Dear Helen Clark,
I want to thank you for your inspired advocacy for the arts community in New Zealand, and in particular I want to acknowledge your personal support for Janet Frame over the years. I remember how you came out of your way to Dunedin for the launch of Michael King's Frame biography, obviously enjoying the occasion with Janet and Michael and the rest of the gathering. Overseas guests couldn't believe how sociable and approachable - and knowledgeable about the arts - our PM was!
Again, at the opening of the John Money Wing at Gore, I'll never forget how you sat in the sun with John and Janet and chatted and joked like an old friend.
And Janet was so proud when you went to Oamaru for the opening of 56 Eden Street, cutting the typewriter ribbon at the door and planting a cabbage tree in the garden of the house where during her childhood the pride of place went to the portrait of Michael Joseph Savage, one of the other great NZ Prime Ministers.
It meant such a lot to Janet that you awarded her one of the inaugural Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement. At the end of her life she was gratified to be honoured in such a way.
And our family was comforted by your insistence on a State Memorial Service and by the fact that you made the effort to attend and to speak in praise of Janet Frame's contribution to NZ 's cultural life.
Writers have traditionally had to scramble for the crumbs of remuneration and recognition; under your leadership both their mana and their material reward grew. You'll be missed, but I'm confident that whatever you turn your hand to next will give you a chance to keep making the world a better place.
Pamela Gordon - Chair, Janet Frame Literary Trust
Posted on Sunday 23 November to a tribute page for Helen Clark, departing New Zealand Prime Minister, and Minister for Arts & Culture. The tributes have been solicited by The Big Idea (which is an online community for people working in the creative arts in New Zealand).
Yours truly pushing the wheelchair while Mum (Janet Frame's sister June Gordon) takes Prime Minister Helen Clark on a tour of 56 Eden Street, November 2003.