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Author: Celine Gibson

Born to Perform: Q&A with Ali Harper

Local award-winning talent Ali Harper has been wowing the crowds for years. We caught up with the lovely lady behind the microphone about being born to perform.



When did a life of performance first beckon, Ali?
Like many children, I was constantly role playing, always singing. I set up the ‘Fitzgerald Stationery Shop’ in my wardrobe, and the ‘Harper’s Bizarre Fabric Store’ which sold my mother’s leftover sewing remnants. All sorts of imaginary characters visited those shops! Then I found out I could take those characters, continue ‘playing’ and make it my full-time job.

In 2014 you were artist-in-residence at your former school Rangi Ruru. Teaching young women to grow their performance confidence must have been a wonderful experience?
I really enjoy working with young people – encouraging them to explore and delight in the total abandonment that comes through singing, movement and storytelling. We live in a society so caught up in what we do, what we look like, and worrying what others think. I want to impart that we’re all unique; there’s no-one else like us. I want our young people to embrace and celebrate that.

You won the Actress of the Year Award at the United Solo Festival 2014 in New York, and at the same festival, in 2019, won the Best One Woman Show Award for your Songs for Nobodies – how did that feel?
The Arts is not the easiest of career paths, so it’s wonderful to be recognised for the risks you take, on and off the stage.

Any favourite roles?
I’ve loved so many. Eliza Doolittle and Maria Von Trapp were a delight, while Mrs Johnston in Blood Brothers was a dream role. Songs for Nobodies was like a personal coming of age…celebrating being old enough to draw from a wealth of life’s highs and lows to play the often tortured ‘nobodies’ and ‘somebodies.’

Is there a “baddie” woman you’d relish bringing to life on stage or screen?
I’ve been watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. The lead baddie is Count Olaf, but I’d love to play that role as a woman, taking on the many disguises and accents. Mean, convincing, greedy… my boys would be so impressed!

You’re currently touring your solo show, A Doris Day Special, around New Zealand. What do you love about Doris Day?
Doris sang and danced with total joy and abandonment. Her life was often difficult, but it never defined her as a person. She retired early to commit her life to saving neglected animals. She was optimistic, kind and genuine – all qualities I greatly admire.

Which world-renowned venue would you love to perform in, if you could?
I saw Audra Macdonald singing with the San Francisco Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall last year. Fabulous! I kept looking at the elite New Yorkers’ in their box seats and imagined walking out onto that stage to take my place in front of that orchestra… pure joy!

Tell us about the importance of yoga in your life?
I realise more and more the importance of yoga not only in my life but for those around me. To take time out for yourself, to connect deep within, to listen and trust your intuition, cultivate self-love and, most importantly, breathe fully and deeply. When we align these things, it’s amazing how they impact so positively on so many other areas in our lives.

Recently I did my yoga teacher training in Thailand. It was a life-changing experience, and now I’m so fortunate to be balancing my life, teaching and sharing my passion for yoga, meditation and singing, as well as at home with my singing and acting students.

When not performing, MCing, producing, writing, teaching or doing yoga, what do you do for time out?
I have busy young boys and a daughter at uni, so time out is rather scarce, yet when I really think on it, the things I choose to do in my life are time out, because they’re what I’m passionate about.



Photography by Simon Greenwood from Canterbury Tales. Hair and makeup by Sarah Greenwood Buchanan at TheatricalStylistNZ.


A furry fun run

Calling all dog lovers, Sunday 22 September launches the inaugural off-road walking/running event ‘The 4 Paws Marathon’, a first for New Zealand and, according to event organiser and Sport and Exercise Medicine Specialist, Dr John Molloy, a first for the world.



John, who has run more than 80 marathons, loves running with his dogs. He describes the event as a celebration of ‘exercise is medicine’, as well as being a salute to our best friend and loyal exercise ally. “People with dogs get more exercise; they keep us more active. A dog is a portrait of our own fitness levels,” John says.

Designed for all fitness levels, the soft-under-foot marathon starts and finishes at Bottle Lake Forest, and comprises four popular distances – the Full Marathon (42.2km); the Half Marathon (21.1km); the 10km run; and the “fun for everyone” 5km run.

John encourages people to give it a go. “We’re becoming too sedentary, so we need to find ways to keep more active but enjoy it at the same time.”

The 4 Paws Marathon has garnered much attention, with more than 145 entrants already registered from here and overseas, to date. With St Johns Ambulance, Animal Management and Ourvets to be there on the day, the marathon is a well-supported event. “The key message is that this is a fun, enjoyable event in a safe atmosphere,” John says.

