AirRace

Hands Across the Ocean: Filming the 1953 London to Christchurch Air Race

By Virginia Callanan (Information Management Advisor, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

“Amateurs everywhere will be heartened by the vigour with which their colleagues can rise to the occasion and so zealously prepare the ground for a triumph of amateur movies” – Amateur Cine World, February 1954.

Amateur Cine World, XVII (10), February 1954. Front cover.
“Amateur Cine World,” XVII (10), February 1954. Front cover. Periodicals Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision. Courtesy of Janet Wilkinson.

Amateur Cine World, the English film enthusiasts’ magazine, is well-represented in Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Documentation Collection. Within these issues you find surprisingly frequent mention of New Zealand ciné clubs. One article from the February 1954 issue is titled “A Girdle Round the Earth,” a reference to Puck’s line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “I’ll put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes.”

To fly half way around the world in 1953 took just under 24 hours, and the Christchurch Movie Club enthusiasts made a film of it. This was the London to Christchurch International Air Race in which five planes competed in a speed section, and three in the commercial passenger section, celebrating 50 years of powered flight.

The resulting film showed not only the Christchurch landings, but also the London departures. This was achieved by:

“one of the most heartening examples to date of initiative and selfless teamwork among amateurs… which has extended across thousands of miles of ocean.” [1]

In London, with the support of the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers, members agreed to set the scene and document the formal start of the race. This exposed film was then given to the crew onboard one of the Canberra aircraft entered in the speed section. The crew also had a ciné camera and filmed their journey from onboard. Continue reading

Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Coromandel Yodellers and the Royal Navy – New Digitisations from the Mobile Unit Project

By Sarah Johnston, Camilla Wheeler and Alex Porter (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

One of Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision’s current projects is digitising and fully describing the nearly 1,000 acetate records in the New Zealand Broadcasting Service Mobile Unit Collection. These were recorded between 1945 and 1949 all over New Zealand. The project will take the best part of the next year, with the work being carried out by audio conservator Alex Porterand cataloguer Camilla Wheeler. You can hear Sarah talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the project here or listen to the recordings in full below.

The Mobile Unit collection is an eclectic assortment of music and oral history style recordings, made by the forerunner to RNZ, the NZ Broadcasting Service immediately after World War II.

The collection was recognised last year as being a significant national treasure of documentary heritage and entered into UNESCO’s Memory of the World register.

Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).
Brian Cosnett (technician), Leo Fowler (producer), Geoff Haggett (commentator) and Dick Miller (technician) pose with the faithful “Gertie,” the Mobile Unit recording truck, in 1947 or 1948 (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

The unit was a mobile recording truck (affectionately known as “Gertie”) kitted out with disc cutting equipment and microphones on very long cables. It toured the country recording people who would normally have never been able to get near a radio station studio, which in the 1940s were still largely limited to the main centres.

The purpose initially was for the truck and its crew to go out and record musical talent from the provinces, that could then be used in broadcast programmes for the radio – sort of an early New Zealand’s Got Talent. However, the scope of their mission broadened when the broadcasters realised the wealth of oral histories the old people of the towns they visited could contribute, and so we have a lot of wonderful recorded memories in the collection, reaching back to the 1870s and earlier.

In 1948 the unit was in Coromandel township and recorded three tracks in Māori and English sung by a local group, the Brown Sisters.  Here are Tangiura and Te Waimarie Brown singing a country number by Tex Morton, “Outlaw Rocky Ned,” as well as two waiata Māori, “Tōia mai” and “Koutou katoa rā.”

Songs performed by The Brown Sisters (Mobile Unit, Coromandel, 1948)

At the end of last year, the eclectic nature of the Mobile Unit recordings was made very apparent as Alex and Cam completed work on a large number of discs recorded around Wellington in November and December 1945, when the Royal Navy aircraft carrier and two British destroyers visited New Zealand.

