OPINION: A piece of history was unveiled in New Plymouth on Thursday night with the launch of the Bowl of Brooklands book.
The venue was an appropriate one. Puke Ariki, like the Bowl and Pukekura Park, is a Taranaki treasure and it sits on land not always accorded the respect it deserves.
When the land on which the Bowl of Brooklands sits was bequeathed to the New Plymouth community following the death in 1927 of Newton King, the local authority of the time didn't have the vision which influenced later generations, and the grand homestead which overlooked the bowl was demolished.
So when the potential for the park and Bowl was recognised almost 30 years on, it was a major step forward for the city. From small beginnings in 1957, the Bowl and its lake were dressed up to become the forerunner of what is today the jewel in the crown that is Pukekura Park.
Today the park is a free attraction which provides a wide range of activities for the city. Because of it New Plymouth is the smallest Womad home in the world - and widely regarded as one which is unsurpassed. Those with the vision for the Bowl can be thanked for the fact that a generation of superstars came to Taranaki to perform.
The Bowl of Brooklands book is a celebration of what has been achieved as much as it is a testimony, albeit a belated one, to the army of volunteers, pushed on by Eric Handbury, who established the Bowl.
Thursday's launch was attended by many people who have played key roles in its life and also provided an opportunity for a direct descendant of Newton King, Roger King, to reflect in depth on the history of the park.
Like the park, the book is a treasure too - and like the park, it is also the result of countless hours of donated work. In his notes in the book, co-editor Lance Girling- Butcher, a former Taranaki Daily News editor, current New Plymouth district councillor and chairman of the Friends of the Bowl of Brooklands Trust, notes: "No- one has worked for profit and many have donated materials and time because of their passionate respect for what has been achieved".
For him, the book is also a personal triumph. The irony that because of his failed eyesight he would not be able to see it was not lost on Thursday's audience - or for that matter, himself. He spoke glowingly of the wonderful art and pictures in the book, but noted that he was only going on what he had been told . He did hear, though, many say on Thursday that the Bowl of Brooklands book was a magnificent account of the life of New Plymouth's greatest treasure.
Those people were right. All those involved with the project - profits from which will go to the Taranaki Hospice - deserve credit.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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