West Aucklander wins Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant

Glen Eden resident Dr Scott Hamilton is the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant.
Rose Rees-Owen

Glen Eden resident Dr Scott Hamilton is the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant.

Understanding the history of Great South Rd is to understand New Zealand, writer Dr Scott Hamilton says.

The Glen Eden resident is the inaugural winner of the Auckland Mayoral Writers Grant which aims to capture Auckland life in the written word.

The award was announced at the Auckland Writers Festival on May 14.

Hamilton will receive $12,000 when he completes his non-fiction work Fragments of the Great South Road.

It is a multi-media project which will consist of a book with a mixture of images and prose and an interactive map so readers can visit the sights for themselves. A documentary is also in the pipeline.

The academic, who has a doctorate in sociology and a masters in art history, has a personal connection to the project.

"I grew up beside the Great South Road and have spent hundreds of hours exploring the forts and pa and bullet-holed churches that still cling to its edges, alongside burger bars and pawn shops and auto yards."

The project is due to be completed within a year with the help of director Paul Janman and cinematographer Ian Powell.  

The road was built in the 1860s to transport Pakeha soldiers from Auckland to Waikato to defeat Maori king Tawhiao and his army.

It then went on to show microcosms of New Zealand's history including becoming the hub of exotic imported goods from Britain. It was industrialised in the twentieth century.

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The road also played host to protesters demanding that stolen land from king Tawhiao be returned, and has provided a place for immigrant communities that have settled in suburbs nearby.

Hamilton says the Great South Rd has connections to West Auckland.

"I'm very interested, for example, in the way that British and colonial soldiers who got sick of building and guarding the road during the early 1860s sometimes escaped form their duties and hid out in the Waitakere Ranges," he says.

"The Great South Road is a route through time as well as space. When we drive down it we drive into history . . . almost every important development and conflict in our history has involved or affected the road."

As well as displaying the road's history the project will celebrate the writers and artists who have documented the road and it's people. 

This will include Papakura sculptor Brett Graham who has made the military history of the road into art.

The work was chosen out of 52 entries. Writers Renee Liang and Courtney Meredith were shortlisted for the award.

Hamilton says receiving the grant was bittersweet.

"Naturally I was pleased but I also felt sorry for the other two finalists. Literature is not an Olympic sport where competitors can be given gold, silver and bronze medals because the performances of writers can't be ranked precisely and definitively."

 - Stuff

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