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Matt Calman

image Matt Calman – Writer

“The landscape – namely being in the Port Hills above the city – has provided huge inspiration for my writing and given me a place to reset when things get tough. Since moving back to Ōtautahi in 2014 I’ve admired seeing the city reborn; it’s energy and resilience.”

How would you describe what you do?

I describe myself in order of significance as a full-time parent, and part-time writer, photographer, blogger, multi-sport athlete, song writer, and musician. But as long as I’m creating something I’m happy.

What was your most recent project?

My last finalised work was my debut book The Longest Day, which chronicled my recovery from a major depressive episode by training for the 2019 Coast to Coast one day race. It was thankfully released before lockdown, in late February 2020. Coast to Coast founder Robin Judkins and Allen & Unwin NZ publisher Jenny Hellen, helped launch the book at a packed Scorpio Books in Christchurch. Lately I’ve been working on a photographic essay on Moko Kauae, which I hope will be published as part of a book.

What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

The release of my book has given me the opportunity to speak to a wide variety of people all around the country. I’ve also received countless messages from people who say the book helped them through their own struggle. Being part of WORD Christchurch in 2020 was a huge honour. But being able to reach out and help others suffering depression and anxiety has been the thing I’m proudest of in my life.

What is essential for creatives to have in their life?

We need time and space to reflect on the world around us in order to create something that adds to the culture or to society. I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my wife and kids and my wider whānau. I’ve also found the connection I’ve built with the audience and my peers, and the positive feedback to my work, has been really uplifting.

 What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

The landscape – namely being in the Port Hills above the city – has provided huge inspiration for my writing and given me a place to reset when things get tough. Since moving back to Ōtautahi in 2014 I’ve admired seeing the city reborn; it’s energy and resilience. The people here have been through so much in the last decade, but it’s a great place to live and raise our children.

 What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

My publisher read the final draft of my book and suggested my wife was a powerful figure in my story but was very much in the shadows. I was very near the end of the writing process, and she encouraged me to interview my wife and add her perspective. That was such a great piece of advice because it allowed a large section of readers an insight and a touchstone in the book. After all it wasn’t just for those suffering mental health struggles, but also for all the support people and loved ones around them, who are so easily forgotten.

 What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

That’s a difficult question to answer as I’d only be guessing. But I think many people felt my book would be mostly about sport, namely the Coast to Coast. However that was merely the vehicle for recovery. The book is primarily about rebuilding my life after hitting a big and scary wall, which makes the story universal. I love getting messages from people who had no interest in Coast to Coast or sport but connected to it anyway. But that for me is the power of human stories. They can cut through everything.

 What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

At art school in the early 2000s I fell in love with the work of Peter Robinson, Bill Hammond, Margaret Dawson, Doris Lusk, Gordon Walters and Seraphine Pick. While they were mostly born elsewhere their association with Christchurch makes me think of them as Christchurch artists. Walters lived in the same street when I was very young. Dawson was my photography tutor for a year. I loved her series The Men From Uncle in which she posed her uncle, who had suffered a stroke, as famous historical figures. Robinson happened to be up in the picture framing workshop I worked at one day working on a canvas. Film-maker Te Arepa Kahi is also someone who’s work I admire. And on the music front I’m a huge fan of Marlon Williams. But who doesn’t love Marlon?! His music touches my soul.

What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

I saw The Clean play live in Dunedin in about 1999 or 2000. It was part of a festival celebrating the Dunedin Sound. The venue was packed shoulder to shoulder. It was pure energy building first from Hamish Kilgour’s rattling snare drum, to Robert Scott’s warm rhythmic bass, and finally lightning bolts of electric guitar symphonies from David Kilgour. Each song better than the last. You felt the vibrations of the music through your entire body. I’ve never seen a live gig like it before or since. It was perfection.

What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

That it comes from doing. That it takes patience. And that the best art comes as an extension of yourself. You can’t contrive it.

 What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

Currently it is the almond croissants at Bohemian Bakery in St Martins. But it’s no longer much of a secret. Word has leaked out!

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