British aircraft carrier Indefatigable, Wellington Harbour. Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955. Ref: 1/4-020662-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23204493
British aircraft carrier Indefatigable, Wellington Harbour. Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955. Ref: 1/4-020662-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23204493

Broadcasters were possibly testing out the new Mobile Unit truck and its equipment, as there are many hours of recordings made onboard the ship, describing equipment and manoeuvres (you hear planes taking off and landing) and interviews with officers and sailors about their roles on board.  More unusual are recordings which reflect something of life in Wellington in 1945.  Here is an interview with a Mrs Innes, who was running the Home Hospitality Bureau, which had to find local billets for the ship’s crew. (We think the phone conversations were probably staged for the recording, but it is still fascinating listening.) Continue reading

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Earthquake Exploitation

Dee Morgan from Lexington Legal Barristers and Solicitors is interviewed during “Women in the Rebuild,” about the exploitation of immigrant workers in the Canterbury rebuild (“Women in the Rebuild,” 29 October 2015, Plains FM).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of this item please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

AW

“Radio – as necessary for the mind, as water is for the body”: 2YA’s Tītahi Bay Transmitter Opens in 1937

By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

If you have driven into Wellington from the Kāpiti Coast you will probably know the sight of the RNZ transmission mast that used to dominate the skyline at Tītahi Bay near Porirua. This week the last section of the big 220-metre mast was finally demolished after it was found to  have significant rust damage. There has been a radio mast at Tītahi Bay since 1937. When it was built,  the original mast was the tallest structure in New Zealand and remained so until the Auckland Sky Tower was built in the 1990s.

Recordings held in the radio collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision tell us about the important role this mast played in New Zealand’s broadcasting history. They were made at the opening ceremony for the transmitter – the fact the ceremony was recorded and archived is indicative of the significance of this event in 1937. You can hear me talking about these recordings with Jesse Mulligan on RNZ National here, or you can listen to the original recordings in full below.

Radio began in New Zealand in the mid-1920s and station 2YA (which eventually became RNZ National) used to broadcast from Mt Victoria. But after the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in 1931 it was decided that a station with enough power to be heard nationwide was needed, so the government bought the Tītahi Bay site and built what was then the most powerful station in the southern hemisphere.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision holds several discs recorded at the opening ceremony for the new transmitter on 23 Jan 1937. Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage was there and in his speech he stressed the importance of this new medium of radio, saying: “Radio will soon be as necessary for the mind of an active citizen as water is for the human body”:

Prime Minister M.J. Savage at opening of 2YA transmitter 25 January 1937. 

Rt Hon M.J. Savage (left) declaring the new 60-kilowatt transmitting station at Titahi Bay officially opened. Evening Post, 26 Jan 1937. (Courtesy Papers Past).
Rt Hon M.J. Savage (left) declaring the new 60-kilowatt transmitting station at Tītahi Bay officially opened. Evening Post, 26 Jan 1937. Courtesy Papers Past.

Mr Savage had already grasped how radio could be used to promote democracy. In 1936 New Zealand had become one of the first countries in the world to broadcast parliament, so this new transmitter that could reach the whole country tied in with his push to strengthen the spread of radio in New Zealand. Continue reading

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Earthquake Ripples

Raelene Rees and Michelle Mac-William from Women in the Rebuild reflect on some of the social issues affecting Cantabrians in the wake of the 2010 / 2011 earthquakes (“Women in the Rebuild,” 12 February 2015, Plains FM).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of this item please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

You can hear full episodes of “Women in the Rebuild” here.

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

Children Apples

An Apple a Day….

By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Image: New Zealand apples; Kidds O. Red 16. Good [Apple case label. 1940-60s]. Ref: Eph-B-FRUIT-1940/60-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23016982
Image: New Zealand apples; Kidds O. Red 16. Good [Apple case label. 1940-60s]. Ref: Eph-B-FRUIT-1940/60-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23016982

The early months of the year are harvest time in the Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and other apple-growing regions of New Zealand – and there are several recordings in the Radio Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision that tell the story of our favourite fruit and the huge export industry that has grown up around it. You can hear me talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the recordings or you can listen to the full recordings below.

