Newsletter from the Friends – July 2023


Kia Ora. Manaakitanga mo Matariki. Blessings for this year’s Matariki, which has just begun. At this time we look back on the year, celebrate and honour those who have gone before us and clear our minds and plant our seeds of hope for the year ahead. So, it is fitting that we honour those writers and Randell Cottage members who have returned to the sky and light the sky as stars for eternity: Trustee and author Stephen Stratford, and former residents Beryl Fletcher (2006), Annie Saumont (2006), Nadine Ribault (2002), Peter Wells (2002).

We remember our 20th Anniversary and Blue Plaque celebrations (covered in our last newsletter) and remind you, if you haven’t already, to check out Room To Write which was specially commissioned for the event (see more on this below).

Last year two of our recent CNZ Randell Cottage writers-in-residence received Prime Minister’s Awards for Literature. Stephanie Johnson (2016) received the prize for fiction and James Norcliffe (2018) received the prize for poetry. We also celebrated a past resident, Whiti Hereaka (2007), who won the 2022 Ockham Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction.

Les Amis ont accueilli la nouvelle ambassadrice de France, Son Excellence Mme Laurence Beau, marraine du Randell Cottage Writers Trust, arrivée à Aotearoa en septembre dernier.

2018 resident James Norcliffe has agreed to become a member of the Trust and joins the selection panel for future Creative New Zealand writers-in-residence at Randell Cottage.

We have also welcomed three new Trustees in 2023 – Melissa Wastney, Navlene Singh and Melissa Ludlow. Read more about them here.


I am delighted to have taken up chairing the Friends of the Randell Cottage Writers Trust. We said farewell to Leslie Brown who has guided us through recent years, and at the same time said goodbye to Siân Robyns, after nine years of grand service to both the Friends and the Randell Cottage Writers Trust. We will miss them greatly.

I have been associated with the Randell Cottage since its inception more than twenty years ago, when a group of writers accepted the incredibly generous gift of the Cottage from the Randell/Price family. And now it’s my job to steer the Friends through the next year or so, as we continue to seek funds for the ongoing maintenance of our much-loved Cottage and furthering a comfortable environment for our writers from both Aotearoa/New Zealand and France. Your support means so much. Fundraising can be hard work and requires dedication from our team. We love doing it but knowing that we have constant supporters like you does make everything just that much easier when the going gets tough.

Twenty years and forty residents have taken a toll on kitchen whiteware. We are currently fundraising for a new stove, range hood and dishwasher.  Should you have any ideas that would help, or contributions, please let us know and we will let you know how to make a donation.

Contact either me or our secretary Robyn Skrzyńska. Our contact details are or

A big thank you to all of you. I look forward to seeing you at various events over the coming year.

Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE
Chair, Friends of Randell Cottage Writers Trust

Rachel O’Neill. Photo by Tim Gruar


At this year’s AGM we said a heartfelt thank you to Siân Robyns who has dedicated 9 years to the Cottage, as President of the Friends, and a member on the Trust Board, and has been essential to building relationships with Creative New Zealand and writing the annual bids for funding. She has also hosted many writers’ conversations with our residents, helped organise public events, Open Days, and contributed so much more to the success of our little whare over the years.  

We also bid farewell to recent Friends’ President Leslie Brown, who stepped down from his role after three years to take up a Scholarship at St John’s Theological College. He was replaced by Dame Fiona Kidman, who was voted President at the meeting. 

The other officers returned this year to the Friends Committee are:

Robyn Skrzyńska – Secretary

Jie Fang – Treasurer

Christine Hurley (Trust Representative), Pip Murdoch, Tim Gruar, Susan Stevens, and Redmer Yska

The Friends’ Committee has already met to discuss future plans and we are making good progress. That includes the upcoming OPEN DAY (see below); a return visit to Te Papa to view items from the Cottage in their collection; upcoming writer’s evenings; and new fundraising initiatives to replace and upgrade whiteware in the kitchen and making videos of NZ Fellows in the Cottage. Sustainability Trust Wellington has visited and written an assessment of the needs of the Cottage.

