In the early 1970s the area in front of the cathedral steps was closed to traffic to encourage pedestrians and street life. But it proved a difficult space to fill, except during protests, commemorative events (such as Anzac Day) and festivals. The closure of several cinemas also made the space less vibrant at night.
To make the square more lively, food stalls and street performers were allowed. The most famous performer was Ian Brackenbury Channell, better known as ‘The Wizard’. The installation of Neil Dawson’s ‘Chalice’ sculpture in 2001 was a further initiative to attract people to Christchurch’s most important public space. This scene was transformed by the February 2011 earthquake, which toppled the statue of John Robert Godley in the foreground and severely damaged the cathedral.
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