Remembrance, Rugby and Richie McCaw

A special article for Remembrance Day 2014.

It’s not every day as a journo that you attend a post-match press conference and a rugby player brings tears to your eyes. But that is essentially what happened to me on Saturday after the All Blacks played England at Twickenham.

As a Kiwi, I’ve grown up with remembrance. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always attended services for ANZAC Day (25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). It started with me marching in the ANZAC morning parades as a Pippin, Brownie and then a Girl Guide. As a city-dwelling university student, I attended the dawn services at Auckland War Memorial Museum. ANZAC Day was a day off – students would often have a big night on the 24th, but it didn’t matter what wretched state you were in early the next morning, you got up, you went to the dawn service, and you damn well paid your respects. In my group of friends at least, the one thing you would never dream of doing is treating ANZAC Day as a day for a lie-in to sleep off yet another holiday hangover.

Things were no different on moving to London. If anything, I’ve witnessed the ANZAC spirit taken even more seriously. It’s no small feat getting up for the ANZAC dawn service at Hyde Park Corner; it’s a bit more of a challenge than at home – it requires irregular night buses, a little more self-motivation (unlike at home where everyone in your flat would be going), and of course it’s not a day off – so you’ll be dragging yourself out for a strong coffee and brekkie afterwards, before making your bleary-eyed way into work. But you don’t complain. And no, you don’t think you deserve a medal. But there’s a sombre sense of completeness that you’ve done what little you can to briefly acknowledge someone else’s sacrifice.

But this isn’t about the ANZACs specifically. That just comes from me drawing on my own personal experience. This is about remembrance in a broader sense – why we Remember Them, and if we even understand what we’re remembering.

In this year, the centenary of the start of the First World War, a few friends and colleagues have been rather taken aback by my “fixation” on remembrance. I’ve been criticised from all angles – and some of the places the criticism has come from has been a surprise. Some believe it’s an interest that springs from coming from a military family of sorts. Others have said that I’ve become fixated on remembering the dead because my mother is dead. It really is quite astounding and shocking what people come out with.

And most surprising of all, is that most people don’t even bother asking me WHY – they’d rather just hold the opinion that I’m a little odd and morbid.

The truth is, contrary to the family I come from (who never really spoke about either war) and my participation in and attendance of commemorative services, I actually knew very little about either WW1 or WW2 until very recently. The interest has really sprung from a trip I took out to the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front with First Festival Travel a couple of years ago. It was an experience that changed my life and my opinion on remembrance forever; you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I was somewhat ashamed to be forced to admit that actually I knew NOTHING. I had opinions on things I knew absolutely nothing about. In fact, even though I knew Gallipoli, I had no idea what the Western Front was, let alone its importance. I had no clue (if I am to be perfectly honest here) about why the First World War even started, or what it was we were fighting for. I was naive to the real numbers of those who fought, of those who fell, and of those many whose graves are unknown. I had no knowledge of the propaganda, of when and how conscription worked, and of who was making the decisions.

Is it important we know these things? Yes, it absolutely is. Because if we don’t know what or why we’re remembering – to be frank – remembrance becomes empty and devoid of any real meaning. If we’re just going through the motions, what is the point?

The truth is that many people have no idea about the “what’s” and “why’s” we’re remembering – and it is absolutely not their fault. I’m still scratching my head as to why I was taught about Gallipoli at school, but the Western Front was never even mentioned – even though more New Zealanders died at Passchendaele than at Gallipoli. This is just an example, but from what I’ve seen anywhere I go, there seems to be a general lack of awareness and understanding about the First World War. How can we expect people to truly understand remembrance – let alone learn lessons from that past to understand our future – if we don’t give them the knowledge to begin with?

Back to Saturday… pre kick-off, Twickenham Stadium. It’s the day before Remembrance Sunday and also the centenary year of the start of the First World War – a commemoration is taking place pre-match on the pitch, involving flags, music and the British Armed Forces – and it’s impressive. The Last Post sounds. Rather than being followed by a minute’s silence, however, 82,000 people burst into cheering and applause. I was absolutely horrified. But the fact that the majority of spectators thought it appropriate to applaud the Last Post is testament to a lack of understanding that they can absolutely not be blamed for.

At the post-match press conference, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw was asked if given the proximity of this match to Remembrance Sunday, if it was extra emotional for the team to put the jersey on, thinking back to those others who have worn it – and no doubt alluding to the 13 All Blacks who died in the First World War specifically.

