Q&A with Keynote Speaker Frith Walker

2 Oct 2018 /

Originally hailing from theatre and events, Frith Walker is the Manager, Placemaking for Waterfront Auckland‘s Wynyard Quarter. Tasked to program and place manage new public spaces on the CBD Waterfront, Frith is a champion of healthy public realms, and advocate for prioritising people in the development of public spaces. For Artstate Bathurst, Frith will be sharing her experiences as part of her keynote Sense of Place: Beyond the Jargon and into the Need.
We recently had a chat with Frith about the importance of placemaking in communities, and what she’s most looking forward to at Artstate Bathurst!

Image: Frith Walker, photo by Arnaud Stephenson.


1. At Artstate Bathurst you’ll be talking about placemaking and the various challenges involved. Can you tell me a bit about your role as a Placemaker for Wynyard Quarter, and how you came to the role?

Straight out of the theatre! I was (at the time) General Manager for Silo Theatre – a small scale, slightly left of centre production house here in Auckland. The first part of my working life was spent (mostly) backstage in Auckland’s performing arts scene, making my way from stage manager to production manager to producer. In 2011 I was on a leadership development course run by Committee for Auckland, when I was ‘spotted’ by the then Place Manager for Waterfront Auckland – the agency charged with the redevelopment of Auckland’s city centre waterfront. She brought me on to look after the public programming in Feb 2011. And now I find myself here!

2. In your opinion, why is the act of placemaking important?

I think we have forgotten a few fundamentals about what we need as humans to ensure that we are happy, safe and well. Especially in the act of urbanisation. The role of placemaking – to ‘undo the effects of specialisation’ and get us back to place – is badly needed as we walk into this uncertain future. And even more needed is a reawakening to how important our societal and community connections are. I don’t for one heartbeat think placemaking is a panacea for all the world’s problems but I do think, if done right and with the right intent, it can help.

3. Without giving too much of your keynote away, what is the most common mistake made in activations of public spaces?

Easy – Plonking. Seeing ‘something you like’ from somewhere else and delivering it into a place. Doing to rather than with. Then wondering why it didn’t really work…

4. What are you most looking forward to at Artstate Bathurst?

Walking away from my keynote knowing that I did you proud! This is a great honour and I am very much looking forward to it. I am so very inspired and excited by the way the world of the creative is actively influencing and making its way into the world of city planning. I am super excited to come and breathe your air and hopefully successfully deliver at least 3 jokes and 2 ideas that people take away.
For more information on Frith Walker visit her biography, and keynote Sense of Place: Beyond the Jargon and into the Need.
To register for Artstate Bathurst‘s Speakers Program, click here.