those manly men smiled at me remembering my ‘Scotch and Soda’ request, and certainly Clive considered me his friend.

 

Thirty something years of theological immersion though, has bought me back to ‘Scotch and Soda’.  Back then I was invited to this house of mainly men but my mother was there too.  Friendly people who didn’t all know each other well or at all, but we were all invited.  I was probably the youngest but I was welcome, and I remember standing in the middle of this room, in front of Clive.  And Clive was generous, asking people what they would like, and he was including everyone in his hospitality.  And when it came to my turn to say what I wanted, I felt the freedom to tell him amongst a crowd that instantly responded.  It was my introduction to a world that was for me and not against me.  As shy as I was growing up, that moment when I wasn’t shy sticks in my experience as a moment of freedom, hope, love, care, company, a feeling that has had a longevity beyond anything else I can remember at such a young age.

I think this season is about that kind of experience infiltrating our lives in such a way that we want those moments for those around us in our families, our work places, but also in the communities that we stand with as journey-women and men. 

‘Scotch and Soda’, Slangivar!

-John

Arms not Arms in this Neighbourhood

It disturbed my father that the Royal Navy maintained its nuclear fleet in Scotland and not in London, on the Thames. And so when the French insisted on destroying a tropical island in the south Pacific Ocean he was equally as disturbed.  A recent work colleague recalls being present at the Greenham Common Peace Camp, where young women from around the world gathered to express their peacenik concerns.

Soon after moving to Auckland and the birthing of Splice, I met two young artists who had crafted a Celtic/Pacifica version of the peace symbol that appeared as a sign of dispeace in the west against the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and nuclear power as was happening.

I was a teenager when I first carved my first peace symbol on a gate post.  The basis of the symbol are the two semaphore signals, ‘n’ and ‘d’. Nuclear Disarmament was the cry of those generations post World War II in particular.

As I started wondering the streets of Auckland, many suggested that I need to find some way that people could identify me. The immediate suggestion was a ‘cross’, but then I wasn’t pronouncing one religious persuasion over any other. Or perhaps a uniform, but that symbolises a regimentation that was not symbolic of diversity or community and yes, a bright red hat might work, but then the symbol that my, and subsequent generations considered ‘life saving’, seem very appropriate to my task of leading a values based movement for community connection.  

And now I am disturbed that there are younger generations of Splice movement people who have no idea of the journey that was New Zealand’s, in becoming a symbol of nuclear free possibilities in the face of world powers.  I have met many young people in recent weeks who haven’t considered the abhorrence I feel in the arms sales conference about to be held on Auckland’s water front.  This is a political coupe, an insidious slipping under the radar by our leaders who want our nuclear free status to become a fiction.

Over the next weeks Splice hopes that we take the opportunity to understand the ‘in your face’ action of local and international leaders in politics and business, in securing this event on Auckland’s harbour edge, 1 km away from the sight of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior when she was about to sail for peace.  

John MacDonald.

Splicing Our Way into 2017

 

Looking into the year ahead - plans of great intent are formulating.

On the splice agenda is increased engagement with the ever-growing Chinese community that lives in the city centre. Often these neighbours are recent migrants for whom the city centre is an environment in which newness, another language and finding a sense of belonging (versus isolation) are challenges to be negotiated. Current thinking revolves around themes of – welcome, inclusion, cross culture, the notion that many of us have a story of migration to these shores to share, defined to varying degrees by length of time or generations. Read more. 
 
The annual City Centre Neighbours Day event for 2017 will occur on Sunday 26 March. For a residential neighbourhood of 40,000 + often struggling for a sense of identity in what was formerly just a business district, this event is a key promotion of connections between apartment dwellers that quietly grows each year.
 