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“It definitely has significance for our team,” Richie answered. “We always make sure we take a moment to understand why you put the poppy on the sleeve, and why people remember all those years ago. One of the things that always hits Kiwis – and especially our team – is when you say that during the First World War the population of our country was only a million, and 100,000 of that million then came to fight over here… and that puts a fair bit of reality around what you do. It adds a little bit of something extra to why you want to go and play well when you have the poppy on the sleeve. There’s no doubt that our boys understand that, and we make a point of remembering that. We’re all here living the way that we are because of what a lot of men did all those years ago. I think the great thing is that we have a chance to pay our respects, and go out and perform, and in that way too, pay our respects.”

Now to be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that Richie McCaw is extraordinary in his capacity to understand remembrance. But the reason his words touched me so much was because I was thinking, “Now here’s an ordinary guy, a rugby player, a typical Kiwi – who gets it”. The difference isn’t that Richie McCaw is a legendary All Black – the difference is that he makes “a point of remembering” and taking a moment to “understand why” you put the poppy on the sleeve, for example.

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Whether Richie McCaw’s point of reference comes from seeking understanding himself, or having it fostered within the team, I’m not sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that if we want to understand the true meaning of remembrance, we have to seek the answers (and the questions) out for ourselves. And it’s something that I hope this Remembrance Day, you will make the effort to do. What remembrance absolutely is not, is glorifying an old war. What remembrance is, is understanding why we had to fight, why we remember those who had no choice but to fight, and crucially, what we must learn from it today.

Lest We Forget.

Written by Charlotte Everett. May be re-used with permission only.

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All Blacks snatch victory 24 to 21 in controversial match against England

Originally published by NZNewsUK.

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The All Blacks snatched victory from England to win 24 to 21 at Twickenham, in a game that was too close to call at times – some would say even by the referee.

Playing the hosts on their home turf has never been an easy task for the New Zealanders, and this occasion proved no different. The boys in black had not only an England team in great form to contend with, but also the ever-increasing spirit of their fans. Predictably, the England faithful deployed their strategy of “making the All Blacks dance to Sweet Chariot” (sung loudly over the top of the haka) – but the world champions appeared unfazed and delivered a powerful performance that made up in physicality for what could not be heard over “Swing Low…”

England reminded New Zealand that they are a force to be reckoned with however, with an early try from Jonny May within minutes of kick off. Aaron Cruden rewarded the Kiwis with one to follow, however a number of missed kicks paired with penalty triumphs in England’s favour ensured that the hosts dominated the first half and secured a 3-point lead into the interval.

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The All Blacks were back with a vengeance in the second half, with tries from Richie McCaw and Charlie Faumuina. It was not an easy win, however – New Zealand survived both the sin-binning of Dane Coles in the second half, as well as a late penalty try for England.

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The game was not without controversy. Dane Coles’ yellow card in itself was controversial, with referee Nigel Owens seemingly going against the recommendation of the TMO. Owens then appeared flustered as he requested to watch several replays of Charlie Faumuina’s try – even though it had already been awarded. The Welsh referee was subject to criticism from both sides throughout the match as he made a number of other controversial calls which were met with roars of disproval from the stands and some of the men on the field. In his defence, he appeared to only be requesting multiple replays in response to spectator anger resulting from replays that were shown. The issue of a television producer calling the shots on which plays should be replayed on the big screens and which should not was back on the table.

When asked if he thought that TMOs were becoming too much of a problem, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen diplomatically responded: “My biggest concern isn’t the TMOs and the refs… My biggest concern is that TV producers are starting to have a big influence on games. We don’t need the TV producer to replay it 100 times – that’s not in the spirit of our game. Referees will make mistakes just like players. Some of those mistakes will cost you the game, but you live with it because another day you get the rub of the green.”

Captain Richie McCaw was named Man of the Match in front of a record Twickenham crowd of 82,223 spectators. The turnout and the excitement around this match bodes well as England heads towards hosting the World Cup next year.

Charlotte Everett is both London Editor and a freelance journalist for NZNewsUK. Article may only be re-used with permission.

