Repost: The remnants of a city

Next week I’ve been invited to give a talk on my experiences using Social Media in the aftermath of the New Zealand earthquakes, Having family out there I used Social Media to keep on top of news from down under. Before I go to deliver the talk I thought  I would repost this I wrote about the damage I witnessed out there  when I visited last April/May  –

Originally posted in June 2011

Yesterday after I posted my #NZpicoftheday Dan Slee sent me a message:

Which actually should have been a challenge as New Zealand is land of beautiful scenery, but mainly comprising of the mountains and the sea, so not a lot of red…. until recently.

Post quake Christchurch is awash with red, but this is no good thing. If you’ve seentodays #NZpicoftheday you’ll know why but it meant my choice of image was already there for the taking.

I’ve been trying to avoid posting “the damage” pictures as much as possible, it felt really voyeuristic walking around the remains of people lives and snapping away. I was very aware that as a tourist I would escape the ruin but for the people who lived there, there can be no escape, this is now their new reality.  In fact taking pictures of the quake damage was one thing I didn’t do for the first 2 weeks we were there. It wasn’t until until I met “locals” with cameras, discussing where they were when the quake hit I felt confident enough to take my camera out it, seeing them made me feel less intrusive about walking around taking pictures but I still shyed away from shooting peoples homes.

Just like seeing those locals in Christchurch who changed my mind about taking the photos, Today’s picture and subsequent conversation with someone who still believed the earthquake damage was isolated to the city centre has made me rethink about posting images of the damage.

The CBD (city centre) is still cordoned off and inaccessible with buildings visibly leaning awaiting deconstruction, rubble is piled everywhere broken glass and detritus still littering every corner.

Every street in every suburb in the east of the city has damage, Houses, roads, businesses, felled trees, burst water mains munted sewerage pipes, collapsed river banks, subsidence and liquifaction is wide spread, and as you head further out into the port hills, to Sumner and Redcliffs, closer to Lyttleton and the epicentre you have to contend with all this and the added devastation rock falls and land slides.

As one New Zealander pointed out to me, this is history as it happens and someone has to record it before it all changes.

300km of sewerage pipes are in need of repairing or replacing, as a result waste is being pumped into the rivers and polluting the sea.

Sumner & Redcliffs RSA building, destroyed in a rock slide during the Feb quake, a boulder the size of my living room crashed through the rear of it.

This could be a photograph of any street corner in the city centre.

The CBD is still cordoned off, navigating the city centre is nightmare when every every second street is inaccessible and the cordons move based on risk analysis, work being undertaken and the constant threat of aftershocks.

Another street, another dead end.

3 months after the quake and glass still litters the streets, the human rescue and recovery tasks taking priority over clean up operations,

Every street is effected, this is Sumner, every household is in upheaval but from a distance it looks like nothing’s wrong, until you look closer and spot the remains of where a house once stood.

Even the footpaths in places are now impassable

When cracks appear in the road wider then your foot where do you start fixing them? – The answer – they didn’t they started with the ones big enough for someone to stand in

Whole sections of the road just shifted, this is right on the coast near Spencer Park easily and hour away from the CBD

The raw power of a quake, twisted and mangled foot bridge across the river Avon, thankfully this was damaged in the September quake which hit in the early hours of the morning so no one was on it.

Whole sections of ground have dropped by more than a metre – I wish I could say this was unique to the river banks but this subsidence is evident across the city and suburbs…

….Damage is everywhere,

Make Shift: Changing Wolverhampton with an idea

Make:Shift is an event taking place on the 21st & 22nd September in Wolverhampton.  The premise of the event is to connect people in the community to make things happen for the better in Wolverhampton looking at using what we already have, that could be people, or assets or skills etc. There will be speakers and workshops with people doing good stuff but before then they are calling for ideas – What would you like to see happen in Wolverhampton.

I’ve submitted 2 ideas. They are:

Community Adoption

A lot of schools already run fundraising events for big charities, but what would happen if turned that energy into action locally.

If each high school in Wolverhampton adopted for just one year at a time a community need – it could be a building like a community centre or library, A play space or a person who needs help, anything taht was in the comunity the school served. The fundraising that takes place in school could be channelled towards the project and students could take part in volunteering activities around it – or arrange their own awareness raising assemblies.


A community centre that needs a new roof and redecorating. The money the school raised could go towards the roof and the students could spend some time painting.

A young person that needs a new wheelchair, The money the school raised goes towards the chair and the students speand some time with a organisation or charity that supports people with simialr medical needs

Gap Fillers

This is an idea I picked up from New Zealand in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake but I think it can be easily used in Wolverhampton.

After the quake in NZ a lot of buildings had to be pulled down and a project sprung up to fill the gaps left behind, Unique art and community spaces.

There have been things like cycle powered cinemas, giant monopoly boards, community games, live music and book exchanges.

We could bring people and organisations into the city to look at using our empty shops in a similar way. It could be sporadic with different things and different times or my favourite a kind of festival of empty spaces with a period of time with all empty units full of unique and different interactive art projects, displays and “events”


What would you like to see happen? You can submit your ideas here