Local Body Elections present Splice with an opportunity to engage with the Waitemata Local Board in the establishment of priorities for their plan for the next three years.  Here is the link to the current board plan:  http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/LocalBoards/Waitematalocalboard/Documents/waitematalbp2014.pdf
 

The Splice team are putting our heads together next month in preparation but we would very much welcome input from the Splice community.  If you have ideas and suggestions of where the local board could or indeed should place their focus in the ongoing improvement of the neighbourhood of the city centre, send these through to mik@splice.org.nz 

Kindness is contagious - pass it on

With the arrival of Spring and the annual 1 September Random Acts of Kindness Day Splicers took to the streets to challenge people of the city centre neighbourhood to act with kindness. 

Small pots of Opotiki’s finest honey and a “kindness card” encouraging active participation were handed out on the street, while 10 local cafes also got in on the act surprising their patrons with a free morning caffeine fix.

Why Kindness?  Consider for a moment the nature of a community where kindness is the norm, where compassion is valued and sharing and fun become commonplace?

Splice’s own thanks goes out to the for the kindness received particularly from Hikutaia Honey, Auckland Design Office, K’Rd Business Association and as always the Splicers who were able to be on the street engaging with community.

This piece of feedback received via social media perhaps best sums up in its heartfelt simplicity, the rationale behind the action:
                   “Thank you, someone showed me kindness today”

Read more here!

Splicer Profile: Liz Busch

Liz Busch:  Mother, life-coach, passionate community creator and Splicer.

How, one might ask, can one person (especially a mother of a busy 20- month old) manage that?

I met with Liz recently to talk about the great things she’s doing in the community, and asked that question (and several others)

 Liz is a young woman who appears to have things ‘sorted.’

Her firm belief is that when you become clear on who you are, and you work in your passion, you have an inner connection with what you do; you can let go of the time consuming ‘busy-ness,’ the ‘I should’ that is often the cause of stress and anxiety, and create your world around the things that are truly important to you. These aren’t just fancy words; Liz hasn’t always operated this way and says her life experience has led her to this conclusion.

She says she grew up feeling something was missing and has since identified that gap as community and connection. Her family was quite isolated; school (Westlake Girls) was about achieving excellence in both study and other activities. Throughout school she was busy, involved and achieving but she never felt really ‘connected’.

Ten years of study and travel, and finding an outwardly ‘dream job’ with Nokia in Berlin didn’t seem to make a diffrence. Liz took time out and travelled for three months to process what she really wanted in life. Expecting to eventually return to her job, three months turned into eighteen months and the huge decision to let go of the corporate life and train as a life coach, using her psychology background to do something that would benefit others.

Returning to Auckland in 2012 to have a family, Liz was surprised to find the city bubbling with change. She saw potential and wanted to have a voice in that change. A friend introduced her to Splice where she became involved in supporting a range of activities. 

It was through her participation in a Plunket study to identify the needs of inner city parents that Liz found real focus. As a strong supporter of the actions coming out of the study, she established an on-line ‘Meet-up’ page (http://www.meetup.com/Parents-of-Under-5s-in-Auckland-City/) which has become a ‘go to’ for parents of under- fives looking for activities and ways to connect in the city centre.  Having been involved in the establishment of a Plunket parent support / play-group she has gone on to establish a second play-group, more accessible from the Karangahape road end of the city. 

Liz loves living in the city and when asked what her vision for Auckland city centre is, she is thoughtful. ‘A city culture that isn’t focussed just on business,’ she says. ‘One that builds on the creative potential of diversity and inclusiveness, and creates an exciting new identity based on this.’

You can find more about Liz and her coaching business here:  www.coachwithliz.com

Splice for National Poetry Day!

New Zealand has a wonderfully long and colourful list of poets who've studded the social justice movements of Aoteroa's history. We seem to ooze literary talent, and so choosing just three poets and poems to share was excruciating. But I would consider the follow poems to be cornerstones of our literary history, and besides that, they're just really great to read and revisit. 

Enjoy!

