AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN CAMPBELL
I felt privileged today to be invited to attend the finale of John Campbell's 2013 live show which was filmed today at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton, Christchurch. (It airs next Friday evening, the 20th of December.) Given our plight as a community over recent months post earthquake, he chose our beautiful port-side town because he felt it was a fitting backdrop to end a year of over 240 'Campbell Live' shows.
"What advice would you give the youth of Christchurch today post earthquake?"
"I would have to say that through tragedy has come a remarkable opportunity... and that is to start a city again! And mostly- thankfully we don't get the opportunity to do that very often.. but as you DO have the opportunity to restart, then I think for the younger generation who, if in their 20's are going to live for hopefully another 60, 70, 80 years- set the bar high!!!! Don't let older, cynical people with less to invest in the city set the bar lower on your behalves; because my generation and people older than me are going to spend less time here than you. You have decades ahead of you! You're going to raise your children here, they're probably going to raise their children here and on and on. So just set the bar as high as you can!!
For me one of the tragedies of driving through Lyttelton is that so many of the beautiful old buildings were lost and so many of the newer uglier 70's style buildings survived! So the compensation of that has to be that what is done here needs to be magnificent! And if it's not magnificent- don't let people do it! If it's not as inspiring as what was lost- don't let people do it! And if it doesn't reflect your community in the way that you think it ought to be reflected- don't let people do it!
"And how would you advise that we don't let people do it?"
"I think it's just gotta take community action! We've found our program to be really surprisingly effective in getting responses but it's takes a while. So you just have to be the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Email us, write letters to the editor, call talk back radio, hand out flyers, galvanize your neighbourhood, put signs in shop windows saying 'we don't like this building across the road- what's going on here?!' Look at the plans!! Take an interest before it's too late, because once the new building is up it ain't going away again. Look at the notifications, talk to the council, find out when plans are being posted and consents are being sorted and say 'Na, actually that's ugly, that's not about our city but merely about commerce; you can do better than that!' Constantly make noise and kick up a fuss. And don't stop until you get a meaningful response!"
"Boy I like the way you think!"
"But it's true though isn't it? It's so important to do it when you can still make a change."
"Well, exactly! There's no point waiting until it's already happened!"
"I mean, to be in this position, something truly awful had to happen."
"Yep and now we have the opportunity at a blank canvas."
".....I was driving through the CBD this morning and there's just nothing there- in fact, i'm hoping that a couple of the buildings that are there are going to come down! Awful, ugly, crappy buildings! I thought to myself 'c'mon Christchurch, tear 'em down!!'
"Does your organisation/show have any weight that can help our community?"
I can't speak on behalf of my bigger employers as we are a smaller autonomous unit but I believe our show can! I mean that's why we keep on coming down here to work in Christchurch. What I'd like 2014 to be about, for us, is that it'll be about getting it right. For the last three years we've been saying 'this is good enough, just hurry up and sort it out' but now I believe we should be saying 'what IS the good enough stuff?' I repeat- What IS good enough? And young people have to answer that question. I mean sure, property developers are probably going to be older because they've got the money to build properties, but young people have got to have the courage to say ' Don't build that cruddy building.'
"I think the younger generation do find it quite challenging when they're up against the older, wealthier and perhaps more experienced generation who often seem to be holding a generous majority of the 'decision making' cards as a result of more financial wealth. With this great new opportunity for reinvention, what are your thoughts on how can we make a significant breakthrough getting our opinions not only heard but seriously acted upon? How can the younger generation hold more weight in the community, be taken seriously and feel included more in the city's new plans and designs?"
"Well, I think we need to celebrate the visionaries, the people in the city who are getting it right already. we should learn their names; next year we'll tell you their names! And we must heartily slap their backs....... and if there are tender processes for rebuilding and one is somewhat more expensive but magnificent and the other one is somewhat cheaper but looks it- but we're talking about the next 20, 30, 70, 100 years in that corner of Christchurch, then that's a no-brainer isn't it? And the city's got to tell these people in charge! Don't rush the rebuild, set the bar high!! The city deserves it! I mean, look where we are sitting (looking over the port.) I remember when there were beautiful old building down on the front there. There was an old post office and a cafe and look at that particular section now, it's full of logs! No one wants to look at logs! Commerce has moved in. We need to be careful. My advice- keep setting the bar high and don't settle for anything less that what your city deserves!"
Well said John!