Following the meeting we also welcomed new resident writer Rachel O’Neill who engaged in a conversation with Siân Robyns about their project whilst at the Cottage. You can read their own summary of that presentation here.


The Trust’s 2022 Annual Report with updates on recent and past writers in residence is available on the website, along with the audited financials. Click here to read it. 

Sedef Ecer (Photo: Tim Gruar)


Our much-delayed 2021 French writer, Caroline Laurent, will be returning to the Cottage in early November. She succeeds the 2023 French writer, Sedef Ecer, who left us in April.

Currently, the 2023 New Zealand writer is Rachel O’Neill is in residence (see more below).

Caroline Laurent (Photo: Tim Gruar)
About Caroline Laurent

Born in 1988 and of French-Mauritian origins, Caroline grew up between French Polynesia, Bordeaux, Italy and Paris, where she currently resides. She still travels regularly to Mauritius to visit her maternal family.  Caroline is a graduate of modern French literature and has been an editor for the past 12 years (JC Lattès, Les Escales, Stock). Her areas of interest include contemporary literature and non-fiction.

Following the success of ‘Et soudain, la liberté’, co-written with Evelyne Pisier (80,000 copies sold, and awarded Prix Marguerite Duras and Grand Prix des Lycéennes ELLE 2018), in 2020 she released her second novel, Rivages de la colère (Prix Maison de la Presse 2020) in which she pursues her exploration of the colonial world and the lives of prominent women who have shaped history.

Her feminist convictions and commitment to fighting for what she believes in, led her to establish an opinion column against sexual violence in the publishing industry, bringing together 50 literary figures.  French Embassy Website

Rachel O’Neill (Photo: Tim Gruar)

About Rachel O’Neill

Rachel O’Neill is a writer, filmmaker and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Kāpiti Coast. Their debut book ‘One Human in Height’ (Hue & Cry Press, 2013) was followed by ‘Requiem for a Fruit’ (We Are Babies Press, 2021).

They have participated in the 2017 Aotearoa Short Film Lab, received a SEED Grant for feature film development and ran an Emerging Writers Residency at the Michael King Writers Centre.

Some of their writing appeared in Sweet MammalianStasis JournalŌrongohau | Best New Zealand Poems 2019 and ‘Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa.

Speaking about their time at the Cottage so far, Rachel says:

“It has been a busy and productive time for me at the cottage and I have enjoyed taking advantage of the abundance of sunny winter days to continue my sound-foraging walks in and around the city, too.

Recently I have been inspired on two fronts—by a sculpture in the Botanic Gardens called ‘Body to Soul’ by Mary-Louise Browne, and by Japanese composer Torū Takemitsu, especially the application of tonal ‘shape’, repetition, inversion, and horizontal and vertical note play in his scores. I have begun work on a new lyric poem sequence that begins with an interaction with Browne’s sculpture by a ‘little white…’ figure. Various synonyms for the figure (breath, moon, cloud etc) are introduced as the sequence progresses and a range of scenarios that might exist on a ‘body to soul’ continuum are explored. The sequence aims to visually and textually convey a sense of motion and music on the page.

On Friday evening it was wonderful to read new prose poems written at the Randell Cottage for the launch celebration of Pip Adam’s amazing new novel ‘Audition’ alongside fellow writers Aidan Rasmussen, Charlotte Forrester, Emma Hislop and Sinead Overbye.  One of my new prose poems titled ‘The new lives of my children’ will be published by Paula Green on NZ Poetry Shelf on August 14th.

Each week I record sounds around the city, and I had a particularly fun session collecting percussive sounds from a rusting metal buoy in Whairepo Lagoon. I plan to share samples of the hybrid poetry/sound design works I’m developing on my website later in the residency.”

