Creative mistake for a creative writer

BY JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2009

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Children's author Margaret Mahy wondered whether a moustache would be added to the bronze bust unveiled in her honour.

But she did not pick she would be transformed into a man.

At the unveiling of 12 "Christchurch heroes" yesterday, Mahy's award-winning international pedigree was celebrated before the curtain was pulled back. Unfortunately, it was the the masculine features of building supremo Charles Luney that were revealed.

"It's, um, nerves," master of ceremony Murray Shaw said.

Mahy was unfazed: "It makes it more interesting; it's a creative mistake."

"If I had to get mixed up with anyone, I suppose somebody with a name like Luney would be the one."

The sculptures, unveiled outside Christchurch's Arts Centre on Worcester Blvd, were created by Mark Whyte.

"We rejoice that we in Christchurch have in our midst an artist of such astonishing, disturbing, seductive and convincing power," Twelve Local Heroes charitable trust chairwoman Susan Wakefield said of Whyte.

She said the bronze busts were the culmination of four years of effort. Of the 12 subjects, journalist and activist Elsie Locke and artist Bill Sutton had died before the start of the project.

Building industry leader Luney, industrialist Sir Robertson Stewart and electronics pioneer Sir Angus Tait had all agreed to their involvement in the project but had since died.

The others honoured were diabetes treatment pioneer Dr Don Beaven, former Canterbury Savings Bank chief executive Frank Dickson, cricket great Sir Richard Hadlee, conservation, arts and architecture benefactor Diana, Lady Isaac, Maori leader Sir Tipene O'Regan, architect Sir Miles Warren and Mahy.

"We have chosen 12 people, from the latter half of the 20th century; there are many other people and many other ways of celebrating them," Wakefield said.

"No-one need or should feel that we have pre-empted other choices."

Mahy said she was flattered by the honour.

"It's something that you never really aimed at or considered possible and suddenly there it is. It moves you in to an area of public recognition that you never really calculated," Mahy said.

"Of course, I'm as susceptible to flattery as a lot of people are and I feel flattered and quite excited."

Mahy was at the unveiling with her daughter and friends from the writing community.

She said there was a risk the busts would become the target of vandals.

"I was looking at that [the bust] and thinking, what would I look like with a moustache? I might look good," Mahy said.

The 12 "heroes" were chosen by a steering group of former Christchurch Art Gallery Trust chairman Chris Brocket, Arts Foundation of New Zealand trustee Ros Burdon and Susan and Jim Wakefield. Warren joined the steering group after he had been chosen as a "hero".

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- The Press

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