The 2019 ANZAC Bridge Fellow, Karen Wrigglesworth is a Whanganui-based writer of non-fiction, short stories, plays, poetry and long-form fiction. She has a degree in mechanical engineering, and enjoys writing stories about technical subjects for adults and children. An award-winning writer with work published in New Zealand and overseas, Karen was also a Writer in Residence at NZ Pacific Studio in 2015.
Karen's ANZAC Bridge Fellowship project considered why we choose to build memorials to those we love, and explores the different forms these memorials take. After WWI, there was considerable debate in New Zealand around whether it was ‘better’ for memorials for fallen soldiers to be symbolic or useful. At Kaiparoro, the ANZAC Memorial Bridge is, unusually, both of these. By comparison, memorials at nearby Eketāhuna and Nireaha are practical, while elsewhere in the Tararua District, the ubiquitous cenotaph is more common.
"During my time at Kaiparoro, I am interested in engaging with people about their preferences for practical or symbolic memorials, and I also want to explore the ways we would each prefer to be memorialised ourselves."
Karen delivered a moving speech at the ANZAC Day Service: 'Memorials – Keepers of the stories we tell ourselves'. Here are some excerpts:
"As an engineer, it interests me that some war memorials are symbolic – like the broken cenotaph at Carterton, while some are functional – like the library at Nireaha. There are also a rare few – like this bridge – that are both...
"To my mind, there is no ‘better’ type of memorial. The relief they provided for those who built them, and the responses, conversations and the coming together they gift to us who come after, is reason enough for their existence. Memorials remind us what actually matters – kindness, compassion, and doing our best to care for one another."
As part of her Fellowship Karen worked with Alfredton School students, some of whom were descendants of those remembered on the Kaiparoro Bridge, to write stories. They read stories aloud at the ANZAC Day service at Kaiparoro, and displayed artwork at Pūkaha afterwards.
Since the 2019 Fellowship, Karen has been working on a biography about Alfred Falkner, the engineer who designed the bridge at Kaiparoro, as well as a fictionalised story about Alfred and his bridge. In August 2019, for the first part of a Robert Lord residency, she began research on a similar engineering heritage project near Dunedin.
She has had poetry published in the Autumn 2020 edition of A Fine Line, and her essay 'When things don't' was longlisted for the 'New Philosopher' Writers' Award XXVI 'Change', April 2020.
Forthcoming is the publication of 'Legacy of Light and Sound' in 10 stories: writing about architecture/5 - A compilation of essays from the Warren Trust Architectural Writing Competition (New Zealand Institute of Architects).
Karen is also working on her first book - watch this space!