John Alan James Hodgetts (always known as Alan) was born in Australia to father, Edwin, and mother, Ellen. Alan’s parents were adventurous ‘Brits’ who had travelled to Australia all the way overland from England in a car with his two, older sisters Rita and Joan, to make a new life ‘down under’.
Alan and his family moved to New Zealand and chose to settle in Porirua when he was 4. This must have seemed like a tranquil but relatable paradise, far from the families’ roots in the UK’s industrial north-west and midlands.
Alan was very close to his parents, particularly his mum, and has always felt very strong ties with his extended family and his UK family, even during more difficult times. Family and home were important to Alan.
Alan was devastated by the death of, first, his father in 2003 and then his mother in 2010, but his sense of love and loss would help shape his creative ventures in art and music and certainly the fierceness with which he loved his wife, coincidentally also named Ellen. Alan also enjoyed close relationships with his nephews, who were of a similar age.
A sense of family and home encouraged Alan to travel back to the UK in the 80’s to connect with his roots. He was fortunately able to meet up with many members of his extended family in and around St Helens and always reflected positively on this opportunity. It gave him a foundation of belonging, and really started his journey of personal discovery and definition.
Growing up, Alan was surrounded by music. His mother was a concert violinist and, from an early age, he developed a love of playing the drums and, later, other musical instruments. Over time he was to develop his interest in music and developed an alias ‘Manzo’ which was influenced by a wide range of eclectic musical interests.
Despite being an almost wilfully independent and experimental musician – with a very clear creative imperative – music gave Alan the opportunity to collaborate with other talented musicians, and forge friendships and creative partnerships that he treasured deeply.
For those who may have heard him, Alan didn’t have the kind of singing voice that he may have preferred. Not to be deterred, he reached out to bring together what he thought of as his extended ‘Manzo family’. The Manzo family is too large to name individually, but Alan appreciated everyone he collaborated with, and came out of these ventures far richer and more fulfilled.
Alan’s individuality was fully expressed by his music. Despite drawing on traditional musical influences, not least his mum, a wide range of bands from the 80s, and a little known UK band from somewhere near St Helens – the Beatles – Alan’s music is unconventional, experimental and increasingly reflected his growing confidence, empathy and imagination.
Alan began to realise his song-writing and music production aspirations in earnest from 2015. There was a lot of hard work and creative evolution, but over six years, Alan in collaboration with his extended ‘Manzo family’ produced three truly original albums and a number of singles, including a recent cover of Chumbawamba’s Tub Thumping – which I think helps to show how playful and cheeky he could be at heart.
In many ways, Alan’s musical future seemed assured. His last album, ‘Attachment’, received critical praise, with music.net.nz saying: “It’s like no other album you’re going to hear this year … I urge, nay implore you, to listen … Listen and breathe.”
Alan was a talented and highly creative visual artist. In life and through his art, Alan was not afraid to show his emotions; through his art, he was able to express himself and explore sometimes difficult and at other times uplifting and resolving emotions.
Recognised and awarded for his art, it has been described as sometimes ‘uncompromising’, ‘challenging’, ‘inspiring’, ‘uplifting’, ‘provocative’ and ‘peaceful’ – it is all very much an expression of the Alan we knew.
If Alan set his mind to something, he did it and didn’t give up. In all things, Alan was dedicated and committed to the things he loved.
Alan was also a man of quiet and very personal faith, and his religious beliefs meant something very real and meaningful to him.
Its sometimes a bit of a cliché to talk about whirlwind romances. But Alan and Ellen met and were married within a year. Ellen will remember 11 blissful years of marriage, with lots of love, laughter, creative adventures and travels, and feeling safe and loved in Alan’s arms. Alan said on many occasions that his measure of success in life was nothing to do with money or belongings, but with his marriage and his relationship with Ellen.
Alan and Ellen enjoyed not just a romantic partnership, but also a creative one. They both inspired and encouraged each other to pursue their creative interests. Just one of the many treasured memories for Ellen is her holiday with Alan to Lucca, Italy, on an artists’ retreat. This was a place where they could both unwind, develop their artistic skills, enjoy the countryside, enjoy the wine and the food and celebrate their life together.
Alan was larger than life; passionate about his convictions and his interests; but, most of all his dearest wife, his family, his friends, and his close colleagues, to whom he was fiercely committed and appreciative, and who all benefitted from his being in their lives, even if it wasn’t for as long as they would have preferred. Let us all remember Alan with positive and reaffirming reflections.
If you can …
… please support the Big Kid fundraising exhibition by giving a little, making a donation directly to the Mary Potter Hospice, or by buying one of the works on display at LightSpace gallery, Academy Galleries, 1 Queens Wharf, Wellington, NZ from 9-18 June 2023.