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Springbok tour supporters and protesters sought for project

14 March 2022
Police armed with batons confront anti-apartheid protesters who made it on the ground at Lancaster Park, delaying the start of the first test between New Zealand and South Africa in 1981 Photo: Christchurch Star
Police armed with batons confront anti-apartheid protesters who made it on the ground at Lancaster Park, delaying the start of the first test between New Zealand and South Africa in 1981 Photo: Christchurch Star

By Chris Barclay.

Anti-apartheid protesters and rugby fans who supported the Springboks tour in 1981 are being sought to recount memories of that divisive winter for Christchurch school children through an oral history initiative.

And once the audio interviews are catalogued, ideally they will be advertised and accessed at sites such as Lancaster Park, an epicentre of protest action as the venue of the series-opening All Blacks test against South Africa – almost 41 years ago.

“What we hope we’ll be able to do is have a mini audio documentary so you’ll be able to walk around the park and hear the story from a viewpoint of being in the stands, a protester and a police officer so we can paint a rich picture of this event,” Our Stories Project director Kris Herbert said.

The not-for-profit project is seeking interviewees from across the divide to be quizzed by year 7 and 8 students at Unlimited Discovery (Ao Tawhiti).

Already police officers who were on test duty that Saturday, August 15, have agreed to go down memory lane to Wilsons Rd and Lismore St, where they faced off with protesters pre and post-match.

News media who covered the protests – and the game (won by the All Blacks 14-9) – are also sought for their views, likewise ‘neutral’ Cantabrians who watched the drama unfold while sitting on the fence.

Christchurch-based former national organiser of Halt all Racist Tours John Minto provided ample local contacts for the protest movement, but pro-tour supporters have been harder to locate, prompting a request by Herbert to make contact.

“We’d love to hear from people who were rugby supporters, that was another viewpoint on it, that sport and politics shouldn’t mix. They’re proving a wee bit trickier to find.”

Students aged 11 and 12-years-old have been schooled up on interview techniques, and should put those skills to the test intermittently over the coming months when their schedule allows.

Herbert, who secured $25,000 of funding through the city council’s Intangible Heritage Grant Fund, envisaged the collection comprising about 15 interviews.

Our Stories Project started in 2016 and focused on Lyttelton, where schoolchildren interviewed long-standing residents about growing up in the port.   

Herbert said the project was headed in a new direction, by focusing on one of the most contentious issues to split the city.

“Although there were some heartfelt moments with the Lyttelton stuff, a lot of it was quite light like: ‘My favourite fish and shop was …’”

Now the project could potentially go from the frying pan into the fire.

“We wanted to collect stories from the central city and we thought we’d attach it to the 40th-anniversary of the Springbok tour,” Herbert said.

“We thought it had multiple aspects to understand, it’s not just black and white, there’s a lot of grey, and it’s connected to physical places around the city.”

Republished courtesy of Star News.

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