‘If this town could talk’

STORY TELLING: Kris Herbert is telling the stories of Lyttelton's past, through the ears of children.

If Lyttelton could talk it would have some stories to tell. Reporter Caitlin Miles found out about a few of them when she chatted to Kris Herbert, who has created a project focused on telling the stories of people who grew up in the area.

Stories of a mysterious “goat man” and life in 1960s Lyttelton have captured the attention of local children – thanks to a project focused on telling the stories of past and present residents.

Resident Kris Herbert decided to set up the Lyttelton Stories project to record the history of the community through radio documentaries.

She came up with the idea for travellers to listen to so they learn more about the town as they make their way around the area. She hopes to put the stories on a mobile phone application so they can be accessed easily.

“There are so many travellers around the world wanting to make these connections with places,” Ms Herbert said.

She has enlisted the help of pupils from Lyttelton Primary School to speak to the people to help teach the children interview skills and connect them more with the community.

“The first part of the project is going to be looking at Lyttelton through the eyes of the children,” she said.

Ms Herbert moved from the United States to Lyttelton 20 years ago and has lived here ever since.

She is using her own 20-year background in journalism to make the documentaries. Not that she has done it before.

“I’ve been a print journalist for 20 years, I do freelance now,” she said.

The first phase of the project is finding people who grew up and lived in Lyttelton from the 40s onwards.

“We’re looking for stories from people that grew up and live here, talking about their memories and things they remember about the place,” she said.

The first phase of the project involves interviewing people who grew up in the area from the 1950s onwards.

She said a story that has captured the children’s attention is that of a mysterious goat man.

“We don’t know much about him, but apparently he would wonder the streets and scare children,”

She said she plans to get the pupils to do more investigating into the story and find out if it is an urban legend.

“The boys especially are really obsessed with the story,” she said.

Pupils have been rotating through the project, with a core group of four involved.

She said even though the pupils “can get a bit distracted” during the interviews, the interviewees have been very patient and understanding.

“People that have done it are really enjoying it,” she said.

The topics cover a wide range. Ms Herbert said she is looking for all types of stories, including games people would play growing up, stories of the old shops and any interesting adventures people had around the town.

When term two starts back up Ms Herbert plans to get the pupils to interview more locals as she’s “still looking for stories” before she starts working on the next part of the project. Transcribing and editing the documentaries together.

“If some people don’t want to share their story but they want to help in someway, they might want to help us transcribe the interviews. We want to keep it really local,” she said.

She said it is a community-focused project and hopes other areas around New Zealand do something similar.

However, the project isn’t free. She has received funding from the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch to help, and has also applied to the city council to see if she can get money to help cover costs.

“I’ll know more about moving ahead with the project once I know if that funding has come through,” she said.

Ms Herbert said she’s too deep and committed to the project now to see it fail. She hopes to launch the first tour in June.