Ngā mihi nui,




Friends’ Committee member and KM expert Redmer Yska recently launched a new book on her time in Europe.  He describes it as “part homage, part pursuit: an attempt to pick up and follow her footsteps through the tobacco-stained cafés, brasseries, fish markets, hotel lobbies, cake shops, slimy quaysides, train tracks and public gardens she once frequented. Between 2017 and 2019, I set out on her rail trails into Germany, France and Switzerland, absorbing and recording what I saw out the carriage window, mostly using her letters and diaries as my maps.”

Redmer’s story is more than just a simple pilgrimage, as he talks about the dedicated souls he meets along the way: “I discovered that a company of European ‘foot soldiers’ is ensuring she’s not forgotten. The little-known world of these patient historians, literary sleuths and shameless admirers shaped my understanding of the imprint she left on their respective territories, and how they formally (and informally) commemorate her.”

“Notable among these individuals,” he continues, “is my friend Bernard Bosque of Fontainebleau/ Avon in France, who tends the cement box of flowers at the end of Katherine’s tomb, arranges her annual graveside birthday commemorations, and has devoted scholarly years to tracking her movements across France and Switzerland.”

Read Tim Gruar’s review at the Groove Book Report 



Perth-based writer Stephen Daisley, winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for ‘Traitor’ and the NZ Ockham Prize for ‘Coming Rain’, worked on two projects while at the Cottage. One was an historical novel set in 18th-century Scotland, after the Battle of Culloden.  The second was to be, in his own words, “a picaresque tale of a return home – from the mines of Australia to a New Zealand farm, and a meditation on the various forms love assumes in our lives”.

That project has finally come to fruition and just released by Text Publishing.  ‘And A Better Place’ is new novel about brothers at war. Beautifully written, brutal, tender and visceral, it’s a book about love in its many forms.

His publisher has put out a brief teaser:  

“The old people in the district would often say that Roy was not quite the same after he came back. There was a brother. A twin brother, Tony. Tony Mitchell, different boy but a good rugby player. Bit of a mental case, they said, but Roy would have none of it. He always stayed close to Tony when they were growing up. They both went off to fight, must have been 1940. Only the one comes back, though.  Crete, they thought. We lost Tony over there.”

For more go to Text’s website.


And more book news.  We also celebrate the newly launched publication of ‘We Need To Talk About Norman: New Zealand’s Lost Leader’ by journalist, editor and biographer, Denis Welch, who was our writer-in-residence in 2013 (A recent interview on RNZ can be heard here). 

The book traces the impact and lost potential of Prime Minister Norman Kirk’s brief time in office in 1970s New Zealand.  You can read more about this on the Randell Cottage Website.


Previous resident James Norcliffe released his eleventh poetry collection, ‘Letter to ‘Oumuamua’, in February, this year, following his recent receipt of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. 

In this wry and witty collection – addressed to the first interstellar object ever to be detected in our solar system – Norcliffe applies a cool, clear eye to human life on ‘Earth’. Our foibles and absurdities are laid bare, but so too is the human capacity for love, desire, sorrow and regret. 


Book cover with an illustration of a red-roofed cottage sitting in green hills. There is a bird flying above the cottageTHERE IS STILL ‘ROOM TO WRITE’

The Trust’s publication marking 20 years of Randell Cottage writers, Room to Write, is now available. The book was edited by Linda Burgess and Maggie Rainey-Smith, with translation by Jean Anderson and Myreille Pawliez. Since 2002, 40 writers from France and Aotearoa New Zealand have made Randell Cottage their home while they wrote.

To celebrate, the Trust with the support of the Embassy of France and Wellington NZ has commissioned the book asking the writers for contributions that spring from the idea of ‘looking back’.  All the work is presented in English and French, with introductory essays by Dame Fiona Kidman and Beverley Randell Price.

Copies are available from all good bookstores and online providers including Good BooksAotearoa Books, and Unity Books.



Your committee is working hard to organise this year’s Open Day at the Cottage.  Mark in your diaries the 28th of October from 1.00PM. Please note that this year it will be a Saturday – differs from the usual Sundays. As usual it will be part of Wellington Heritage Week.  


Also pencil in an evening at the National Library featuring Rachel O’Neill and Caroline Laurent.  Stay tuned – more to come on this.


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