Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Anna Smaill writes about the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust
12 July 2016
RE: Janet Frame Eden Street Trust
I am writing in support of the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust’s excellent work in fostering the literary community in Oamaru and beyond.
Janet Frame occupies a unique position in New Zealand literature. She is perhaps our most internationally renowned author: her name immediately conjures respect and recognition. Yet, her writing also encourages a remarkable intimacy. Those who admire her work often look on it with a proprietary affection, as if it speaks directly to them and their personal lives. The way in which the Eden Street Trust has preserved Frame’s house seems to me to reflect this dual connection. 56 Eden Street has been restored with an historian’s reverence and care, yet it does not at all have the chill or distance of a museum. It feels like a family home.
The Trust’s ongoing use of this nationally important site reflects this. I was recently invited to conduct a public lecture and creative writing workshop on their behalf. During the second half of the workshop, students were invited to share lunch at 56 Eden Street before getting down to the work of completing their assigned writing tasks. An initial sense of wonder – that of the visitor to a hallowed spot – quickly became businesslike. Students took temporary occupation of the house, perched themselves on chairs and beds, and they began to write. I can think of no better tribute to Frame’s ongoing and vital influence in our literary culture than that hum of productivity and inspiration. The Janet Frame Eden Street Trust preserves the literal home of one of our most distinctive writers, but in encouraging the public to share it in this way, it also preserves her ideal of establishing a home in literature.
For a small group, the Trust functions with remarkable efficiency. At all stages in the organization and running of the workshop the team worked together seamlessly and with a warm professionalism. The work they do is of great value to the Oamaru community, but also to the wider literary community of New Zealand.
I was delighted to be involved with the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust in this way, and warmly support any future funding application they may put forward.