Thursday, June 16, 2016

Changing Times shortlisted for the Children's Book Awards

It has been very gratifying to have Changing Times shortlisted in the non-fiction and in the  illustration catergories of the Children's Book Awards. There are some very strong contenders this year. I was particularly pleased to see Phoebe Morris there with her excellent illustrations for First To The Top written by David Hill. A talented young illustrator with a great future ahead of her I reckon. I'm also looking forward to reading David's Enemy Camp and If you haven't yet read Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale rush of to the Children's Bookshop and buy it straight away and while you're there buy the other two books in the series as well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Let Matt McPherson tell you about

Changing Times

The Animation for this book trailer was made by Ahmad Habash. You can see more of Ahmad's work Here.  The sound design and the music was made by Andrew Laking. Andrew and I have recently collaborated on his book The empire City - Songs about Wellington.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Empire City

Songs of Wellington - Book and CD

The Empire City traces the history of Wellington from the middle of the 19th Century to the present day. Stories are told through song, text, paintings, and photographs, The book includes a CD with songs by Andrew Laking, paintings by Bob Kerr, historical photos and additional new photos by Ines MacMullen. This hard cover, full colour, 64 page book is published by Pirate and Queen in association with Victoria University PressHere are some of the paintings from the book. For the next few weeks they will be on the walls of my studio at 147 Cuba Street Wellington – drop in and have a look.
 Wakefield on the foreshore
Pito-one Pa
The Bucket Fountain

It was the fun of the world 

Tim Armstrong writes to his children from Lyttelton Jail

At Whitespace Contemporary Art 12 Crummer Rd. Ponsonby. Auckland Until the 27th. September 2015

On a Sunday afternoon in December 1916 Tim Armstrong, a wharf labourer, spoke at a public meeting in Victoria Square in Christchurch.
“Let the kings and Kaisers go and murder one another if they like but the working class have no quarrel one country with another.” Tim told the crowd, and he urged them to oppose conscription into the army. He was arrested for sedition and sentenced to twelve months in Lyttelton Jail.
The quotations under each of these paintings are from a letter he wrote to his children from his prison cell.
A position to understand 
“My dear children,
As I sit alone here in my prison cell, thinking of you all and wondering how you are getting on, I thought I would write to you and explain just why I am here, in order that you may judge for yourselves weather I deserve the treatment I am getting. Perhaps I could not put you in a better position to understand than by writing you a brief story of my life.”
I was born in a small village called Bulls
“I was born in a small village called Bulls in the North Island in 1875. There were nine of us in the family and we had no father to help keep the home as far back as I can remember. My mother had to go out to work to keep us.”
Before I was twelve years of age
“Before I was twelve years of age I had left school altogether and had only passed the second standard. I then went to work in a flax mill about twenty miles from home.”
I worked in the flax milling industry
“I worked in the flax milling industry till I was about sixteen years old and used to leave one mill and go to another whenever I got a chance of higher wages.”
I started out on a Saturday morning
“I started out on a Saturday morning and about midday caught up with a man who was also carrying a swag and going in the same direction. We started talking and both found we were bound for Palmerston North. We talked of course of our financial positions. He told me he had two shillings and insisted on me taking half.”
Some other line of business
“When I was sixteen years of age most of the flax mills were closed on account of a fall in the price and I had to look for work in some other line of business. The next place I struck was a place called Hunterville where I got work from a railway construction contractor.”
All there for an adventure
“I was working at a place called Raetihi in the king country when a boom broke out in gold mining in the Auckland province, and of course being all there for an adventure, thought that would be just the place for me. So along with a few other mates made up our minds to roll up our swags and walk to the gold fields.”
We walked the whole way
“We walked the whole way a distance of about three hundred and fifty miles.
The fun of the world
It was a wonderful trip through the hot lakes districts of Tokaanu, Taupo and Rotorua. On most places on our trip we had to get food from the Maoris and sleep out in the open air but it was lovely weather and we did not mind sleeping out. We went through some places where the Maoris could not speak a word of English and we could not speak Maori very fluently. It was the fun of the world at times.”
Not what we expected
“We arrived at Waihi and found the gold fields not what we expected and as usual had to look for someone to give us a job.”
The Golden Cross mine 
“I only stayed a short time at Waihi… and then shifted on to the Golden Cross mine where I lived for about five years and which turned out to be the most important time in my life. I took an interest here in the affairs of the union and was soon an executive officer and before I was twenty-one years of age I was chairman of the union.”
We could not live on air
“In February 1909 we found it necessary to leave Waihi as the employers had blocked me in every way from getting employment. We did not like the idea of leaving as I was proud of the positions I held there, however as we could not live on air were obliged to move on. We had managed to get a nice little home in Waihi and it was just about paid off so you will understand it was mighty hard to have to sell it and our furniture at half price and leave.”
The Coal Creek railway line
“I went to Greymouth on the West Coast and I got work on the Coal Creek railway line. Your mother with you children joined me there and we went to live in Runanga. Very soon after arriving on the West Coast I was elected President of the West Coast Workers Union. So you see they got me into harness again right away.
You will have the opportunity
“Dear children you will have the opportunity to read the speech alleged to have been seditious, and I will leave it to you to judge whether I did wrong in making the statements.”

