As could be expected, Wellington’s steps appear in literature – poetry, a novel, and a short story. This is the list so far….
Katherine Mansfield made famous the short zigzag not far from her family home, in her story ‘The Wind Blows’:
‘They cannot walk fast enough. Their heads bent, their legs just touching, they stride like one eager person through the tow, down the asphalt zigzag where the fennel grows wild, and on to the esplanade. It is dusky – just getting dusky. The wind is so strong that they have to fight their way through it, rocking like two old drunkards. All the poor little pohutukawas on the esplanade are bent to the ground.’
Over-grown weeds, painted white fence, a steep pathway and a short flight of steps at the top. The pohutukawa trees have grown quite a bit, too.
On Thorndon Quay
Brannavan Gnanalingam – ‘A Briefcase, Two Pies, and a Penthouse’ (Lawrence & Gibson Publishing Collective, 2016).
Gnanalingam’s brilliant satire of intelligence agencies includes references to the Dixon Street steps and the Hood Street steps (although the latter aren’t named in the book) – the title is a sly reference to the contents of a briefcase mislaid by a SIS spy in Wellington.
The Dixon Street steps from a distance – and hidden by plenty of trees and bush.
Hood Street steps – along Oriental Parade near the Waitangi Park.
Big Weather Poems of Wellington (Selected by Gregory O’Brien & Louise White; Mallison Rendal, 2000)
Two step streets appear in Jenny Bornholdt’s poem ‘We Will, We Do’ – the Oriental Terrace zigzag and McIntyre Avenue.
Denis Gover’s short poem ‘Wellington at 5 o’clock’ describes people on the way home ‘up steps, or go through tunnels’.
Some manage to do both – Woodward Street features both steps and a tunnel.
FILMS AND VIDEOS
Wellington in 1966 – ‘These hills. And all these steps,’ is the comment of a weary woman standing in front of the Dixon Street steps. And that hill-side is nearly free of trees and shrubs in 1966, and the flights are visible.
An 8 minute film in which steps make brief appearances but gives you an appreciation of the hard work done by the dusties in 1971 Wellington. (Their hard work continues in modern Wellington, working alone now in huge trucks but I don’t think they are called ‘dusties’ any more.)
A 1983 film biography of Wellington, with glimpses of steps and brief views of historic buildings, then being destroyed with the enthusiastic approval of the mayor, Michael Fowler. The city had identified 200 buildings along the Golden Mile as earthquake risk and required rebuilding or destruction within 15 years. – very similar to the situation now.
These films are available for viewing by booking with the very helpful staff at Nga Taonga.
A nearly silent video from the point of view of a man climbing the steps from Garden Road to the top of Orangi Kaupapa, without comment; by Wessel Egas, published Feb 12, 2017.
A two minute video by Rafael In New Zealand published around January 2019; it is just that – a video walk down Maida Vale steps.
Tiny Ruins mention the Allenby steps in their song ‘Adelphi Apartments.’