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    Featherston Camp Sculpture

    Concepts, themes & thoughts behind the vision & design


    Although the concept design has strong design and emotional links to  “Southern Stand”, Paul’s iconic NZ memorial in London’s Hyde Park,  it progresses that theme (where the soldiers went) to capture many of the themes that are incorporated, in particular aspects of the town’s relationship with the camp during that Great War period (where the soldiers came from).

    Featherston at the time was a small provincial town with a population of 700, but well able and willing to meet the needs of the new camp and its permanent and transitory residents. The town was a social focus for the trainees when they were allowed “off camp”. A number of buildings were constructed in the town to accommodate and cater for visiting family members and friends. Most notable of these were the ANZAC Hall and the Salvation Army Hostel and Institute. Waite Street in town was (we have been told) nicknamed “Soapsud Alley” because of the number of households that offered private laundry services to Camp occupants.

    This community involvement is a central theme of the Camp Sculpture. It was the willing cooperation and hospitality of the people of Featherston and surrounding areas, and the close association between the Camp and the Town that defined the region at the time.

    The townspeople of Featherston, local landowners and the wider Wairarapa community did their part for the war effort and for the Camp in particular. As we have already noted, these people and associations raised money for and constructed the ANZAC Club in Town (still in use today) and the YMCA-run Soldiers’ Club on the Camp. The women of these Associations also supported each “March-out” with refreshments at the Rimutaka Summit.

    Features and Key Elements

    (Tryptich below) Relief detail in bronze on the Dibble’s major work ‘Southern Stand’

    The pillars show soldiers and their horses in bas-relief  marching towards the hills against a background of the Army Camp buildings.

    The sculpture consists of 9 metal columns heading west as if going towards the Rimutaka Hill. They are 3.5 metres high, and 1.5 to 2 metres wide along a 4 to 5 metres wide grass strip along the footpath on  Fitzherbert Street in one straight line.

    They are floodlit at the base of each column with a soft light symbolising peace and life, with a thin strip of harsh LED up one side and across the top of each column, symbolising death and loss. The  reverse tells the story of the camp and its links with Featherston depicted using text and pictorial representations, and symbols such as fantails and poppies.

    The spaces between the pillars are powerful. They signify the interweaving of the Camp’s activities with the town, both then and now. The spaces allow viewers to interact with the sculpture and become part of what it signifies – as did the people of Featherston a century ago. This, to us, fulfills our concept of the Camp’s influence being as much part of the present township as it was back then.

    The sculpture is a world-class artwork and is a substantial enhancement to Featherston as well as a focal point for the town. It was incorporated into the Council’s  plans for the “town square” concept and is placed at the forefront, directly alongside the main street pavement.

    Scale model showing marchers with lighting down the spines of each column.

    Stories from the Community

    Do you have ancestors who lived and worked in Featherston at the time of the Military Camp? Did one of your relatives train at the Camp? 

    We’re looking for stories, tales, old journals, diaries, clothing, memorabilia, and other artefacts that give insight into the Camp’s colourful history.

    Many of these we hope to incorporate into the rear panel detail of the artwork itself. If you have any items or have any information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

    Old postcard from recruit to home. Source: Unknown

    Why a Sculpture?

    Members of the Women’s Patriotic Association serving meals at the summit of the Rimutaka Ranges during the trainee’s march to Trentham . Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive

    We are not building a war memorial. Our vision is to revive the memory of the enterprise of the Camp’s architects and builders; the dedication and achievement of the trainees and staff; and the willing community support given freely by the people of Featherston at the time. We wish to re-acquaint the town of Featherston (and New Zealanders more broadly) with a part of its history that has largely been forgotten, and emphasise the national and international historical significance of the Camp.

    In general, we do not think that the design should present itself as a monument to the War at all, nor soldiering, nor the fallen. Other structures adequately perform those functions. Rather, we are looking for a concept to present a positive image of a small town “doing its bit” in a time of global crisis.

    Canteen staff at the Camp. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive

    The Camp brought out the best in most of those who passed through it and involved a provincial town in the national contribution. Much of this has been forgotten and, valuable archives aside, little remains to remind the people of Featherston and New Zealand how their family members and previous townsfolk took centre stage a century ago.

    Certainly, let us look back and remember. But let us also remember that, even back then, the war was controversial and not universally supported. The design we have in mind is not about WW1, it is about the Camp and the people of New Zealand: past, present and future.

    Southern Stand

    Concept image of ‘Southern Stand’. Source: ‘Paul Dibble: The Large Works’

    The Southern Stand memorial in London “marks a field for the commemoration and celebration of New Zealand and Britain’s war-time and peace-time relationship”. The Featherston sculpture links to this by providing a representation of where the NZ soldiers came from and their march over the hill to embark for the Western Front and Palestine.

    Working in conjunction with Athfield Architects in Wellington, in particular John Hardwick-Smith, an innovative design was produced with a series of leaning cross-stakes cut at an angle and lined up in the same trajectory plane. From afar the cross cuts, which are either lit with lights or have applied enamel surfaces, appear as if a cross in the sky. These stakes, or standards as they have become known, are adorned with various patterns and icons that relate to the contributions made by New Zealand in the wars and to the cultural exchange with Britain.

    The work was opened on Armistice Day 2006, with a dedication attended by the Prime Minister Helen Clark, Tony Blair the Prime Minister of the UK and the Queen and many members of the royal family.

    ‘Southern Stand’. Source: ‘Paul Dibble: The Large Works’

    Opening ceremony. Source: ‘Paul Dibble: The Large Works’

    Queen Elizabeth II, NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark. Source: ‘Paul Dibble: The Large Works’

    Warrior at ‘Southern Stand’ at opening. Source: ‘Paul Dibble: The Large Works’