And yes, he does expect his dogs, Walter and Summer, to be running with him. Just try and stop them!

For more information, email or visit



Retirement Ready

If you ask a retired person for advice on how to have a good retirement, more often than not they’ll recommend you start planning well ahead to ensure a happy and stress-free retirement.



So, keeping that word ‘plan’ in mind, the simplest place to start your research on retirement is online.

Punch ‘planning for retirement’ into your search engine and reach for your reading specs, because there are a number of extremely helpful sites dedicated to guiding you through the process.

Early midlife (35 to 50) brings many financial strains, but it’s crucial to continue saving as much as possible. The combination of earning more plus utilising this time to invest and earn interest makes these years the best for saving.

Later midlife (50 to 65) generally sees financial constraints, such as mortgages, student loans, credit-card debts etc., being paid off, leaving people with more disposable income for investment.

While there is no official retirement age in New Zealand, many people aim to retire when they are 65 years old, which is when the New Zealand Superannuation starts to pay out and, with people now living longer – on average 80 percent of 65-year-old men can expect to live to 90, and 65-year-old women to 94 – there’s every reason to look ahead early and make sure you are retirement ready so you can live comfortably for longer.


Below is a summary to help you start your plan.
• Estimate how many years you’ll be in retirement and think about the lifestyle you want.
• Your budget – one of the best tools for managing money, whatever your age. There are free budgeting booklets available online.
• Where to live:

  1. Opting to stay in your own home:
    – Modify your house with ramps and rails and get home-help – but take into consideration the costs involved.
    – Take on a boarder – gives added financial security, as well as companionship.
    – Downsize to a smaller home – preferably close to shopping precinct and medical facilities, but remember that should you opt to move house, take into account the costs of moving – legal and real estate fees, plus the move itself.
  2. Opting to live in a retirement village:
    – Differs from buying a house in that the financial arrangements are more complex and villages vary in their accommodation and facilities, services, support and care, legal and financial structures, philosophy and management.
    – Retirement village living offers security and provides social interaction on a daily basis; they’re maintained by the village operator and should any problem arise, there is someone to call for assistance; many villages have in-house care facilities, assuring peace of mind and an easy move, should that day come.
  3. Life insurance and disability insurance:
    – Don’t neglect these because you want to know that family can survive financially without pulling from retirement savings should something happen to you.
    – Make an appointment with your lawyer to draw up your will.




Kia Kaha Returns

It was to a warmly receptive audience at the Medbury Centre Auditorium that Clare Erasmus recently launched her fourth book in the Kia Kaha series, Kia Kaha Celebrates Chinese New Year.



Kia Kaha is an endearing mouse who originally resided in the old Christchurch Cathedral. He becomes very traumatised by the earthquakes and resulting upheaval to his life caused by the destruction of his home. Kia Kaha: the Cathedral Mouse is a story of courage through adversity, and much like the meaning of his name, Kia Kaha finds he can ‘stay strong’ to help those in need around him.

The second book, Kia Kaha’s Brand New House, tells of Kia Kaha’s move into the Transitional Cathedral, while the third book, Kia Kaha’s Christmas Cheer, shows Kia Kaha’s compassion and empathy for others.

In Kia Kaha Celebrates Chinese New Year, Kia Kaha finds himself heading off on a trip to China, accompanied by the Dean of the Cathedral. He gets to experience all the food, traditions and the vibrant culture of China.

“Kia Kaha becomes aware of the need for understanding and respect for others. This is a relationship book that explores diversity. It teaches children that we’re all different and that it’s good to be open to all cultures,” Clare says. “Kia Kaha returns home feeling happy because he’s formed relationships with people from all over the world.”

Kia Kaha Celebrates Chinese New Year can be purchased from the Transitional Cathedral, from bookstores, or ordered through


For more information, email



Divide and Conquer

While there’s much to be said for the uncluttered look of an open floor plan, equally there’s much to laud in the utilisation of permanent or semi-permanent partitions that create flexible, aesthetically pleasing new spaces while also adding light, privacy and noise alleviation.



Whether you desire the clean-cut sophistication of a glassed partition in translucent, opaque, coloured or digitally etched glass, or something more budget friendly, such as salvaged doors or casement windows refashioned and revamped, room dividers add oomph!

Consider an open bookcase boasting artworks that can be viewed from both sides, or a suspended louvre blind giving that perfect light and shade interplay. A funky screen of vinyl records, painted, covered in metallic or left in their original retro glory would be a great talking point, as would a vertical garden of lush greenery or potted plants.

When it comes to 21st century partitions, set your imagination free!



