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Artist Lester Hall and Mike King // Pukana for Hope

Words by Lester Hall http://lesterhall.com

I had a wonderful day Friday, I rode the “Pukana for Hope” into town to my friend Jess Burges’s photographic studio to get some images when Mike came to pick it up. I wanted the memories and I was aware that some photos might help his voice. It was the first time I have ridden a bike on the road and I am 61… haha, I made two rules for myself  as a young man, no motorbikes and no heroin.. seriously.. I knew I would not live if I danced with either of those fascinating distractions. I needed the practice on the bike because I told Mike I would ride it on some of the Northern legs of his hikoi up the islands. Holy crap I thought as I wound it out up the bypass hill… slight incline and it fell off the dizzying speeds of 50 plus to a weak feeling 30… yep.. I thought “Holy crap, this will test some peoples mental faculties on gradients like the Brenderwyns…” Invercargill to Spirit’s Bay Bro??? Mike I know though is a good, keen, man….We got the photos underway and then Mike turned up and here are some of the results.. clearly mental illness was on our minds..After the shoot I drove down to Bay of Islands College to watch Mike do his thing with a talk there for the kids. He was hilarious starting the chat with something like, “Hey yous fellas, thanks for coming, I am Sonny Bill Williams…” and just set the room alight with his brand of hilarious chat while delivering a beautifully humble and honest conversation about his troubled journey to where he stands in front of them today, ten years sober and probably the most important voice in the narrative about mental illness and suicide and self belief this country has. After his gig we shared some little conversation before he headed off to Whangarei where he was going to start the hour and a half stage show AGAIN… yep, an hour and a half keeping a hall full of teenagers listening and engaged.. If you wonder if Mike King has the focus and energy and determination to make a difference, don’t. If you wonder if he is real, if his talk is matched by his walk, don’t He knows he does not have all of the answers and that no one way will fix peoples hurt. But he knows he has got some great and helpful things to deliver, that some sacred cows need to be brought down and that he absolutely intends to make a difference. My art has brought me some great moments and the privilege of doing a little to help Mike make that difference is one of my most precious.

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