Our team had a marvellous two days guiding 48 young writers at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora in Christchurch as part of Christchurch Heritage Festival: Encounter Our Stories.
Stories and poems emerged from engravings and quotes, from names etched in desk tops in Rutherford's Lecture Theatre and from the stained glass window in the Great Hall.
Here are a few second drafts and works in progress for you to enjoy.
Exchange of a smile
by Lydia E, Year 9
Judging eyes watch me, looking me up and down. Being the only woman in a lecture room isn’t as fun as you may have thought it to be; the attention, not as satisfying. The clicking on my low heels fills the surrounding room. Seated men eye me as a walk past.
“Psst, over here,”
Looking to where the voice comes from I see that it is directed at me. The man pats the worn wooden seat beside him and I hurry to it, embarrassed that I couldn’t find a seat on my own.
“Perth Darling. A pleasure to meet you,” the man beside me says while I lean my arms onto the hard dark wood desk in front of me, my elbow nearly touching his.
“Oh, Helen Connon. I’m sure it is a pleasure. Thank you for the seat.”
I give Perth a smile and look up to the stage, waiting for John Macmillan Brown to start his lecture. I scan the room, noticing a few heads are still turned, a few angry eyes still glaring, a few curious frowns. Lowering my eyes, I try and hide from their stares.
Reading the names and initials engraved into the desk, I breathe. Royal B. Clape Williamson, H. Smith, D.Sheppard, T. Riddle, Perth J Darling, D.C Wilson. All men. All names of men.
John Macmillan Brown still isn’t here so I dig into my pocket to grab my ink pen. Using the sharp end of it I start to engrave my name. I would have done my initials but then people would have thought me to be a man. Helen Connon. Leaving a little heart at the end, I smile.
“All right! Listening up! Good afternoon, I’m John Macmillan Brown.”
His dark eyes meet mine. An exchange of a look. An exchange of a nod. An exchange of a smile…
About: Helen Connon (c. 1860 - 1903) the first female student at Canterbury College and the first woman in the British Empire to win any university degree with honours
Future Spouse: John Macmillan Brown.
Stained glass world
by Sawyer J, Year 7
I walked into the Great Hall,
underneath the giant doors,
and the first thing that I noticed
was the huge stained glass window.
It had a mother with a baby
and a Maori warrior,
a lot of kings and queens
and soldiers from World War I
My mind wandered away from the hall
I was in the stained glass world.
I listened to a conversation
between Shakespeare and Captain Cook
and saw actions talking with thoughts
I was pulled away from this magical place,
my mum was shaking my shoulder,
then she led me out
those giant doors and to the car.
The Ghost Hunter in The Great Hall
by Max P, Year 8
The babbling caretaker jogged alongside the swift form of the Ghost Hunter telling him of last night's events, “They all jumped out of the window! Jumped! They weren’t on the glass anymore, they were like misty figures, dancing in the hall! And they were throwing chairs and fireplace ashes everywhere!”
He arrived and stared into the glass with figures like; William Shakespeare; Florence NIghtingale; Sir Francis Drake and many more historical Britons such as kings and scientists. The Ghost Hunter strode silently stared ignoring the sounds coming from the caretaker’s mouth, he was thinking. These are benevolent figures, so why would they be trashing a historical landmark? It must be evil spirits taking form in the stained glass.
“You may want to leave,” suggested the Ghost Hunter as he checked his watch and the clock struck midnight. The caretaker practically sprinted across the grounds to safety.
The Ghost Hunter moved silently into the dark hall, leather trench coat flowing behind him, he pulled down his lightweight night goggles and stared at the window.
Without warning, the Māori warrior’s eyes began to glow, he jumped out the window holding a dagger in his hand, he flashed his tongue and lunged at the Ghost Hunter.
In a flurry of leather, the Ghost Hunter rolled underneath the warrior and landed a dagger into the empty space where he once was. The warrior fell to his knees, light escaping from eyes and mouth as he let out a bellowing scream and faded into the air as a glowing mist.
After this, more stained glass eyes began to glow, but some were screaming and trying to escape the Great Hall. They were confined to only a small area around the glass. The top figures, Action, Truth, Thought, Justice and Humanity stood silent though, perhaps they were too holy to be tainted by the demons ... to be continued