- Maddy

One of my personal favourite poets is Eileen Duggan. Eileen was an unmarried journalist who wrote poetry from 1917 - 1951, and became New Zealand's best known poet in the 1930's, with an Eileen Duggan Society Society created in America in her honor. She was considered an unofficial laureate of the Catholic Church.

 

The Tides Run Up The Wairau

The tides run up the Wairau
That fights against their flow. 
My heart and it together
Are running salt and snow. 

For though I cannot love you, 
Yet, heavy, deep, and far, 
Your tide of love comes swining, 
Too swift for me to bar. 

Some though of you must linger, 
A salt of pain in me
For oh what running river
Can stand against the sea? 

 

James K Baxter is one of New Zealand's best known poets, enviously being published at the tender age of 17 in 1944, he provided political narration of both the conservative and liberal movements as well as exploring both faith and cynicism during his journey. Speaking at a writer's conference in 1951, Baxter claimed it was "reasonable and necessary that poetry should contain a moral truth and that every poet should be a prophet."

 

Ballad of Calvary Street

On Calvary Street are trellises
Where bright as blood the roses bloom,
And gnomes like pagan fetishes
Hang their hats on an empty tomb
Where two old souls go slowly mad,
National Mum and Labour Dad.

Each Saturday when full of smiles
The children come to pay their due,
Mum takes down the family files
And cover to cover she thumbs them through,
Poor Len before he went away
And Mabel on her wedding day.

The meal-brown scones display her knack,
Her polished oven spits with rage,
While in Grunt Grotto at the back
Dad sits and reads the Sporting page,
Then ambles out in boots of lead
To weed around the parsnip bed.

A giant parsnip sparks his eye,
Majestic as the Tree of Life;
He washes it and rubs it dry
And takes it in to his old wife -
'Look Laura, would that be a fit?
The bastard has a flange on it!'

When both were young she would have laughed,
A goddess in her tartan skirt,
But wisdom, age and mothercraft
Have rubbed it home that men like dirt:
Five children and a fallen womb.
A golden crown beyond the tomb.

Nearer the bone, sin is sin,
And women bear the cross of woe,
And that affair with Mrs Flynn
(It happened thirty years ago)
Though never mentioned, means that he
Will get no sugar in his tea.

The afternoon goes by, goes by,
The angels harp above a cloud;
A son-in-law with spotted tie
And daughter Alice fat and loud
Discuss the virtues of insurance
And stuff their tripes with trained endurance.

Flood-waters hurl upon the dyke
And Dad himself can go to town,
For little Charlie on his trike
Has ploughed another iris down.
His parents rise to chain the beast,
Brush off the last crumbs of their lovefeast.

And so these two old fools are left,
A rosy pair in evening light,
To question Heaven's dubious gift,
To hag and grumble, growl and fight:
The love they kill won't let them rest,
Two birds that peck in one fouled nest

Why hammer nails? Why give no change?
Habit, habit clogs them dumb.
The sacred Heart above the range
Will bleed and burn till Kingdom Come,
But Yin and Yang won't ever meet
In Calvary Street, in Calvary Street.

 

Hone Tuwhare liked to be known as the people’s poet. He was an active member of the political and social justice cityscape, and was most active in the 1970s when, among other things, he was an organiser of the first Maori Writers and Artists hui at Te Kaha and walked in the Maori Land March in 1975. His poem, No Ordinary Sun, has become a famous representation of Aoteroa's Nuclear Free Movement.

 

No Ordinary Sun

Tree let your arms fall:
raise them not sharply in supplication
to the bright enhaloed cloud.
Let your arms lack toughness and
resilience for this is no mere axe
to blunt nor fire to smother.

Your sap shall not rise again
to the moon’s pull.
No more incline a deferential head
to the wind’s talk, or stir
to the tickle of coursing rain.

Your former shagginess shall not be
wreathed with the delightful flight
of birds nor shield
nor cool the ardour of unheeding
lovers from the monstrous sun.

