Alison Parr has documented key moments in New Zealand’s cultural and social history during an award-winning career as a journalist, oral historian and broadcaster. Her credits include iconic programmes of the 1980s and 90s like Close Up and Kaleidoscope. In 2003 she joined the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, where she has spent more than a decade as an Oral Historian, recording the memories of war veterans.
I was extremely fortunate to have worked in the golden years of long form current affairs and arts programmes, because we gave real value to our viewers. Alison Parr
Presented by Alison Parr, this 1997 TVNZ arts series focused on New Zealand literature and writers; it featured studio interviews with authors. The Write Stuff was made by Pinnacle Productions — Amanda Evans, Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Di Oliver-Zahl — who were also behind contemporary arts series For Arts Sake. There were 26 30-minute episodes. Those interviewed included Emily Perkins, Bill Manhire, Sonja Davies, Barbara Else, Kate de Goldi, and Marilyn Duckworth. The Write Stuff screened on TV One.
This excerpt from the 22nd episode of Kiwi literature series The Write Stuff features unionist and peace campaigner Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005). Davies had just released Marching On, the follow-up to her acclaimed 1984 autobiography Bread & Roses. Presenter Alison Parr asks Davies about her experience in Parliament, as well as personal tragedy and gardening. Davies reflects on achieving change, her dislike for the aggression of the debating chamber, and the values her grandparents taught her: "compassion and responsibility, caring for others more than you care for yourself …"
In 1983, after riots in Sri Lanka ushered in an extended civil war, the number of arrivals from Sri Lanka to New Zealand rose dramatically. This episode, one of the most moving in the Immigrant Nation series, profiles two Sri Lankan families down under - one from the island's Sinhalese majority, one from the minority Tamils. Both families left home out of fear for their children's future. Amidst the challenge of a new culture, there is celebration too: including double marriage ceremonies which require multiple outfits, when a Tamal Christian marries a Hindu.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment features the acclaimed Hone Kouka play Waiora - The Homeland, about a Māori family struggling to deal with their move from traditional rural ways to city life in 1960s New Zealand. The item includes excerpts from the play, and interviews with playwright Kouka, director Murray Lynch, and cast members Rawiri Paratene, Nancy Brunning and Mick Rose. The play and this story feature both English and Te Reo Māori.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer/choreographer Mary Jane O'Reilly marks the launch of her new company Auckland Ballet. The founder of the celebrated Limbs Dance Company talks about still being involved in dance in her mid-40s, the formation of her new company, the similarities and differences between ballet and contemporary dance, and her move into making dance films. The item also features excerpts from some of O'Reilly's dance works.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter features an in-depth interview with Parmenter (by series presenter Alison Parr) and excerpts from his dance works. Parmenter talks about his creative influences, his tough upbringing in conservative Invercargill, the tensions caused by being gay and in the Brethren Church when he was younger, and the impact of his illnesses (HIV and cancer) on his life and dance career.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. The show featured a range of artists including dancer/choreographers Michael Parmenter and Mary Jane O'Reilly, playwright Hone Kouka, sculptor Michael Parekowhai, painter Graham Sydney, photographer Ans Westra, and animator and sculptor Len Lye. Former TV current affairs journalist Alison Parr was the show's presenter and interviewer. Each week's programme had a theme represented by local stories and interviews, as well as international items.
TVNZ’s flagship 80s arts show looks at Sir Toss Woollaston — a pioneer of modern art in New Zealand. Topics include his development as an artist and the “struggle of painting” (contra convention), difficult years trying to support a family, the influence of his wife, and the liberation he felt in his mid-50s when he could finally earn a living from painting. Woollaston is blunt but generous with his time and opinions. There are precious riffs off his famous description of wanting to paint the sunlight in a landscape, “after it had been absorbed by the earth”.
This report for TVNZ’s flagship 1980s arts show was made to tie in with Nicholas Reid’s book about the renaissance in NZ cinema that began with Sleeping Dogs in 1977. Reid and a who’s who of filmmakers discuss many of more than 50 films made in the previous decade (with Bruno Lawrence ever present) — and ponder the uniqueness (or otherwise) of NZ film. The industry’s fondness for rural and small town settings, and forceful (often conflicted) male leads is explored; and more neglected areas — Māori film making and more of a voice for women — are traversed.
TVNZ’s arts programme visits the 6th annual Young Composers Workshop held at the Nelson School of Music (May, 1987). It allows 20 promising young composers to hear their music performed and to compare notes with their peers — an opportunity that wasn’t available two decades earlier for budding composers like workshop organiser Ross Harris. Solo instrumental works, ensemble pieces and electronic music are featured — with inspiration found in everything from poems by James K Baxter and Sylvia Plath to slipping and falling while walking down a hill.
This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at pioneering Māori feature film Ngāti. There are interviews with director Barry Barclay, screenwriter Tama Poata, producer John O’Shea and actor Wi Kuki Kaa – who discuss the film’s kaupapa – and a visit to its premiere at Waipiro Bay Marae on the East Coast (where the film was shot). Barclay’s first dramatic feature, Ngāti also marked the first feature film to be written and directed by Māori. Many of the crew were enlisted via a scheme aimed at redressing the lack of young Māori working in the screen industry.
The award-winning Pioneer Women series was producer Pamela Meekings-Stewart’s response to her perception that histories on NZ television, like The Governor, hadn’t adequately recognised the role played by women in shaping the nation. The initial series of six episodes focussed on the lives of Nurse Maude, Ettie Rout, Hera Ngoungou, Princess Te Puea, Elizabeth Colsenso and Ellen Hewett; it celebrated women who not only had to face hardship and deprivation but were charged with raising the next generation. A second series of three episodes screened in 1990.
80s show Close Up had a similar brief to earlier current affairs show Compass: to present mini-documentaries on topical local issues. Stories in the primetime hour-long slot were wide-ranging, from hard news to human interest pieces, including a profile of 25-year-old foreign exchange dealer, future-Prime Minister, John Key. The show won Feltex Awards for most of the years that it was on air. Close Up is not related to the post-nightly news show of the same name, which was hosted by Mark Sainsbury until 2012.
In this Good Day interview, Alison Parr talks to Sir Edmund Hillary as he discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up India's holy river, The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and Parr probes him on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions. On a more outspoken note, he expresses his dismay at a lack of "positive, inspirational leadership" in contemporary NZ in what is arguably a barely disguised attack on the style of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.
Good Day was launched in March 1978 to succeed Today at One with producer Tony Hiles promising "an entertaining magazine programme with the magazine aspect spread over the whole week". The Avalon based show, which ran for two years, aired at 1pm on weekdays and featured regular reports and human interest stories from around the regions, studio interviews, book and film reviews, and consumer, arts and gardening segments. Political journalist Simon Walker was an early staffer while Dylan Taite contributed reports from Auckland.
Popular consumer affairs show Fair Go is one of New Zealand TV's longest-running series. It began in 1977, devised by Brian Edwards and producer Peter Morritt. The TVNZ programme mixes investigative reporting (daring to "name names" and expose rip-off merchants everywhere) with light-hearted segments. Its roster of presenters has included Edwards, Judith Fyfe, Hugo Manson, Philip Alpers, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), Carol Hirschfeld, Gordon Harcourt, and longest serving host, Kevin Milne. A perennial favourite segment is the round-up of the year's ad campaigns.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.