All Blacks “Remember Them” in London – WW100

New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team flew into London yesterday morning, and last night an intimate wreath-laying was conducted at Hyde Park Corner to remember the thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War, as well as all soldiers who paid the ultimate price on the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Amidst jetlag and a hectic schedule having only just flown in from Chicago, current All Blacks Dane Coles, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano and Ben Smith attended and participated in the centenary commemorative ceremony, arranged by the New Zealand High Commission and New Zealand Defence. They were joined by New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey, as well as High Commissioner to New Zealand  HE the Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith, DA Brigadier Antony “Lofty” Hayward and a small number of New Zealanders and friends of New Zealand in England. I was also in attendance, as one of six representatives from the NZ Society UK committee.

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High Commissioner Sir Lockwood opened proceedings by welcoming everyone to the New Zealand Memorial at London’s Hyde Park Corner. He detailed the stories and brief biographies of several of the thirteen All Blacks who never made it home from the Great War, before listing the names of all thirteen. New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey then addressed the intimate gathering and personalised his remarks with the story of his own grandfather being wounded in the Battle of the Somme. Brigadier Hayward concluded spoken proceedings with a poem.

Following the wreath-laying and Last Post, London Maori Club Ngati Ranana led the gathering in Whakaaria Mai, and then performed the haka made famous by the All Blacks – Ka Mate.

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Rugby was played at various points during the First World War, including an ANZAC match on the island of Lemnos during a respite from Gallipoli. The soldiers were forced to play with a football in place of a rugby ball, with New Zealand thrashing their counterparts 13 tries to 1. New Zealand also won 40-0 in another game played against France in April 1917 for the Somme Cup. 60,000 watched the match in Paris.

The world champions are in London to face England at Twickenham this coming Saturday, 8 November. They will take to the field wearing specially developed remembrance poppies. Impey stated, “World War One took a massive toil on our nation and our All Blacks were a part of that story. Over the next four years, New Zealand Rugby will play a role in sharing rugby’s contribution to the period and it’s an honour to be in London to mark Kiwis contribution to the Allied efforts”.

The thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War were Albert Downing, Henry Dewar, Frank Wilson, Robert Black, George Sellars, James Baird, Reginald Taylor, James McNeece, Dave Gallaher, “Jum” Turtill, Eric Harper, Ernest Dodd and Alex Ridland.

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Article by Charlotte Everett; may only be used with permission.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

INTERVIEW: Artist Mandii Pope

Mandii Pope is one of New Zealand’s greatest creative exports: an acclaimed artist with exhibitions across Europe, Dubai and the UK, and with many works in both private and commercial collections across the globe. Her work is often seen all over the UK, be it her emotive spin paintings – or out in public spaces, you will find her book benches, a bus painted like Buckingham Palace, a Darth Vader Gorilla or a dolphin warplane to name but a few. Senior royalty have even added the finishing touches to one of her artworks. An iconic member of the Kiwi community in the UK, Mandii is often seen out and about at London-Kiwi events, and supports the community in a variety of ways. She has now returned to New Zealand for the first time in six years to be part of the Christchurch Stands Tall Giraffe sculpture trail – I grabbed the opportunity to find out more about the art, and about the lady herself…

Tell us where you’re from in NZ, when you came to the UK, and why?

I’m originally from Auckland. I followed love to the UK! Justin Bade came to London to gear up 42 Below. We’d been friends for years; I left my happy life in NZ after a romantic month in Rarotonga for the thrill of “what if”. 11 years later, 42 Below is a great success story, Justin and I remain friends and to this day is the best decision I have ever made in coming to London to chase my dreams.

How was it first settling in to life in the UK – both in a general sense, and in terms of your career?

I came to London on a red carpet. We lived in Knightsbridge, my job was £50K per annum, and we led a glamorous life. We broke up a year later, and the company I worked for went into receivership. I ended up pouring pints in a gay bar in Soho at night for about £5 per hour before tax, and a film set during the day for free. I had nowhere to live, so the pub owners after a week of knowing me offered me their flat in Leytonstone. I averaged an hour’s sleep after I’d finished my night shift and I travelled 90 minutes on the night bus. I’d get home around 4.30 or 5am, and I’d be gone again by 6ish to be on set by 7am. After 4 months I was exhausted. A friend came back from travelling and was my saviour – thanks to her, I ended up settled in both the same flat and job that I’m still in 10 years later. I have two lives: as an artist, and an office job – both complement each other nicely. My office job keeps me safe and the people I work with have been like family to me in the UK. They have supported my full-time art career from day one, and supported me with an art studio to make spin paintings for 4 years – plus a Darth Vader Gorilla and a large corporate commission. I miss NZ, but London is where I need to be art-wise. There are so many opportunities the UK. I’m working to a 10-year plan and opportunities are plentiful after years of hard graft and determination.

