Strange but true tales: Whanganui's odd history revisited

By Paul Brooks

Zaryd and Cass in the studio. Photo / Roberta Thornley
Zaryd and Cass in the studio. Photo / Roberta Thornley

Whanganui is rich with stories - tales of people and the things they did.

Like the man who held a radio station to ransom, demanding they play The Rainbow Connection non-stop or he'd blow the place up. Or the early mayor who lost office after trying to assassinate his blackmailer.

There are many such stories but they need to be told in such a way that they are repeated and remembered.

That's where Revisited comes in.

Zaryd Wilson and Cass Alexander are Revisited; the podcast company telling these stories with voice-over and interview, and putting them out for the world to hear. For free. A podcast is an audio file available for streaming or download from an internet site.

"We both listen to podcasts. We were at a social function and talked about how Whanganui stories would make a good podcast series," says Cass. "At that point it was a pie-in-the-sky idea."

To cement the idea they applied for some funding, courtesy of Creative Communities, to help with the website revisitedpodcast.org/, to pay for studio recording and editing time and to help with printing posters and business cards.

"We were going to do it anyway but it was good to have that support," she says. "We got all the funding we applied for and chose to use all local companies."

"All the stories have been told in various forms before. We picked six to start," says Zaryd.

They are the 1915 riot in Victoria Ave in which the German pork butchery got smashed up, the Aramoho zoo, the Star FM and Rainbow Connection story, the 1922 murder of Chow Yat; the story of Mayor Charles Mackay and D'Arcy Cresswell and Neil Roberts' attempt to blow up the Roberts' attempt to blow up the police computer.

The zoo was particularly interesting because Zaryd and Cass visited a house which had been built over the concrete pads where the cages for some of the wild animals were.

Each podcast will be downloadable from iTunes at a predetermined date. The trailer is already available.

"For some of the people we've interviewed who don't know what a podcast is, we'll make them available on CD when the whole series comes out," says Cass. "It is a podcast and we wanted to keep to that medium, but we want to make it accessible. And we want to have it stored at the Alexander Library for research," says Zaryd.

The pair had to make it plain to their interviewees that they were not connected with a radio station and that they were not researching for a book.

"The stories are strange, and that's the criteria for them - they had to have an element that was out of the ordinary, they had to have a kicker to them.

They sound like they might be fiction, but they're true," says Cass. "We weren't reinvestigating them or coming to our own conclusions, we're just retelling them in a longer format," says Zaryd.

"And in a new format," says Cass. "We're sharing them with the world, really."

Zaryd says some of the people they spoke to had never really opened up about their stories, but they were surprisingly accommodating.

After editing and adding narration, the podcasts run between 30 and 40 minutes.

"But there is always so much more you could say or might be of interest," says Cass.

"We did the interviews, read the research then wrote it as a script. We do the voiceovers," says Zaryd.

All voiceovers and post production were recorded at Chronicle Records in Drews Ave.
"Our theme music is Castlecliff Lights," says Cass - it's a solo album by Ellen Waugh.

Zaryd and Cass had the idea in January and work started in March. Zaryd is a journalist and Cass is a Whanganui writer with a background in public relations.

"You don't need a radio voice to do this," says Cass.

The Whanganui Regional Museum, the Alexander Library, Whanganui District Council Archives and private historians have been helpful with research material.

"And we've gathered a whole lot of photos and archives that we can use on our website," says Cass.

"For each episode there will be show notes on the site," says Zaryd, "So you can look at photos of the people we're talking about, and maps and things like that."

There are also links to other sites of interest related to the stories.

"Whanganui had a crazy past, especially in the first half of last century," says Zaryd. The first story, the attack on Conrad Heinold's butchery, is available on iTunes from October 6. Cass and Zaryd are looking at a second season with new stories.

- Wanganui Midweek

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