We’re super proud to be hosting the encore public screening of K Rd Stories, a series of ten short films set on our iconic Karangahape Road (tonight from 6.30!). Originally debuting at First Thursdays in December of last year, the project culminated on what could be considered the tipping point of noticeable change and ‘investment’ in the street. It’s no small feat that the films, then, arguably documented the final chapter of the ‘old’ K’Rd, the idea of which is likely to haunt hearts and minds and conversations throughout non-suburban Auckland so long as the memory burns.
We caught up with K Rd Stories’ Creative Director, James Solomon, and one of its two producers, Morgan Leigh Stewart, to talk the changin’ times.
Could you begin to explain the significance of Karangahape Road to the wider Auckland context?
James: K Road is a special place in Auckland, and New Zealand. It's kind of the Bohemian Centre. A rundown shopping street full of mixed cultures and businesses, strip clubs, homeless people, and a collection of artists and creatives. It is one of the few places in Auckland that truly isn’t suburban.
What relationships do you have with the street, and what prompted your taking on this project?
James: Speaking for myself - I'm English, and when I first came to Auckland it was the only place that really felt like home. The only place to have a bit of grime, and a bit of street life. I've lived here for a while and love a lot of New Zealand, but K Road is always had a special place in my heart. I think every city has its own K Road.
How did you come to select then ten stories you would tell?
James: We spent quite an extensive time talking and sharing stories. Everyone has a story about K Road. But then when writers and filmmakers came forward - they work with their own stories and we didn't try to control their artistic vision.
How long did it take to produce the project from start to finish, and how many people were involved?
Morgan: The project took around 18 months, from throwing around ideas, through formation, funding, production, and culminating in the release screenings up and down K Rd with First Thursdays in December. Our core team is James Solomon, Hazel Gibson, and myself Morgan Leigh Stewart - but the films were made by a group of 9 incredible directors, and their casts and crews - so really there have been hundreds involved in this incredible project.
Over the past few years, and particularly in the past few months, there’s been an increasing amount of purportedly ubiquitous ‘investment’ in K Rd. How do you feel about that?
James: When we started the project there was a conscious feeling that places like K Road are normally celebrated retrospectively and nostalgically. We wanted to celebrate it while it was still cool, kind of before that retrospective nostalgia.
However, by the time we had completed the project, K Road had started to change very rapidly. I think we have really recorded a special place and time just before significant change.
Personally the project has changed my opinion to some degree about gentrification. From the outset I always considered it objectively bad putting a price on things - pushing out creative people and other communities and replacing them with yuppies. Now I feel it's a more complex question, and that change is inevitable. Also, that there is a kind of irony of celebrating quite dysfunctional spaces.
For example, when Las Vegas Strip Club changed hands, it initially seemed a bad thing but it's now a burlesque club with a similar vibe but less cheap prostitution in dirty cubicles (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Similarly, St Kevins Arcade is objectively quite a dysfunctional space and it needs improvement.
K Road was a thriving shopping street before it was bisected by massive motorway. So, look, obviously gentrification is a big worry, but if the businesses that develop fit into the spirit of K Road, then it's not necessarily a bad thing.