A visit to Founders Park

I visited Founders Park as part of my course work for the Diploma in Writing for the Creative Industries at NMIT last week. Our tutor, Kerry Sunderland, took us to see The Armarie Room and Fresh FM radio station, both of which have special interest for this class of writers.

The Armarie Room is a letter press and art print business. They use old-fashioned machinery to produce custom prints and speciality stationery. There is also a museum section on the premises with displays and photographs showing printing rooms of days gone by.

The old Evening Mail Office is now home to The Armarie Room printing press. Image: Jenni Komarovsky

Renee took us into the studio and gave us a brief history of the printing press and moveable type, from the ancient Chinese and Egyptians to Gutenberg and beyond. I was interested to learn that the words ‘upper case’ and ‘lower case’ refer to the position of the case where the actual moveable letters were stored. Typesetters became very fast at their job, and to do that, each letter had a specific place in the printers’ tray. J and V are in the bottom row because they were added to the English language later than other letters in the 1600s.

Renee, surrounded by the tools of her trade, demonstrates a chat book technique. Image: Jenni Komarovsky

As well as producing prints, stationery, wedding invitations and custom branding material, they run small courses where students can learn the art of printing. One of the things that students produce is a chat book. This is a small book printed on a full sheet of paper folded and cut to make an 8 page booklet. It’s good for short-run, personalised projects where you want a hand-made feel. This may be a way for budding poets to print their poetry for friends and family in an artistic and inexpensive format.

Fresh FM is Nelson’s community access radio station. It was formed in the 1990s by the amalgamation of Boulder Radio in Nelson and Harvest Radio in Motueka. It now broadcasts across the Top of the South, from Golden Bay to Blenheim, with studios in Nelson, Motueka and Takaka.

Matt explains the layout of the Fresh FM recording studio. Image: Jenni Komarovsky

Content is for locals and provided by locals. Anyone can make a radio programme if they feel that they have an idea, an audience and can provide sponsorship. New Zealand on Air provides only partial funding for the station, so sponsorship, donations and grants are needed to make up the shortfall.

It’s a great place for minority groups to have their voices heard. The current schedule features regular programmes in Samoan, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Cook Islands Māori. Other programmes showcase a mix of music, gardening, social commentary, reports from other countries, and health and gender issues.

The Diploma in Writing class will be making 3 radio programmes there, so Matt, the station’s Programme Manager, showed us around the studio. Kerry will be driving the sound desk, with all research and presentation of items will be done by the students. We’ll get a taste for the power of our words reaching a listening audience. The name of the programme is ‘Kiss me Hardy.’

Reminders of notices to include on radio programmes. Image: Jenni Komarovsky

After these two visits, we had to inspect the local café, and can pronounce their coffee excellent! This was a fun day out, and a good change from being cooped up in the classroom behind a desk.

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