Honest Talk

New Zealand’s criminal justice system and art recently combined, with a goal of seeking transformative change.



A multi-media exhibition which has been touring the South Island, Kōrero Pono featured the true stories of 16 New Zealanders who have been through New Zealand’s criminal justice system; their statements appearing alongside their portraits and photographs from the 16 Kiwi artists who sought to capture their stories through art, including Marianne Muggeridge, Xoë Hall, John Crawford and Christchurch’s very own Fiona Temple.

The exhibition was created and curated by JustSpeak, a youth-led movement seeking transformative change in criminal justice that will bring about a fair, just and compassionate Aotearoa. JustSpeak Director Tania Sawicki Mead says the project shares the importance of investing in solutions that resolve harm, rather than believing that punishment will provide accountability. “Kōrero Pono simply translates to honest talk, which is what we need when it comes to incarceration in New Zealand,” she says.

“The stories and accompanied artworks come together as a powerful exhibition that speaks to the long-term consequences of prison on family members, on job prospects and our collective failure to address the complex drivers of harm such as family violence, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental distress.”


The goal of the exhibition was to create new narratives about criminal justice, highlight experiences from people who have suffered incarceration and their whānau, as well as to reduce stigma and challenge public perceptions. In hearing the stories of the 16 people affected by incarceration, visitors to the exhibition could not help but be moved by stories like Jess’s.

Jess has been drug-free for eight and a half years now, yet because her last sentence was for two years and nine months (of which she served a year), she is ineligible for the government’s Clean Slate scheme. “I’ve really changed as a person but my criminal convictions will always be there,” Jess says. “No matter how much I’ve changed or the work I’ve done or how many people I’m helping, my options are still very limited.”

Jess says The Clean Slate programme is a great idea, but only for those who qualify. “I think we need to make it easier for people coming out of prison to reintegrate into the community. The journey through the justice system… when people are younger, it can really, really change the course of your life, because if you’re constantly hitting blocked opportunities for jobs or houses, it’s very hard not to go into crime.”


Jess gained her degree in criminology and, upon her release from prison, she approached JustSpeak for a job. “I just really believe in their kaupapa of changing the justice system, making it fairer for people. We need to give more of a voice to Māori and people with lived experience because so often, people are making decisions based on research or books… they just haven’t been there.

“These stories are very moving,” Jess says of Kōrero Pono. “The people are from different walks of life, ages, identities, ethnicities, genders. I feel like it’s something everybody needs to see.”



Matte Black Rules

It’s pretty much a given that the top spot in the neutral colour system has always being held by black. Lily Langtry, Victorian actress and muse of Oscar Wilde, knew that. When her brother died, she donned black, as was customary, but realising it made her look even more beautiful, Lily refused to stop wearing it.



Black is king because alongside its compatibility with just about every shade on the colour spectrum, black is, and always will be, undeniably chic. That’s why we love it.

However, when it comes to home decoration and décor, we tend to shy away from black, worrying it might be a tad too gloomy and without warmth. But in reality, when it’s done right, black is stunning! How opportune, then, that for those with a desire to dabble with noir, your time is now; yes, the décor must-have colour this year is black – matte black.

For those hesitant to fully explore the darker side, try touches of it. For that upcoming dinner party, invest in a set of matte black cutlery, and place as your centrepiece a matte black candelabra with gold or red candles, then stand back and admire your work. Oh là là!

Now you’ve got your confidence, add in a cabinet, a coffee table or pair of feature chairs in matte black, then bring on your bold and brilliant splashes of colour. With dark matte paints now the rage, paint yourself a stunning feature wall then dress your backdrop as it deserves – an heirloom escritoire with an ormolu clock as the focal point, perhaps, or a sprawling rolled-arm sofa with a spectacular mirror above, and a statement standard lamp as your final touch of black magic.

For those yearning to venture deep into the matte blacks, here are a few helpful tips:

Mix it Up – no matter your black matte hue, it loves being paired with colour – think gem variations on ruby, sapphire, emerald, amethyst, amber, and definitely, a dash of diamond!

Work that Contrast Theme – repeat it on trimmings, photo and mirror frames, drapes and other soft furnishings.

Bring on the Texture – for ultimate sumptuousness, layer on the faux furs, fleeces, satins, silks, and plusher-than-plush velvets. Divine!

Mirror Magic – mirrors and matte are beautiful opposites – the larger and more ornate the better. This is the one time you certainly can, and should, gild the lily!

Don’t Forget the Greenery – a potted palm, a variety of ferns, an indoor hydrangea, or a few headily scented plants, such as gardenias, will make your matte haven heavenly.