In 1940, during World War II, the New Zealand apple harvest was unable to be exported in such quantities as usual, because of the war affecting international shipping.  So there were something close to a million extra cases of apples that needed to be consumed domestically! To get Kiwis eating more apples, radio promotions such as a national apple-pie recipe competition were held and school children were encouraged to take at least one apple with them to school every day. Another competition was held to find a song to promote apples, and it was won by Ivan Perrin, who came came up with new lyrics to an old tune [1].  Here is one version of his winning “New Zealand Apple Song,” performed by Theo Walters’ Personality Band. The female vocalist is not identified on the disc, but may be Jean McPherson, New Zealand’s “Sweetheart of the Forces.” 

The New Zealand Apple Song, Theo Walters’ Personality Band, 1940

A rendition of Perrin’s “Apple Song” was also recorded by the children of Wellington’s Lyall Bay School and became hugely popular. An article in The Listener in March 1940 printed the lyrics “in response to many requests” and noted the daily playing of the song at 8.15am on commercial ZB radio stations, along with the ringing of a school bell, had become “a Dominion-wide signal for school kiddies to be on their way” [2]. Sadly, the original Lyall Bay School recording no longer exists, although a performance was re-recorded for a school reunion in 2002. Continue reading

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Let’s Get Positive about Christmas

Tiff and Katie have some tips for having a stress-free Christmas with children under five (“Cold Tea & Laundry Piles,” Arrow FM, 20 December 2015).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of this item please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

You can hear the full episode here.

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.

SundanceHeperi

Merata Mita Fellowship Unveiled at Sundance

Image: Heperi Mita, Ciara Lacy, Rafer Rautjoki and Bird Runningwater. Photo credit: Christopher Kwock.

Heperi Mita has worked for Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision on and off for the past five years. In January he was invited to the Sundance Film Festival to represent his mother, pioneering Māori filmmaker Merata Mita, at the unveiling of the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship. He is currently working on a documentary about her life. He tells us about the fellowship and his trip to Utah in today’s post.

It was minus 17 degrees Celsius at daybreak and small parties of workers had taken to the streets to clear the snowfall of the past 48 hours. My brother Rafer and I arrived from a balmy New Zealand summer – and had yet to adjust to the 20 hour time difference between home and Park City, Utah. Only a few weeks prior we received an invitation from Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne / Mescalero Apache), director of the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Film Program, to attend the Sundance Film Festival, and now here we were waiting for a car to take us to Robert Redford’s Zoom restaurant, where the announcement of the inaugural Merata Mita Fellowship would take place. Our mother passed away six years ago, yet she was still taking us to far-flung reaches of the earth.

In Aotearoa she is remembered for her activism, documentaries and films of the 1980s, but she also spent ten years as an advisor and artistic director at the Sundance Institute NativeLab, up until her death in 2010. We didn’t know exactly what she did during those trips to the US – I was too young to fully comprehend what she was doing, while Rafer was mature enough to be managing his own life and responsibilities. What we did know was that she was spending a lot of time with Bird, who became like a whāngai brother to us. Continue reading

Basil Clarke (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collection).

Audio Curios: Arriving in Blackball

Tony and Anne Reed emigrated in the mid-1970s from the United Kingdom to Blackball on the West Coast. They talk to Jack Perkins about some of the differences (Spectrum, RNZ National, 1975).

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of this item please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz

 

The full documentary can be  heard here.

 

This post is part of the Audio Curios series. Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins regularly comes across interesting, unique, and sometimes downright puzzling bits of audio during his accessioning work. He’s going to share some of these audio treasures with you in the Audio Curios series, which will be posted here on the Gauge blog frequently.