A collaborative project by Tim J. Veling, David Cook and the students and teachers of Freeville School, New Brighton, Christchurch. The images above constitute a representitive selection of work from the project.

Freeville School was located on Sandy Avenue, in the heart of New Brighton, Christchurch. It had a roll of 283 pupils, from new entrants to year eight.

Prior to the 2011 earthquake, Freeville School commissioned the ‘Freeville School Landscape Concept Draft Plan’ (Rough & Milne landscape architects). This plan incorporated a wildflower bed, native trees, native shrubs and children’s artwork. With a clear agenda to educate and engage the community in the school’s surrounding ecological landscape, this plan could never have foreseen the dramatic events that followed its conception. As a result of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the plan went unrealised.

In 2013, the Ministry of Education announced that Freeville School was to merge with North New Brighton and Central New Brighton Schools. In 2016, the Freeville site was abandoned and buildings and facilities – situated on land sold to the Ministry of Education by the Free family for the purpose of building an education facility – were scheduled to be demolished soon after.

At the time, the future for the land itself was uncertain. It was especially ambiguous if allowance was to be made for the school’s surrounding community to contribute ideas to inform the redevelopment. Within that ambiguous space this project aimed to collaborate with remaining students and staff of Freeville School and help them re-imagine and articulate their own vision for the land’s future.

In November 2013 Tim J. Veling and David Cook spent a week with two classrooms at Freeville, taking photographs and running creative workshops. Rather than dwell on the nostalgia of loss, they asked the children to imagine the future of their school grounds. They responded, in writing and artwork, by expressing their colourful, humorous, sometimes wacky but genuinely innovative ideas.

As the children completed their work, we progressively pasted their pictures and text to the walls of the New Brighton Mall. At the end of the week, the school proudly launched their billboard-sized project. The public display happened to coincide with the Christchurch East by-election and candidates from all parties descended on the mall and stopped to take it in. Standing in front of the children's words and pictures, they couldn't help but understand that this community has a loud voice that must be heard.

The Freeville Project was originally commissioned by TEZA (Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa) as part of a week-long series of art projects that engaged with - and was shaped by - the community of New Brighton.

The Freeville Project was also exhibited at RAMP Gallery, WINTEC School of Media Arts, between the 5th of June and 27th of June, 2014. 

Project commissioned by TEZA
Produced by Letting Space

The Freeville project forms part of Place in Time, the Christchurch Documentary Project


  • 67 Freeville Primary School pupils
  • Teachers: Tracey Barber, Nicole Cunningham, Bernice Swain & Sharon Thompson.
  • Facilitators and photographers: David Cook & Tim J. Veling 
  • Assistants: Bayley Corfield, David Draper & Hannah Watkinson
  • Special thanks also to Mark Harvey

Funding partners:

  • Wintec
  • University of Canterbury
  • Place in Time: The Christchurch Documentary Project
  • Massey University
  • Canterbury Community Trust
  • Chartwell Trust
  • Creative New Zealand