Tree let your naked arms fall
nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.
This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,
no dashing trade wind’s blast.
The fading green of your magic
emanations shall not make pure again
these polluted skies . . . for this
is no ordinary sun.

O tree
in the shadowless mountains
the white plains and
the drab sea floor
your end at last is written.

Embrace

The NZIFF is showing a documentary called Embrace which follows Taryn Brumfitt’s struggle and success in coming to terms with her postnatal body.

She travels to nine different countries talking to wonderful woman all over the world, some perfectly healthy, some with physical disabilities or medical anomalies; all of whom have grown to love themselves and are helping others to do the same.

As someone not far out of high school, I distinctly remember the rift between what I thought my body should look like and what it was. I have always been a size ten, and yet I remember going on every fad diet, some 500 calories a day, sometimes starving. I remember running twice a day on no food and I remember taking cold showers to boost my metabolism. I’m ashamed to say I remember searching for “thinspiration” websites.

Fortunately this was a short lived period in my life. On National Diabetes Day, a friend of mine wrote a facebook status and asked everybody to take a moment to thank their pancreas for producing insulin. I thought, damn straight, my pancreas is a boss. In fact, my whole body is pretty freaking amazing.

It puts up with everything I do and have done to it, from clumsiness to starvation to salt, sugar & alcohol. It moves, is painless and healthy. It wasn’t an instant change, but eventually I got to appreciate my body. The photoshopped dolls in the magazines became a small, redundant detail in my life.

Virtually every story in Embrace is the same, these woman hated their bodies to a point where they had to consciously change the story. I admire many of the people who overcame insecurities about things much less accepted than my size ten body. Haarnam Kaur who due to hormonal abnormalities, grows a beard; Renee Airya who had a brain tumour removed and half her face paralyzed.

This is a movie that everybody should see, not just woman. It is too easy to forget that boys and men suffer from body pressures too. It is a perspective-changing, insightful story – a step back from the media saturation of modern life.

I wish I could go back to my teenage self and show her what I know now - beauty is confidence and soulfulness and kindness and the million other things you can offer the world. 

Maddy

 

Raising Children Downtown!

The word ‘children’ is not one that generally springs to mind when people think about Auckland’s city centre. Suburbia has long been considered the one and only place for young families, while ‘downtown’ remained a hub of business, commercial and entertainment.

However things are changing. Though the children are not highly visible, they are a part of this population! Plunket has 909 under five year olds registered on their programme in the city centre and estimates there are likely to be around 1000 if those not registered were counted - and that’s just the under-5’s.

So where are the children? Where do they go and what do they do when they’re not at home?

Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of those parents. Some of the realities may be:

-       You want your child to interact with other children but you don’t know anyone with children.

-You may not know anyone at all and feel isolated and lonely.
Keeping children occupied and entertained in a limited space can be tiresome to say the least.
You worry that your baby’s crying will disturb neighbouring apartment dwellers.
-You (and your child) just need a break from your ‘four walls’ for at least some part of every day.

So where can you go? Where would you feel welcome with a small child? How can you meet other parents and make friends? 

For anyone new to the city, and particularly for migrant families, who often lack ‘local knowledge,’ finding answers to these questions can be difficult, and isolation is a common problem.

Enter Splice: Splice is about connecting people in the city centre, and that includes parents with children. Splice has initiated healthy physical activity groups where families can ‘play’ together and get to know each other. Splice also directs families to other organisations such as Plunket and the Central Library. Through these connections, families are provided with a range of options to get out, meet others and make friends.

As one parent commented, ‘Four years ago it was hard to find things to do with children under 5 in the city. Now I can take my child to something every day - and I’ve made so many new friends doing it.’

There is a wonderfully diverse and growing ‘community of families’ in the city centre which can only be good for both the families involved and the soul of the city.

If you have any ideas or input that might add to the city centre parents network let us know!

