Members of the public have the opportunity to be part of New Zealand history this Saturday 18 April with the official opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition.
At Pukeahu a spectacular performance involving the Carillon tower will be a key part of the official opening ceremony, while the former Dominion Museum, just behind the War Memorial, gets a new lease of life as The Great War Exhibition opens its doors.
The Pukeahu opening ceremony from 11am on Saturday begins with a multi-media sequence which takes the audience from the grounds outside into the National War Memorial via several large screens situated throughout the park.
The screens enable the audience to see the actors as the drama unfolds inside the War Memorial. Outside two choirs – the Choir of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul and The Tudor Consort – will perform Memento for an Unknown Warrior, written by carillonist Timothy Hurd QSM.
The climax of the performance includes a surprise dramatic gesture involving the Carillon tower.
Timothy Hurd says this is the first time the Carillon has been played since the War Memorial was closed for earthquake strengthening in 2013.
“The Carillon has been the voice of the National War Memorial since 1932 and it will be a poignant moment to play and hear it again after such a long, imposed silence,” he says.
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park has been under construction for the past two and a half years and has involved hundreds of groups and individuals. Pukeahu is the Government’s key legacy project to mark the First World War centenary.
Ministry for Culture and Heritage Chief Executive Lewis Holden says the opening of Pukeahu is the culmination of tremendous effort by all those involved.
"Working to tight timeframes and budgets everyone, from the designers to the construction team, has turned the near 100 year-old vision for a fitting place of national remembrance into reality,” Lewis Holden said.
“With the construction of the Arras Tunnel there is now no sound or sense of the constant stream of State Highway One traffic passing immediately in front of the National War Memorial. Pukeahu is now a quiet and reflective space for all New Zealanders to think about our country’s great sacrifice in times of war and our ongoing commitment to peace.”
Members of the public are warmly invited to attend the opening ceremony featuring addresses from Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM QSO Governor-General of New Zealand and Prime Minister Rt Hon John Key.
Wellington musician Louis Baker will also perform his song Love.
Following the park opening ceremony, Sir Jerry and Mr Key will walk up to the Dominion Museum building behind the National War Memorial to open Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition.
Visitors in the first week of the exhibition will be guided through the Great Hall on a journey taking them chronologically through the events of the First World War, beginning with the early optimism in 1914 that the fighting would be over by Christmas.
On Anzac Day the New Zealand Room opens which focuses on the Anzacs’ struggles at Gallipoli and features a diorama of Chunuk Bair as it was in 1915. This display includes about 5000 miniature soldiers, each individually hand painted by New Zealand war gamers.
The Great War Exhibition is open from 12.30pm on Saturday and has extended opening hours from 9am to 11pm daily until May 3, with the exception of Anzac Day when it opens at 12.30pm.
Updated on 19th July 2017