In 1922 Tim Armstrong was elected to Parliament. As minister of Labour in 1935 Armstrong promoted the swift improvement in pay and conditions for the country's numerous relief workers and legislated for the 40-hour week and the statutory minimum wage. In his maiden speech he said, “Mr. speaker, this is not the first of his majesty’s institutions of which I have been a member.”

Here is TJ McNamara's review from the New Zealand Herald.

Bob Kerr, at Whitespace, grounds his painting in a text, from letters written by Tim Armstrong, then a wharf labourer, to his children from Lyttelton jail. He had been given a year in prison for sedition because he opposed conscription during World War I.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Changing Times

It's always exciting when you see the proofs of a new book.  The proofs of  Changing Times arrived from the publisher Potton & Burton a few days ago.  Changing Times is a graphic novel that looks at our history through the pages of a small town Newspaper. It will be published in September this year. Here is the cover and a couple of the spreads. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Three Wise Men at the McAtamney Gallery Geraldine

This exhibition at the McAtamney Gallery in Geraldine runs from the 12th of October until the 17th. of November. It includes works from an earlier show at Enjoy Gallery in Wellington and these new works. The three wise men as they were affectionally called were Andrew Davidson, Dr. Gervan McMillan and Arnold Nordmeyer. This video is from the opening and gives some background to the story.
Here are some of the paintings from the show.
To Create a New Society.  120 x 40 cms
"We were fired with a fervent desire to create a new society," wrote Andrew Davidson in his memoir. Their new society was to replace the poverty and unemployment they witnessed in Kurow during the depression of the 1930s.
The Doctors House. 107 x 16 cms
The doctors house still exists in Kurow. It was here the three would meet, discuss and write their vision for their New Society.
Leaving for the conference  52 x 20 cms
Dr. Gervan MacMillian took their ideas for a free medical service to the Labour Party conference in 1934. The paper he presented became party policy.
The trains would make way  36x 25 cms
MacMillian expected the trains in the Waitaki hydro shunting yards to give way to him. He was known for his furious driving around his large practice.
An Act to provide  122 x 37 cms
The health service that the three wrote about around the doctors kitchen table eventually developed into the 1938 Social Security Act. 
The Path to School  193 x 40 cms
With the sudden arrival of  construction workers for the dam and unemployed hoping to get work  Andrew Davidson's Kurow school spilled out into Nordmeyer's church hall, the social hall at construction site, and the totaliser building at the racecourse. It was a lively time in education, Dr. Beeby the director of Education believed in social and economic equality for every child regardless of academic ability and what he called the child centered school rather than the school centred child. Andrew Davidson's first job was often to provide his ragged new pupils with warm clothing from money the Nordy had raised. 
The teacher  13 x 17.5 cms
The Doctor  13 x 17.5 cms
the Minister  13 x 17.5 cms 
At the Willows and At the Doctors kitchen Table - four watercolors.
The McAtamney Gallery is upstairs in the Old Post Office Building 47/49 Talbot St. Geraldine. It is open Thursday to Monday 11am until 3:00pm or by appointment and Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment.
PH: +64 3 69 37 292

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A new book

Best Mates 
By Philippa Werry and Bob Kerr 
Published by New Holland Publishers
I visited Gallipoli some years ago. I couldn’t afford to take the commercial tours so I would catch the local bus to Kabatepe and then walk for an hour down the beach to Anzac Cove. I would walk back at the end of the day expecting to meet the bus but I never did catch the bus because I would be invited to dinner by one of the Turkish families that would be picnicking under the pine trees along the coast. 

They would ask me where I was from and I would say New Zealand and that I had been looking at the place where the New Zealanders landed in 1915. I would ask my hosts why they were so kindly disposed to New Zealanders since we had tried to invade their country. They invariably suggested that we had picked a rather bad place to land because the young commander on the top of the hill was Kemal Ataturk and that we helped create his reputation and therefore helped create modern Turkey and my hosts would add but that was a long time ago and would I like another slice of baklava.