-Sandy

Giving Back

I first met Alarna Matau while doing a street survey on K- Road. She spoke with such passion about what she was doing that I wanted to hear more.

A few weeks later I am sitting down with Alarna and colleague Liam. They tell me about their dreams and the journey that led them to their place of passion – the performing arts and a creative arts therapy programme they run voluntarily for at-risk youth.

Alarna has a degree in performing arts and Liam is in his final year of study. Alarna tells of a childhood passion for singing and performing and the lack of opportunity which saw her life take a very different direction.

Fast forward to age thirty when she took a huge step, moving herself and her three children from Christchurch to Auckland to start a new life. After a ‘settling in’ year, Alarna applied to do a performing arts degree at UNITEC -  along with four hundred others.  She was one of twenty chosen.

 ‘At first I had to have support to up-skill my writing so I could write essays,’ she tells me, adding that this was just one of the challenges. ‘The course makes you go deep into yourself.  I learned who I am and what I’m capable of. It was really tough but I was driven.’

It was while job-hunting after completing her degree that Alarna recognised she was at risk of losing her craft. ‘An artist has to keep their craft alive,’ she says. ‘I was on a work course when I realised I wanted to keep doing performing art but also wanted to help people. It seemed the natural thing to do – I wanted to give back.’

Alarna sat down and designed a course based around the techniques that had helped her so much.

Liam, currently in his final year of study, says he was waiting for a door to open when a friend introduced him to Alarna. Having discovered a huge passion for hip hop in his last year at college, and inspired by Parris Goebel, he studies performing arts. The pair had an immediate connection. ‘We bounce off each other,’ they agree.  They took their proposal to Tagata Pacifica alternative school at Samoa House and so began a partnership in giving back.

Nearing the end of the first ten week course I ask them how it’s going.

‘Really well. The students were really insecure and closed off at first. They’d never done anything like this.  It’s a step by step process but it’s been amazing to see them challenge their vulnerability, break down their insecurities and to see character and confidence slowly building. We told them at the start it was their choice, they didn’t have to be there but they kept coming back and they’re totally different people to those who started.’

It seems Alarna and Liam’s ‘giving back’ is providing something these young people need.

Having followed their dreams this far I ask each of them about their dreams for the future.

Alarna says she’d love to refine the programme and eventually take it to other education providers and ultimately into women’s prisons; and then there’s a deep calling to write a feature film.

Liam dreams of teaching hip hop and producing a short dance film with spoken word.

With the passion that’s got them this far nothing seems impossible for these two artists.

 

Belonging with a Twist of Feijoa

 

 

Belonging with a Twist of Feijoa

This week The Guild of the Feijoa, planters of the city centre’s only feijoa forest at the bottom of Constitution Hill and Splice, delivered the celebratory if slightly anarchic, “Best Feijoa Chutney Festival” at Chuffed Coffee on High St, with the additional assistance of Active Building Management and a cohort of residents, helping infiltrate apartment buildings with community information.

A cafe full of apartment dwelling neighbours in animated conversation, catching up again or meeting for the first time.  Coupled with a visual walk-through of some of the finest city centre foliage with Simon the Magic Arborist from Auckland Council and the awarding of the inaugural Guild of the Feijoa Celebratory Jug, to a jam-making resident from the Viaduct area.

Research undertaken by AUT on Auckland’s city centre in 2012 discussed the impact of vertical living in buildings that too often offer minimal to no amenity where immediate neighbours might gather.  In addition respondents to the study, declared their desire for events that were for the local community i.e. exclusive to the larger Auckland-wide events that occur in the neighbourhood.

A Feijoa Chutney Festival may not have been what these city residents were necessarily contemplating when discussing their desires for the neighbourhood with the researchers in 2012.  On the other hand it was an evening that had all the hallmarks of a neighbourhood of great uniqueness, compassion and connection - on the rise.

We Need You

We know that great things happen when creatives team up with problem solvers; or people with the same concerns gather together.

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