Lyttelton Petanque Club

A community space featuring pétanque pitch that was built from the ground up on a prominent corner site in Lyttelton providing a much-needed gathering space in the post quake times.

The other LPC* in town!

The Lyttelton Pétanque Club (or LPC) was a temporary project on the corner of London and Canterbury Streets, in Lyttelton, Christchurch’s port town. Created in July 2011 by a bunch of Lyttelton locals and a few folk from over the other side of the hill from Gap Filler, it took on a life of its own. This temporary project sowed the seeds for the permanent project, Albion Square, that fills the space today. 

In mid-2011, a small group of Lyttelton locals wanted to do something positive to bring energy, life and activity to one of Lyttelton’s vacant sites. Lyttelton had been badly affected by the major quakes of 2010 and 2011. The owners of the former Albion Hotel site – Tom Jones and Helen Hobson – were keen for something to happen on their land. They connected with Gap Filler who in turn connected with four locals and Lyttel Gap Filler was born. A few meetings were held in May and June of 2011 and the idea for the Lyttelton Pétanque Club took shape. The Lyttel Gap Filler group decided that a place for people to gather, sit, talk, perform, or just hang out was needed, and thought the idea of pétanque in Lyttelton would be rather fun. Two working bees were held in late July 2011 to create the space. Volunteers young and old cleaned up the site, made seating from pallets and tables from cable spools, created the pétanque pitch, cleared the ‘stage’ (a small piece of the residual foundation from the kitchen of the Albion Hotel), and planted a garden. The Lyttelton Pétanque Club was born.

*LPC is usually used in Lyttelton to refer to Lyttelton Port Company

A true community effort

Over two years the LPC hosted a wide variety of events and evolved into a community hub and an informal town square. Poets and musicians performed thanks to power lent by the neighbour. It was significant that the site hosted the first anniversary of the February 22, 2011 quake. Over the months the site hosted countless impromptu gatherings, BBQs, a few pétanque tournaments and more. Interestingly, the site accumulated things that people gifted to it. A sandpit with kid’s toys, plants, furniture, a hose; people added to the site over time. People weeded it, picked up rubbish and watered the garden. And of course, at times, it got messy and it felt like people were not caring for it, so a sign was put out and a renewed effort to engage people was made. People had a stake in the space because so many had been involved in creating it. And there was a honesty about the space. It looked like a hotch-potch of random stuff. It looked like local people had created it. And that’s why people loved it. Not everyone loved it, some thought it messy, but many did feel connected to it. And one must remember that Lyttelton, until now, had lacked any large public space on the main street beyond a few benches here and there.

A permanent impact

Across 2011 and 2012 Christchurch City Council (CCC) ran public consultations as part of the Master Plan process for the rebuild of Lyttelton. Something they were hearing from the local community was that they wanted places to gather; in other words public space. This desire for space arose from circumstances after the quakes – people needed to gather but there was not much suitable space to do so. People suggested various sites that CCC could purchase and develop for this purpose. One was the LPC. In response to the feedback locals were providing, CCC purchased the land guaranteeing this essential public space a permanent home. In 2012 the site changed yet again when CCC called for proposals from locals for temporary street furniture, artworks, seating and lighting installations for the site. Around 15 proposals were received and 7 were selected, funded and realised. Three of those projects (a sculpture, a tiled mandala and a mosaic chair) remain on site today as part of the final design, having been relocated as part of the development process. The site has now evolved to become Albion Square and was opened officially to the public on November 8, 2014 as a permanent community space. The project was undertaken by a construction company across 2014. The cenotaph commemorating Lytteltonians lost in the wars of the 20th Century was relocated from another part of the town to the upper section of this site. There is a stage, amphitheatre-style seating, play equipment, a water feature and a grassed area. For the Lyttel Gap Filler crew, it feels satisfying to have played an important part in helping to make this happen. Out of the rubble and confusion of the quakes, something special took place here.

Who, what, where, when

Date: July 2011 – 2014

Locations:  London Street, Lyttelton

Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council

Key people: Trent Hiles, Ciaran Fox, Rich Humphries, Kerry Donnelly, Carmel Courtenay, Ryan Reynolds, Coralie Winn

Values: Resourcefulness, Collaboration

Volunteers: Trent, Carmel, Simon, Ludo, Kerry, Ciaran, Spud, Lauren, Clara, Simon, Richard, Jen, Simon, Caro, Camille, Lewis, Ihorangi, Coralie, Ryan, Fiona, Michelle, Courtenay, Rico, Dave, Sarah, Helen, Emilie, Miki, Maxime. Apologies if we’ve missed anyone.

Support/Sponsors: Dave Watchorn, Maree Henry, Tom & Helen Hobson (landowners).

The Lyttelton Petanque Club project is the living definition of community development principles in action. What made this project extra special though, was the playful, artistic intention and the full-trust approach to working with a creative, passionate and motivated community. An approach embodied by the question ‘what’s important to our community right now?’ rather than ‘what’s broken in our community?’ The outcome was a space used by, cared for and expanded on by the local community. So much so that it eventually informed and became the centrepiece of the City Council Master Plan for Lyttelton. For the community it is a multipurpose space for gathering, playing, remembering, performing, and enjoying. The heart of the town.

Ciaran Fox

Lyttel Gap Filler crew