It is the same generosity that Ataturk voiced when he said the much quoted words that are on the Ataturk memorial on the south coast at Karehana Bay here in Wellington.
“Your sons are now our sons, having lost their lives in this land.” It seems amazingly generous since twice as many Turkish soldiers died defending their home than the invaders did.

When the text for this book arrived in my inbox one Friday I sent a reply straight back to the publishers New Holland saying I was too busy and would not be able to do it. Over the weekend I showed it to my daughter Kathleen. She read it, took her glasses of, wiped her eye and told me to do it. I’m glad she did. It has been great working with the team at New Holland Publishers and it’s been great working with Philippa. You can visit Philippa's website and see all the other excellent books she has written at

Here are some pages from the book.

Number One Field Punishment at the Tauranga Art Gallery

The characters in Best Mates dashed off to the first World War without giving much thought to what they would encounter. Mark Briggs and Archibald Baxter gave it a lot of thought and refused to go. They were sent to prison and then, along with fourteen other conscientious objectors were taken to the frontline in France where Baxter, Briggs and Lawrence Kirwan were administered Number One Field Punishment in an attempt by the New Zealand Government to persuade them to put on the kings uniform.
This exhibition at the Tauranga Art Gallery includes some paintings from earlier shows on this topic and a major new work A long Row of Stout High Poles. Musician Andrew Laking has composed a sound scape that plays in the gallery with the paintings. To find out more about Andy and his music visit his website a t

Here are some images from the show. Viewers are invited to walk along the wooden duckwalk to view the large painting. The text running along the top of the seven panels is a quote from Baxter's book We Will Not Cease. It reads: "Walking along the duckwalk from the gate I observed a long row of stout high poles. These poles were for the infliction of number one field punishment."

Lippy Pictures film Number One Field Punishment recently aired on TV One. You can watch this brilliant dramatization here. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gold Strike

An exhibition about the Waihi gold strike of 1912.

This exhibition will be opening at Waihi Arts Centre and Museum on Sunday November the 11th and running until to the 25th of November. It will then show at The Rotorua Museum from 13 April – 30 June 2013, and then at Whitespace Gallery, 12 Crummer Rd. Ponsonby, Auckland during July 2013.
Gold Strike is an imaginative reconstruction of the 1912 Strike - The people, places and the locations of this vivid, violent and ultimately tragic event. The exhibition will be opened exactly 100 years to the day that the striker Fred Evans was killed as he fled from the miners Union Hall on the 11th of November 1912.

The Pukewa workings
122 x 60
The first prospectors to explore the Waihi workings, McCombie and Lee, bored into Pukewa’s harsh, glinting interior.
The open cut
180 x 60
There in Waihi, with its toil and its treasure,
Men’s lives are squandered while earning a crust.
The Talisman Battery

122 x 90
Several deafening batteries of stampers began crushing the quartz rock down to powder.
The Orua flax swamp
63 x 25
Tim Armstrong left school at the age of 11 and worked in the flax-milling industry in the great Orua flax swamp between Bulls and Shannon.
The fun of the world

63 x 25
At 19 Tim Armstrong was working on the railway in Raetihi when he heard of work available the Waihi goldfields. " I thought it would be the place for me, so along with a few mates we made up our minds to roll up our swags and walk to the gold fields… it was the fun of the world at times.”
The Golden Cross mine

63 x 25
At Waihi, Tim Armstrong found work at the Golden Cross mine.  “There they had a union and it was the very thing I wanted.” In no time at all Tim was president of the large Waihi Miners Union.
Bill Parry
180 x 45
The Waihi Miners Union managed to retain a president by paying his salary themselves, and Bill Parry proved his worth during fierce negotiations with the mining company over competitive contracting.
The Rebel
40 x 60
Charles Smith was a “Niagara of Energy”. He was a miner, the president of the local branch of the Socialist Party, the author of frequent articles on Waihi, under the pen-name ‘The Rebel”, and the organiser of Pat Hickey’s 1911 campaign for the parliamentary seat of Ohinemuri.
Pat Hickey
Private collection

By 1911 this ‘roaring boy’ from the Federation of Labour was one of the country’s most powerful political orators. The Waihi socialists selected him as their candidate for the 1911 general election.
Bob Semple
Private Collection