What is the inspiration behind your work?

I’m a sponge to my environment. If it’s a public art sculpture, I like to utilise the organic shape of the sculpture and keep to the theme of the brief or project. The cityscapes are places visited. My spin paintings are emotive, fun to create and are the format of my current artworks. I’m very guided by a greater force and my intuition guides me to most of my inspiration. Sometimes I just get an idea and it explodes from there. I have a couple of hundred ideas for my NZ-themed spin paintings; I just need time to paint them all. It was great fun creating a colouring book for Kiwi-run Ziggle-Itwhich has seen me now turning my sculptures into colouring adventures for the kids. Ziggling-it is colouring fun for adults, and I seriously recommend it!

What are some of the career highlights of things you’ve worked on while you’ve been in the UK?

All Wild in Art projects are completely epic… Also a 15ft Big Ben BT Artbox for Childline in 2012, designing the Bagpuss costume for the VLM for Hospices of Hope, painting with royalty a couple of times, working on 60 Minute Makeover, film sets, painting the UK New Zealander of the Year, solo exhibitions in Cork Street and Dubai… They keep coming!

You’ve done a lot of work for Wild in Art. Tell us what they’re about, and what you’ve worked on for them?

Wild in Art are absolutely massive in the UK, and are taking over the world! Their sculptures raise hundreds of thousands – if not millions – for various charities around the globe. They have four or five public art trails in the UK and one on another continent per year. In 2012 it was Lions in South Africa; 2013 Rhinos in Australia – and this year, it’s giraffes in Christchurch, New Zealand! A Wild in Art trail consists of a town, a charity, and anywhere between 20-70 sculptures decorated by local and famous artists which are sponsored by local businesses, and then put on display for the public to enjoy, take photos and create memories… The sculptures are then up for auction, where all proceeds go to charity. Miniature sculptures are created by schools of a similar number. These projects bring enjoyment to entire communities and raise huge amounts for charities who need it. I’ve just completed my 11th public art sculpture – 8 have been for Wild in Art, with more to come in the new year. 2013 was a talking, breathing Darth Vader Gorilla (@DarthGorilla); 2014 has seen three book benches for Books About Town, a WW100 warplane dolphin named @TrevorWarphin for Wild Dolphins in Aberdeen, a Buckingham Palace bus for TFL’s Year of the Bus, and two giraffes for Christchurch Stands Tall: @MoaGiraffe, as well as designing “The Longest Girink in Town” giraffe (painted by Sarah Greig).

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Your latest London project is the TFL Year of the Bus sculpture trail. Tell us a little about that?

There are 60 bus sculptures – 40 in London, with 20 to follow in Croydon in late November. The buses are celebrating 125 years of the bus, for Transport for London (TFL) in conjunction with three charities: Transaid, Kids Company, and the London Transport Museum. Mine is Buckingham Palace Bus. You can download an app to find them (search for “Bus Art – Year of the Bus”). Later in the year they will be up for auction, and the money raised will be divided between the three charities.

You’re in NZ at the moment working on Christchurch Stand Tall. What does this mean to you personally, and how did it come about?

I’ve been a big supporter of this project as soon as I heard about it a year ago, regardless of if I became a part of it or not. I believe in the project, the product and the people of Christchurch, and I really hope New Zealand realises how incredibly huge this is to have Wild in Art come to Christchurch. I’m the only Kiwi in the UK to have painted so many sculptures for Wild in Art, so it was super special to receive a phone call from Wild in Art Director Charlie Langhorne, who decided out the goodness of his heart to give me his own Air New Zealand ticket to send me home and be a part of the Christchurch Stands Tall project. It’s been nearly six years since I’ve been home, and it has been so special to be amongst a bunch of super-talented Kiwi artists at Giraffe HQ. One fellow artist – Justine Ottey – even surprised me with aTip Top container full of freshly backed afghans! Made my day! I have two giraffes; one is the famous red-and-blue spotted The Longest Girink in Town which I designed (painted by Sarah Greig and sponsored by Buildtech), and the other is Moa Giraffe (which I designed and painted), sponsored by Dulux New Zealand. Dulux chose my Moa design because of their huge involvement work with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and environmental conservation. Dulux have been great supporters of the project, supplying all paints for 50 schools, as well as the artists in Giraffe HQ. Back in the UK I use nothing but Dulux paints – I don’t like the expensive artist’s paints anymore, so I am a natural advocate for my sponsor. A match made in heaven! The Giraffes have just had a coat of varnish from Urban Hygiene and are looking magnificent! Campbell Live reported that they could sell for NZD $10,000 each. These sculptures have sold for £55,000 and £60,000 GBP each in the UK on some trails, so they have potential to raise so much more.

