Author Gavin Kerr is using his book of poems to help raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough: Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Lockdown life poems a money-earner for Alzheimers

A Blenheim man whose wife died shortly before lockdown has written a book which will help raise money for those who made her last months brighter.

Gavin Kerr’s wife Elizabeth (known as Liz) suffered from Alzheimers and died on 17 March.

And his poetic bid to record life as he experienced it under lockdown level 4 is set to raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough.

The former school principal and academic says the support they had from staff at Alzheimers Marlborough was vital following Liz’s diagnosis.

On each day of lockdown, Gavin penned a poem which he has published into a book, Under Lockdown, with a proportion of the proceeds from the sale going to the local branch.

Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.
Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.

The first poem, dedicated to Liz, was written for her service sheet used at a private family farewell at Geoffery T Sowman Funeral Directors.

“I think that was what prompted me. It helped a great deal, there’s no doubt about that.

“Some days I had to sit down and think about what I was going to do but most were done while walking up the Wither Hills or along the Taylor River.

‘I’ve always been interested in writing but haven’t published any of my personal work before.”

Liz, a fellow academic who spoke fluent French, was diagnosed with Alzheimers early in 2019.

For the pair, who were married for 61 years, it was a devastating blow.

“Once that word, Alzheimers, comes up, you’ve crossed the Rubicon and can’t go back.” he says.

Following the diagnosis, Gavin got in contact with Alzheimers Marlborough.

The support and information they provided was critical through a difficult process, he says.

Liz was moved to Maxwell Lifecare rest home in Blenheim after congestive heart failure complications meant she could no longer be cared for at home.

Gavin too needed a break after months of broken sleep and stress.

“You try to put yourself in their shoes but that’s not easy to do,” he says.

The couple’s three children arrived just before travel restrictions were imposed to say goodbye.

“The staff [at Maxwell Lifecare] were fabulous, you couldn’t have asked for anything more; they’re like family.”

Writing the 34 poems proved to be very cathartic, Gavin says.

“It’s a good release. There is a mix of poems in there; some are amusing and others more serious.

“In some way, it’s a bit like watercolour painting; you do it, let it mature and go back to it.”

The $25 book is available to buy at Alzheimers Marlborough on 8 Wither Road in Blenheim or by emailing [email protected]

17-year-old Alex Marshall. Photo: Supplied.

Picture perfect shot makes a splash

A roadie to Rotoiti and some speedy editing has nabbed a national title for a young Blenheim photographer.

17-year-old Alex Marshall took the top spot in the youth category of the ANZ Sony 2020 Alpha Awards with his image, ‘A Celebration of Solitude’.

And with only four hours to execute and edit the shoot, Alex says the competition tested his skills- but he took the perfect shot first time.

“I had a few locations in mind before I was given the theme,” he says.

“I chose to shoot this image at Nelson National Lakes park, I’ve wanted to capture something like this for some time, and my goal was to take a less traditional approach to the theme, one that shows the joy in solitude.

Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.
Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.

“At the lake we lucked out with conditions.

“It was overcast with some nice light coming through the clouds.”

He roped in his mate, Jack, as the model – who handily has a family bach nearby where Alex edited the shot.

Alex, a boarder at Scots College in Wellington says he had about two hours to edit, after traveling from Blenheim and convincing Jack to dive into the freezing water.

“Because you have a specific theme, it challenges your creativity and it challenges the way you shoot.

“It really encourages you to get out there,” he says.

“I entered last year and got two images through to the short list but unfortunately didn’t get through to the finals.

“I wanted a go at the finals, so I entered again this year.”

Alex says he has been using a camera for years but got serious about photography about three years ago.

The title, a $1700 Sony A6400 Camera kit and $2,000 worth of Sony Alpha camera gear was the  reward.

He says the cash will go toward new lenses.

Big changes ahead for Little Theatre

Over the decades, thousands of performers have trodden its boards, but Picton Little Theatre was on shaky ground.

The historic venue needs earthquake strengthening to bring the landmark building up to modern building codes.

And a funds boost from Marlborough District Council means vital reinforcing work looks likely to go ahead.

Committee Chair Carmen Gimpl helped secure a $7,000 grant from the annual plan this month to put towards theatre funds.

Combined with $5,000 left over from last year’s successful $26,000 bid, the charitable trust now has enough to approach other agencies for money.

“We’re keen to do it quickly.

“It [the theatre] constantly needs work so we really want to keep going while the momentum is there,” Carmen says.

From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

To be eligible to approach agencies such as Rata for funds, the group must have $11,000 of the $33,000 needed to strengthen the building.

National Building Standards says if a building’s seismic resistance capacity is calculated as less than 34 per cent it is considered earthquake prone.

