Saturday, May 26, 2007

THE HOLE IN THE HEDGE: Landscape and the Fragility of Memory

This is how the programme blurb read:

Author and film-maker Peter Wells takes a celebratory look at Frank Sargeson's cottage in Esmonde Road, Takapuna. Using more than 200 stills in a spell-binding photo essay, he completes his visual celebration of the Sargeson cottage with a quirky fifteen minute film of the interior. His talk evokes the landscape of the cottage, a place where 'a truly New Zealand literature began'.
Introduced by previous Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellows Karyn Hay and Emily Perkins.

I have a great admiration for Peter Wells and his writing and film making, and of course he is one of the co-founders, (with Stephanie Johnson), of the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, so we all him a great deal of gratitude for that.

Then of course there was the subject matter and the opportunity to learn more about the "father" of New Zealand literature, Frank Sargeson.

Peter had some heavyweight competition as on at the same time in other spaces in the Aotea Centre were the immensely popular Australian author Kate Grenville who was spending An Hour with Auckland bookseller Carol Beu and Canadian "rock star" poet Shane Koyczan.
Nevertheless some 150 turned up at the NZI Upper Room to hear Peter and to look at his photographs and watch his movie.
There were immediately several bonuses - first delightful introductory pieces by Emily Perkins and Karyn Hay, ( I hope to post these introduction on my blog in a day or two), then a clip from TVNZ's Kaleidoscope programme (remember that wonderful programme?) filmed back in 1981 in which Gordon McLauchlan interviewed Frank Sargeson at his cottage 8 months before he died.
As Peter wells remarked, those were the days when TVNZ had a real commitment to New Zealand culture.
Right from the beginning the enormous admiration that Emily Perkins and Karyn Hay and have for Frank Sargeson was apparent.
Then we moved to Peter's address to which there were three main parts :
Clip from Kaleidoscope - this was a real burst of nostalgia (cars and traffic and houses) and it was also interesting to note how lively and well Sargeson appeared at that time only 8 months before his death.
Then came a sequence of superb colour photographs starting in the Hamilton Public Gardens on the first day of Spring 2006 (Peter was the Writer-in-Residence at Waikato University last year) moving on to photographs taken in Takapuna in the vicinity of Frank Sargeson's cottage and the dramatic changes taking place including the alarming widening of Esmond Road.
Peter provided a live voice-over to these 200 photographs talking first about place and the inseparable part it plays in our culture then moving on to the landscape, its threats and its fragility.
Then we saw the 15 minute silent film Peter made of the interior of the Sargeson cottage which looks largely today how it did when Frank was still alive, his cap and scarf still hanging by the back door and his dressing gown draped over the back of his reading chair.
Peter also provided a voice over commentary for the film.
All too soon the hour was up.
This was a heartfelt, evocative, poetic and very personal presentation by Peter Wells with an underlying sadness, perhaps even sorrow. It deserved/deserves a much wider audience and I hope that Peter might look at publishing a book built around his presentation. I also feel that universities teaching Sargeson should look at him making this presentation to their students each year.
I was greatly moved and on the way out Annie and I resolved to visit the Frank Sargeson Cottage, now a literary museum, at the first opportunity. The cottage is administered by the Frank Sargeson Trust and you arrange to visit it by phoning the Takapuna Public Library.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he's a good man that Peter Wells. A contributor.