Rising from the Rubble: Christchurch’s Creative Rebirth by @Silverscreengrl

In the wake of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit films, New Zealand is very much an in-demand tourist destination. The landscapes showcased in these films, in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake and in a recent documentary about New Zealand starring The Hobbit’s James Nesbitt serve as an enticing siren song to many around the world.

In September 2010 and again in February 2011 the world unfortunately focused its attention on Christchurch, New Zealand due to the devastating earthquakes. The aftermath could have been a death knell for not only tourism, but also for the rebuild and growth of the city; but Christchurch is experiencing a creative revitalisation that is both astounding and inspiring. In fact, Christchurch was recently named as one of the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2014. How has Christchurch managed this?

The first to step into the breach was Gap Filler, an initiative that uses sites that are vacant and awaiting development to temporarily bring projects of interest to the public. One of the latest Gap Filler initiatives is the Pallet Pavilion; a space entirely comprised of pallets. The temporary activities and projects brought to life by Gap Filler keep the city energized and vibrant in the midst of demolition and reconstruction.

One item that has popped up on the Christchurch landscape since the earthquakes is the humble shipping container. Initially used for temporary office space (and in the case of the Sumner area as safety barricading), Christchurch has turned the use of these containers on its head. The Central City area of Christchurch was barely recognisable in the wake of the earthquakes, which a great swathe of demolition having to be undertaken and leaving the landscape incredibly bare and flat. However, the Central City has now been re-branded ‘Container City’ as vibrantly-coloured shops fashioned from shipping containers have brought life back to Christchurch’s beating heart. One of Christchurch’s most beloved landmarks, Ballantynes department store still stands proudly, but now surrounded by the likes of brands that are new to Christchurch like Lululemon and favourites like Cosmic Corner ‘funkstore’ and an outlet of beloved independent bookshop Scorpio Books.

And while vacant spaces are being filled with temporary Gap Filler projects and new buildings are being built, Christchurch is slowly being adorned with bright and funky street art. Thanks to the Oi YOU! Festival, street art has reinvigorated tired spirits as well as blank walls. Visitors can currently visit Canterbury Museum to browse Oi You’s impressive collection of street art (including a display of works by Banksy); and then also take in a number of exciting outdoor works around the city by artists like Askew One, Beastman and ROA as well as hometown graffiti artists Wongi and Ikarus.

There is still a long journey ahead for Christchurch’s rebuild, but recent efforts show that Christchurch has not only risen from the rubble but will continue to rise.

Lynnaire MacDonald freelances in publicity and marketing for film. Currently working tirelessly ‘in the trenches’ with independent film-makers. She eats, breathes and sleeps film and her goal is to work full-time in film publicity in the UK.

Follow her: @Silverscreengrl