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I understand that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, put the finishing touches on one of your paintings. Tell us about that!

Ceilidh Dunphy from the NZ High Commission recommended me to the New Zealand Women’s Association (NZWA) as a live art artist, to paint a very special painting on Waitangi Day at New Zealand House in the presence of HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. I was chosen as I had painted Buckingham Palace live for King Edward Hospital with the Duke of Kent in previous years. President Jane Thomas and I decided a cityscape of Clarence House (residence of HRH) would be most fitting. I completed the painting with a portrait of a Maori warrior (Bruce Simpson from Ngati Ranana, the London Maori Club) in the foreground with a Queen’s Guard. The Duchess of Cornwall was a fabulous sport when I asked her to paint a few windows. The painting was then up for auction a last month, and all proceeds went to a WW100 charity for NZ soldiers.

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What’s next for you?

As soon as I land back in the UK, I have 10 days to paint current 2014 UK New Zealander of the Year, Eric Tracey. I also have an Egg for The Big Egg Hunt, two magnificent Wild in Art Dragon sculptures for Go Go Dragons, plus many more submissions for Wild in Art projects of Buses, Owls and Barons. I still have a 100 or more NZ-themed spin paintings to complete as well. I’m due for another big exhibition, so I’ll make sure that happens next year. The world is my oyster, anything is possible – and I’m up for all of it.

You can find out more about Mandii here.

All photos courtesy of Mandii Pope. Interview by Charlotte Everett; may only be re-used with permission.

Democracy vs Empire – what were NZ fighting for in the First World War?

On Thursday 16 October, the NZ-UK Link Foundation held their Inaugural Annual Lecture at the University of London’s Senate House, and I was privileged enough to attend. This year’s lecture was given by Sir Hew Strachan, one of Britain’s leading military and First World War historians, and entitled: ‘Democracy or empire? Reflections on the British imperial experience of the First World War’.

The event was run in association with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS), and part of Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Programme Partnership. A number of honoured guests were in attendance, including the New Zealand High Commissioner, Sir Lockwood Smith.

It was an incredibly thought-provoking lecture that still has my mind ticking over – but I will attempt to convey what I took from the evening.

Sir Hew opened by addressing the questions:

Why did we fight?

Was it for British values and the rights of small nations – or rather for the British right to run its empire?

He went on to quote two very different men on the British side of the war – one, John A. Lee, a civilian-turned-soldier (and later, a politician) from Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island – and the other, King George V.

The stark difference of perspective illuminates the dilemma of military service for Commonwealth citizens in the army in 1914. Men are given citizenship and the care of the State – and in return, they have the reciprocal duty to protect the State at war. The understanding of “democracy” was very different in 1914 – in truth, there really wasn’t one as far as the British Empire was concerned. Approximately 40% of British men did not have the right to vote in 1914, and as far as the empire was concerned, Britain was controlling the rights of a multitude of small nations far from home.  George V called on his subjects to defend democracy – but the understanding of democracy at the time was simply one of civic and military duty. For civilian volunteers in uniform such as Lee, it was a loss of liberty – whereas from the perspective of George V, it was in defence of liberty.

How far could the British Empire of 1914 be described as a democratic institution? Canada, Australia and New Zealand were important to the empire, because they were members of it voluntarily, rather than by force. Moreover, they were tied to Britain by colonial migrants and a shared culture. By contrast, other parts of the empire – such as West Africa – were perceived by Britain as uncivilized, yet their men were fighting to prove to Britain that they are citizens, not mere subjects, and equal to citizens of British ancestral descent.

Ultimately, the involvement of the wider empire in the First World War focussed mostly on Canada, Australia and New Zealand because these three nations were considered as equal partners, even if other members of the empire were not. It’s important to note however that the three nations were not free to choose whether or not to enter the war (that order came from London) – but they were free to decide how they would fight that war.