Known as ‘Bob the Ranter, a former tunneller and one of the country’s prominent apostles of socialism, Semple helped to campaign for Hickey in Waihi.
Paddy Webb
Private collection
While Hickey ran for parliament in Waihi, Paddy Webb was the miners’ choice in Runanga on the west coast. Neither man won in 1911, but in 1913 Webb won a by-election to become the first coalminer to enter parliament.
Harry Holland

55 x 40
Harry was a silver-tongued Australian radical who was invited to New Zealand by the Waihi socialists to give a speaking tour. He stayed here for the rest of his life and became leader of the Labour Party.
Marjorie Noakes

55 x 40
A schoolgirl and miner’s daughter who, like Zena Norton, was passionate about the principles of her father’s union. “Why should men who work the hardest get the smallest pay, and those who do not work at all get millions of money?”
The mine manager’s dream
122 x 90
With the water level rising in the mineshafts and returns falling for the first time in a decade, industrial conflict threatens to overwhelm the diggings and the embattled mine manager sleeps uneasily.
Two on the beats and one in the watchhouse
Three panels, each panel
17 x 26
“Since the Strike commenced, there have been three Constables on night duty, two on the Beats and one in the Watchhouse.” 
The police inspector’s report

55 x 40
“I beg to report that ever since the Strike commenced… not one act of lawlessness of any kind has been committed”
The Cornish Pumphouse
120 x 90
This concrete castle housed the massive pumps that kept the mines free of water. During the strike they fell silent, and several strikers slipped underground to check how high the water levels had risen.” 
Rev. Robert Cleary
55 x 40
The local Anglican minister was one of several Waihi notables who signed a letter calling for the government to intervene in the strike. He was later made an honorary member of the scab union.
Commissioner Cullen
90 x 90
An iron-willed Irishman who rose from constable to Commissioner of Police, Cullen was prepared to break his own laws to defeat Waihi strikers and other ‘enemies of society’.
Bully boys and ex-cons
55 x 40
“the peace of Cullen the Police Commissioner and Herdman the voice of Justice, who sent in extra cops, scabs, bully boys and ex-cons”
The Snakecharmer
55 x 40
If there was trouble in Seddon Street, Waihi’s main thoroughfare, the sinister bowler-hatted strikebreaker known as the Snakecharmer was always there.
Harvey the Pug

55 x 40
The vicious ex-criminal recruited to help break the strike, he rode into town firing a pistol in each hand.
Hatpin Delaney
55 x 40
The blustering strikebreaker who gained his nickname after he was chased by 18-year-old Jessie Beames, armed only with the nine-inch hatpin she pulled from her cascade of chestnut hair.
The brakes

120  x 90
Strikebreakers were transported to and from the mine in open horse-drawn carriages, known as brakes. Sometimes a uniformed policeman held the reins. On every shift they faced a barrage of abuse from strikers and their families.
The Death of Fred Evans
32 x 23
Evans then fled in terror through a back door and into a vacant property behind the hall. “My father always said that he survived,” says Don Boswell, “because he could run faster than Fred Evans.”
Michael Rudd

55 x 40
The turncoat from the strikers’ ranks who compiled a list of his former colleagues. The strikebreakers worked through the list, giving each man and his family a day’s notice to be on the train out of town.
Georgina Parry
13 x 15
Georgina Parry, wife of the imprisoned union president, was threatened by a mob. “I said if they were men enough to attack me, I was woman enough to fight them.” 
Peter Fraser
55 x 40
The earnest Scot from the Federation of Labour who got Bill Parry released from Mt. Eden gaol. Like others prominent in the strike, Fraser entered parliament 20 years later.

The Scarlet Runners
120 x 40
Private Collection

The strikers’ sweethearts, wives and sisters who ran messages through police lines and later slipped into the besieged town to distribute relief supplies. 
The Taniwha
112 x 20
The river steamer that sailed between Paeroa and Auckland, carrying strikers, strikebreakers and gold. In November 1912 it transported the terrorised strikers’ families to safety.

The quotations with each painting are from “Waiheathens – Voices from a mining town,” by Mark Derby and Bob Kerr. A book that accompanies this exhibition. This book can be bought from the Waihi Gallery or from the publisher, Atuanui Press.

The paintings are all oil on board. Their dimensions are in cm, width before height. If you are interested in purchasing any of these paintings please contact:
54 Kenny St Waihi 
Box 149 Waihi 3641
Phone 07 863 8386

When they are showing in Rotorua and Auckland please contact:
12 Crummer Rd. Ponsonby
Auckland, New Zealand
Phone : +64 9 361 6331
Mobile: +64 21 639 789.
The show will travel in its complete state and works purchased from Waihi or Rotorua will be delivered at the conclusion of the showing at Whitespace in July.