By James Taylor, NZFA Cataloguer / Researcher
The 100th anniversary of the 1913 Great Strike, “one of New Zealand’s most violent and disruptive industrial confrontations” (nzhistory.net.nz), is being marked in October and November this year. While there is no extant footage from the strike itself, there is plenty of material in the Film Archive’s vault from around that period and we have put a collection of clips together to give visitors to the Archive’s TV Lounge a sense of the places, people and events that were captured on film in New Zealand around 1913.
You can view this programme in the TV Lounge (on the ground floor of the Film Archive, 84 Taranaki St, Wellington) until November 30, 2013. Admission is free.
The selection begins with views of some of the urban centres where the Strike occurred. F11142 [WELLINGTON (CHRISTCHURCH) AND ASSORTED SCENES] [1912-1924] and F8350 [DUNEDIN 1912] show really busy Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin street scenes from the mid 1910s. F7107 [FUNDRAISING JERVOIS QUAY WELLINGTON 1918] shows a fundraising event held at King’s Wharf, Jervois Quay, Wellington during World War One; it also captures a wide cross-section of Wellington society, as well as an unusual mixture of bikes, cars and horse-drawn carts on the city’s streets.
Issues around work, and working conditions, were at the heart of the dispute, particularly for watersiders’ who worked at wharves around the country. F1776 [TRAWLING IN THE HAURAKI GULF]  and F38455 [THE WRECK OF THE STAR OF CANADA, 1912] give a brief glimpse of the dangers involved in working onboard ships and on the waterfront at this time, while a second extract from F11142 [WELLINGTON AND ASSORTED SCENES]  shows scenes of machinery and workers inside the Glaxo factory at Bunnythorpe, in the Manawatu.
There was also a vibrant working-class culture in New Zealand at the turn of the twentieth century. Labour Day in particular was often a time of special events such as parades, picnics and sporting events. F10474 [AUCKLAND LABOUR DAY PARADE AND SPORTS] [1910-1911] shows such a parade of workers, floats and a brass band through crowded and wet Auckland streets. F46203 AUCKLAND BAKERS’ STRIKE: PROCESSION OF CHINESE BAKERS IN NEW ZEALAND  was misidentified by the Pathé newsreel in which it was shown; although titled as such, there is no air of a strike about this film. It is more likely to be a trade union occasion, perhaps connected to the Unity Congress, or Labour Day, in 1913.
Of course politics and political questions were not far from the industrial struggle of 1913; this was a period which also saw political upheaval and questions about the best way to represent the interests of working people. There are two very rare films in this section. The first F862 WELLINGTON. ‘THE ELECTIONS’. A DASH OF POLITICS AT LUNCH [POST OFFICE SQUARE] shows Labour Party candidate David McLaren on the stump making an election speech at Post Office Square, outside the Wharf gates in Wellington, during the 1911 General Election. Post Office Square was the site of a number of violent clashes between specials and workers during the strike, but it was also an important place where people gathered for news and soapbox speeches. F1956 [UNITY CONGRESS] gives the briefest of glimpses of delegates walking into a Unity Congress meeting on a rainy Wellington day in 1913.
There was much else going on around the country in 1913 and the final sections shows some other people and places. F202128 A REUNION OF NEW ZEALAND’S PIONEER MINERS [DUNEDIN, 1912] shows a gathering of some of the first miners involved in the Otago Gold rushes. F4106 THE PRODUCTION OF THE TARANAKI HERALD AND BUDGET  shows how newspapers, the main way people got information about the Strike, were produced. F7306 THE FISHER MONOPLANE  is local newsreel footage of the successful first flight of the first monoplane designed and built in thje Wairarapa. F10484 AUCKLAND’S RECEPTION TO THE BATTLESHIP HMS NEW ZEALAND  shows the gifted battleship entering Auckland Harbour duiring its tour around the country. F1068 [VISIT OF THE HON W H MASSEY AND SIR J WARD TO WESTERN FRONT 30 JUNE – 4 JULY 1918] was shot during World War One, but shows two of the leading politicians during the strike: the then Prime Minister William Massey and Sir Joseph Ward, who in 1913 was the Leader of the Opposition Liberal Party. The selection ends with an extract from F7420 FIGHTING BACK a film from 1949 which shows scenes around Waihi and features the recollections of a 1912 Waihi Strike veteran.
For more information about the Great Strike take a look at this article on NZ History.net. You can find out details about more 1913 Strike Centennial Events here. And for more about what we hold here at the Film Archive take a look at our online catalogue.