There, haven’t you done well? Game, set and matte!



Lights Up!

Much like fashion, lighting trends often reflect on bygone eras. Here are some styles currently lighting up 2019.



Mid-century Modern reigned from the 1920s to 1970s. The atom-influenced Sputnik chandelier is a fine example of this style. Much in vogue from the 1950s onwards, it’s been updated through the decades, with finishes such as brushed nickel, brass and gold. It’s a perfect fit with contemporary and transitional décor.

Industrial and Retro are definitely here to stay, with traditional Industrial now sporting an alternative softer version, known as Modern Retro. Popular for kitchen work spaces, above dining areas or as wall lights, Modern Retro gives a unique twist and can even be considered as a statement art piece.

Vintage Victorian, as in Edison lightbulbs, just gets better and better! Available in both LED and incandescent form, this is soft retro at its best. An Edison chandelier, or row of Edison connected lights above your work space, will charm for years to come.

Rustic Modern is beautifully captured in the ED Ellen DeGeneres lighting collection. It is influenced by some of Ellen’s favourite, world-renowned artists and features signature details inspired by Ellen’s own treasured pieces throughout her homes.

For those not fussed on eras, but who love gentle illumination, Soft Gold, which imitates the soft matte finish of brushed silver and brushed gold, while focusing on the mellowness of gold, is for you. Illuminate your favourite cubby-hole with a soft gold lamp for an extra cosy glow.



Tonal Triumphs

If your current downtime reading finds you poring over paint brochures trying to find that elusive complementary colour scheme that will match and not clash, then make it easy on yourself, and on the eye, by thinking tonal hues. Going tonal not only makes rooms appear larger and more defined, but keeping it in the same family palette lessens the margins for error.



One way to achieve this is through the Monochromatic Scheme. Start by choosing your base colour – a colour you love and wish to predominate in your theme. Next, select your lighter and darker variations of your base colour, which might be used as an accent wall, trims, or accessorising accents. The rule of thumb is to have at least two hues off the base colour, but it’s important to ensure they’re different enough to give contrast and interest; think pale blue, sky blue and navy.

The Analogous Scheme delivers a monochromatic look, but has a bit more pizazz. Composed of groups of three colours next to each other on the colour wheel (irrespective of which end you’re working from), such as red, red-orange and orange, or violet, red-violet and red, for instance; when these neighbouring harmonious hues come together in a room, expect to be enchanted by the stunning transformation.

As with the Monochromatic Scheme, choose your dominating hue, then your supporting hue, and finally your accent hue (along with hints of black, white or grey – for a stroke of analogous genius!).


Home Hygge

Do you remember that scene from The Sound of Music when Maria calms the von Trapp children on a stormy night by singing those immortal words ‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens’…?



The sentiments behind ‘My Favourite Things’ may well be universal, but the Danish, who consistently top the charts as the happiest people on the planet, have just one word for it – Hygge. Pronounced hoo-guh, this wonderful word was shortlisted in 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary as word of the year.

Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, describes hygge as being consciously cosy; being with people you love, indulging in good foods, feeling gratitude and upholding equality. With winter on the seasonal horizon, what better time to incorporate the warm fuzzies of this concept to your humble abode?

Here, then, are a few tips from those happy Scandinavians on how to bring hygge to your home.

Burn those candles: the Danes burn more candles than any other country in Europe. From entertaining friends to a romantic dinner for two, a candlelit room spells ambience with a capital ‘A’. Fill your bathroom with fragrant candles and bathe by candlelight for blissful relaxation.

Ramp up the lamps: create a niche space with lamps and lights that are artworks in themselves. Pooled light draws the eye; it’s a gentle beacon that invites rest and time out.

Bring the outdoors indoors: arrange berried sprigs from your garden in an attractive vessel, or place shells, driftwood and other beachcombing finds as focal pieces. Nature’s treasures can be the most beautiful adornment in your home.

Books and nooks: we all need our own hyggekrog (nook) to retreat to, whether it be a den, that little space under the stairs, an attic room, or the studio at the end of the garden. Surround your space with books and belongings that you love. Switch off your phone and succumb to the hush of your hyggekrog.

Colour it cosy: winter’s the season for spicy coloured kilims and rugs. They look exotic and invoke feelings of warmth and pleasure. Add in seating strewn with textured throws and sumptuous plump cushions, and bring on the chilli chocolate!

Fire it up: basking before a crackling fire in a handsome hearth is ultimate hygge heaven! Raise your glass for a toast – “To Hygge!”