Ingrid Tiriana: Dance like a city depends on it

By Ingrid Tiriana

Have you ever danced in the street in the middle of the day for no particular reason? I've discovered it can be rather liberating.

During a quick trip to Christchurch last week I found myself among an initially reticent group of colleagues whose enjoyment grew as the song continued. We smiled as we danced, the sun shining and passersby looking curiously on. They didn't laugh at us, they smiled with us.

A woman and young child joined in, people stopped to take photos or just watch for a moment or two and when we'd cleared the dance floor, people wandered over to the "music machine" to see how it worked, perhaps keen to plug in their own tune and prance around during their lunch hour.

We were on a tour of Gap Filler projects in the Christchurch central city. The Dance-o-Mat is in a corner of what is now, like so many sites on which buildings once stood, a carpark. Anyone can come along, pop a $2 coin and plug their music into the converted washing machine and dance away to their heart's content. Dance classes are often held there or groups like ours come along and fool around for a bit. It was like being in a flash mob.

Gap Filler co-founder Coralie Winn took us on a tour of some of the temporary projects helping to bring life back into areas devastated by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Coralie was made redundant after the first quake and joined others to create a truly inspirational project.

Murals brighten walls from which other buildings have been torn; a cottage garden and make-shift coffee hut have sprung up on one street corner; a giant chess board has brought people to another corner which is now also occupied by a cafe and new tenants in buildings still standing; temporary art projects are springing up; a golf course with holes on various vacant lots takes people on a tour of the central city; and the Pallet Pavilion, constructed from hundreds of pallets and acting as open air stage and public gathering place, is home to food stalls and Gap Filler's office.

The project sees new temporary art, activities and projects springing up as sites become available, engaging the community and providing a way for people to contribute as the city moves from quake to regeneration mode.

The devastation in Christchurch is upsetting even for an outsider but this creative urban regeneration is helping to bring joy and vibrancy as well as allowing people to take up opportunities and try new ventures.

Gap Filler faces having to dismantle Pallet Pavilion as money to operate it is running out but fundraising efforts will hopefully ensure that doesn't happen. This fantastic creative space has become a hub for community activity, a symbol of the community's heart and determination. For a pledge of just $30 (or more if you like) you can help ensure this community venue survives another year.

The harsh reality of any community project is that it doesn't happen without funding and the Pallet Pavilion required building consent, toilets, electricity and someone on site at all times. It would be a huge shame to see it dismantled before its time. The community needs it.

And that's what is at the heart of Gap Filler - community need. Someone saw a need and took action and that action has led to others also taking action and taking ownership. It's all about engagement, collaboration, leadership, creativity and resourcefulness.

These are things every community needs to survive - and a Coralie Winn.

Ingrid Tiriana is a freelance writer based in Rotorua

- Rotorua Daily Post

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