The engineer’s report gave the old theatre, built about 1886, a 26 per cent rating.

Reinforcing work will take around two weeks and should hopefully be finished by the end of the year, says Carmen.

The building hosts professional and amateur theatre, concerts, meetings, table tennis, dance classes and private functions.

Carmen says the 8-strong committee have great plans for the theatre.

“We put on 10 professional shows a year and really want to upgrade the bar area and see more people use the theatre.

“The theatre has been part of the town for a long time, so it makes sense to make sure it’s still here for generations to come.”

The committee have planned a Monster Garage Sale for 27 June to help raise funds for future improvements.

Carmen says it would be great if people can show their support by donating goods or turning up on the day.

Donations of household goods, tools, clothes and books can be dropped off on the day at the theatre on 9 Dublin Street or the night before between 4 and 6pm.

“Please come along and support the theatre and find out more about what we do too. We’d love more members,” Carmen says.

The annual Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival attracts a wealth of talented musicians. File photo.

Sound of music silenced as festival postponed

A top Marlborough music festival has been forced to cancel amid safety concerns.

The Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival has been called off due to coronavirus fears.

But organisers have promised something fun to fill the gap.

Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic left “too many unknown variables” for the festival to proceed, organisers say.

The week-long youth jazz festival and competition, featuring young musicians from high schools all around the South Island, has been a staple of the Marlborough event calendar for many years.

“After careful consideration and in close collaboration with the Marlborough District Council, the decision has been made to cancel Southern Jam this year,” the announcement, on Facebook, says.

The festival would see students performing at bars and restaurants before a gala performance at the ASB theatre.

“The safety of our students, staff and the public continues to be our number one priority and the current uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 situation leaves too many unknown variables at this point in time.”

Elgee Leung and Simon Clark are mixing music with wine at a special concert. Photo: Jessica Jones.

Wine and music a match for concert

Two Marlburians have teamed up to combine their talents with a special concert mixing music and wine.

Cellist Elgee Leung and Simon Clark from Clark Estate are hosting a chamber music concert with a difference.

A selection of wines has been matched to compliment the melodies

The pair hope both the music and the wines, from the Clericus range, will spark conversation.

“These wines offer purity, harmony and structure that will complement the quality of music being played.

“The audience will have the opportunity to taste wines that have a story behind them that will provoke thought, emotion and conversation, much like what classical music does,” Simon says.

Internationally acclaimed and award-winning pianist, Dr Michael Tsalka will also perform in the programme which features works by Beethoven, Schumann, and Brahms.

Simon, who has played the trumpet since he was a child says most of his family play classical music.

“A dream would be to play a horn-cello duet with Elgee but I believe our true duet is combining the elegance of the wines with the beauty of the cello.

“For me, the cello is the most beautiful and soulful instrument in the orchestra. Cello concertos speak directly to the heart and can be very powerful if you let yourself be taken on that journey.”

Celebrated Hong-Kong cellist Elgee moved to Marlborough in 2018 and has been making his mark on the music scene ever since.

For him the concert combines two of his favourite things – music and wine.

“Sometimes a great bottle of wine reminds me of a particular piece of music, or vice versa. I then think it’d be interesting to try to combine the two mediums of art.

“It’s very personal, and of course requires lots of imagination. A good fit would enhance the taster/audience’s feeling in both, he says.

The concert takes place on Saturday 7 March at St Andrews Presbyterian Church. Tickets are available at the door ($40 Adults, $20 Students). Door opens at 6:30pm

Marlborough Girls’ College students Lauren Doherty, Eleanor Grigg and Claire Lee received cultural awards last week. Photo: Matt Brown.

Student musicians’ cultural success

Talented students who have made outstanding contributions to culture have been honoured for their efforts.

Marlborough Girls’ College students were recognised for their achievements across a wide range of artistic categories last week.

Among those officially recognised were a trio of accomplished musicians.

Year 13 student Eleanor Grigg was named the Cultural Achiever of the Year after an exceptional year of musical achievements.

The musician was crowned under 19 champion for the tenor horn at the National Brass Band Championships in July.

She also came second in the Champion of Champions, competing against entrants playing a diverse range of instruments.

Year 10 student Lauren Doherty was awarded the All Round Endeavour in Performing Arts (Junior) for her contributions as an individual and in the jazz band. Lauren has been involved in house drama, the jazz band and placed 3rd at the annual talent quest performing on the electric violin.

She also won the Junior Instrumental prize in the school performing arts competitions.

Year 9 student Claire Lee was awarded a piano scholarship after coming first in the junior piano solo at the school competitions. She also studies violin and is a dedicated member of the Marlborough Civic Orchestra.

She is training as a concertmaster for the Upbeat Development Orchestra on violin.