Workshops to unearth and re-tell stories

October 10, 2017
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Grappling with Taranaki’s history – the delightful and the devastating – is motivating a series of historical gatherings called Our Shared Story.

Rob Green, Rob Baigent-Ritchie and Ailsa Claridge will lead the monthly workshops at the cathedral, open to the public, with the first one having got underway.


From left: Rob Baigent-Ritchie, Revd. Ailsa Claridge, and Rob Green.

As well as introducing people to different parts of our history, it’s also hoped the project will unearth family stories and documents.

Rob Green of Heritage Taranaki has helped develop a free app exploring the history of the Land Wars, and is one of the instigators of the project.

“For me the motivation for studying this history is simply that it is our history. It has made the Taranaki of today…. the way in which we think about our province has been shaped by this past.

“It still mostly shapes (subconsciously) the way in which we relate to our physical and social surroundings. It is only by looking squarely at our stories – warts and all – that we can begin to understand and move forward in a true spirit of treaty partnership.”

Assistant priest Rob Baigent-Ritchie, also a keen amateur historian, says:

“I think the idea of Our Shared Story came from a realisation that our identity in Taranaki is tied up with our history in this place [the cathedral]

“I look forward to people hearing the stories of our ancestors (physical and spiritual) in Taranaki; in New Plymouth and in St Mary's.”

There is already a foundation of material thanks to the work of Heritage Taranaki, parishioners such as John Pickering and Pam Holdt, as well as from Australian actor Rebecca Gibney, whose ancestor James Way Jnr was part of the military invasion of Parihaka.

“The benefits seem to be very potent to me in that having a stronger sense of our background may well mean we are better able to appreciate the history others have here; and especially our treaty partners both in the Anglican Church and in Aotearoa/New Zealand.”

Pastoral minister Ailsa Claridge says it will be a safe environment in which to ask questions, clarify ideas, and experience in person some places that have been key in Taranaki.

“We have an outline for it, but also recognise that it is of itself an organic series.

“We will see how the series is being received and then respond to that in a way that works for the participants.

The format will be varied – talking, walks and field trips, discussion, presentation of documents etc.

Topics covered will include: Early European settlers, the beginnings for St Mary’s, stories from the graveyard, tensions rising across Taranaki, outbreak of the Land Wars, the Parihaka story and much more.

*The first Our Shared Story workshop was on Sunday October 1. The second on Sunday November 12 at 3pm will consider the beginnings for our cathedral – the first stages of building and use and its role in New Plymouth’s township. John Pickering will then give a tour of the graveyard, sharing stories behind some of the families who are buried there. The workshops resume in February and include a visit to some key locations in Waitara.

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