New Zealand joined the Great War on 31 July 1914. In contrast to Britain, New Zealand was rather more ahead in terms of the modern definition of democracy. More adult men, including Maori, certainly had the right to vote – and indeed, women had been given the right to vote in New Zealand since 1893. Furthermore, New Zealand held a wartime election; by contrast Britain chose not to and essentially ruled during wartime without a parliamentary mandate.

The major point where New Zealand followed Britain’s lead and differed from Canada and Australia was the introduction of conscription in 1916. By this time, the voluntary system of enlistment had come to represent inequality, and compulsory service had come to represent equality of sacrifice. Conscription ensured that 20% of all eligible New Zealand males were sent to war, versus only 13.5% of eligible males from Australia and Canada.

Sir Hew’s lecture was concluded with a Question and Answer session. One guest in attendance raised the question of the Gallipoli campaign as the “birth of nations”, as far as the ANZACs are concerned. Sir Lockwood Smith commented in response by saying that in New Zealand, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 is seen more as “the day of our nationhood, whereas ANZAC Day is undoubtedly New Zealand’s most sacred day”.  He went on to say, “But it is growing. I see so many young people out on ANZAC Day wearing their Great-Grandfather’s medals – and it’s the same in Australia. It’s getting bigger. Gallipoli and ANZAC Day are what make us [Australia and New Zealand] unique in our national identity.”

Sir Hew responded to Sir Lockwood’s remarks by commenting on the vast difference between those ANZACs returning home to Australia in contrast to New Zealand. He suggested that many returning to Australia in the 1920s saw ANZAC Day as a day to party (similar to how returning British soldiers saw Armistice Day), whereas in New Zealand ANZAC Day was held as a sacred day, with pubs closed and sombre observance. He further remarked that it’s interesting to see ANZAC Day held with such reverence in New Zealand despite the fact that more New Zealand soldiers died at Passchendaele on the Western Front than at Gallipoli.

The evening was concluded with a drinks reception sponsored by the New Zealand High Commission.

NZ-UK Link put on a captivating and highly interesting evening, and I look forward to attending their lectures in future. Attendance is free and open to anyone, but registration essential – so I hope that you will join us at future events.

Article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission.

INTERVIEW: Anika Moa

I grabbed the opportunity to chat with Anika Moa for NZNewsUK ahead of her recent London show on October 30.

Anika, you are one of NZ’s most iconic singer-songwriters. How did you get into music, and had it always been your dream?

Anika: Hi! Both of my parents are singers who travelled all over New Zealand, so I was born into it. I truly fell in love with music at high school because it was so much cooler than maths or science. I started writing at 13, and grew from there. Such a nerd! My dream is to write for other people such as Beyoncé. Haha! I wish.

You were picked up by Atlantic Records in the United States as a teenager. You were determined to stick to your own unique style of Kiwi-folk acoustic songs… did the record company have other ideas, and how difficult was it to remain authentic?

Anika: My record company were amazing. Not only did they want to nurture my needs, but they waited for me to grow a bit musically. I toured my first album all over America and it was so full on, I got homesick and had to come home… That is where I discovered that I had to do it in my own country before I went anywhere else.

You’re now mother to twin boys. How has it been, juggling family life with your music career?

Anika: Having twins is soooo hard but sooo amazing. My sons have inspired me to work harder and my heart is full of love for them. I write less but when I do, I really make the most of it!! I’ve released a baby album called Songs for Bubbas that I released last December and it’s been a huge hit – even more so than my actual adult albums. LOL.

You’ve been recording your fifth studio album. What can you tell us about it?

Anika: It’s simple, elegant and heartbreaking. The usual, but with strong beats and my producer Jol Mulholland makes it. We wrote the songs together and it was a slow, easy process. I will release it and then tour it everywhere I can! I hope you love it.

You’re playing Bush Hall in London on October 30th.  How do you find the vibe here in London?

Anika: I’ve lived in London so I’m happy to be going back to see all the old haunts. I love the live music scene and catching up with old friends. It’s super exciting being there – I also see my family in Gloucestershire, which will be fun, fun, fun!

What are you most looking forward to with the London show, and what can the crowd expect?

Anika: I can’t wait for people to hear my new stuff. I want them to swim in it and my voice, and to have a drink and listen to my intensely strange but awfully good stories – and to be taken back to life in New Zealand.

Will you have any “down time” in London – and how do you plan to spend it?

Anika: Downtime with friends and family and beer. LOL.

After London – what next?

Anika: Spain! Part holiday part music conference, then back home to nearly summer in New Zealand. Yay!

Interview by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission