Michalia Arathimos on Standing Room Only, RNZ

Michalia Arathimos on Standing Room Only, RNZ

Our 2020 New Zealand resident Michalia Arathimos is nearing the end of her stay at Randell Cottage – and we’ll be very sad to see her go.

Last week she spoke to Lynn Freeman of Radio New Zealand’s Standing Room Only about returning to Wellington, life in the cottage and its impact on her project, Cartographia, and her plans for her Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship.

Listen to Michalia talking with Lynn Freeman:

Lynn Davidson selected as 2021 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence

Lynn Davidson selected as 2021 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence

Newly returned to Aotearoa New Zealand after four years teaching and writing in Edinburgh, Lynn Davidson is to be the 2021 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow. Davidson will be using her time at Randell Cottage to write a memoir of her move to Scotland in 2016 and how, when prevented by Covid-19 from returning to New Zealand, she began exploring the life of her great aunt Vida.

A poet and novelist. Davidson’s most recent publication is the poetry collection Islander. She won the Poetry New Zealand Award in 2020, and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Massey University.

Selection panel convener Stephen Stratford says, “We soon got it down to five applications to argue over, then four. And then there were three. A while later, there were two. This was a close-run thing, but Lynn Davidson’s project was, in the end, a unanimous choice. Everyone on the panel saw it is as a valuable contribution to New Zealand history and a project that, given the author’s track record with both poetry and prose, will deliver something special. The mix of poetry and prose in the sample provided was a strength too.”

Davidson says she is delighted to be the 2021 resident and is looking forward to living and working in Randell Cottage.

“After four years in Edinburgh, and towards the end of this strange and difficult year, I decided to return to New Zealand. I was just days out of managed isolation and back in my beloved Wellington when I had the call to say I would be the 2021 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow. It feels remarkable to be supported in this way, at this moment, as I write about my family’s migrations between Scotland and New Zealand, and about my own migrations between Scotland and New Zealand. My particular interest is in uncovering the story of my great aunt, Vida, which I began in my flat in the eerie quiet of an empty Edinburgh City, and will continue to explore in the supportive quiet of the Randell Cottage. “

The Randell Cottage Writers Trust was established in 2001. The restored Category II historic building, gifted to the Trust by the Randell-Price family, hosts two writers a year: one from New Zealand and the other from France.

It is currently home to Michalia Arathimos. The 2021 French resident, writer Caroline Laurent is scheduled to arrive in Wellington in July.

Caroline Laurent is the Randell Cottage French resident, 2021

Caroline Laurent is the Randell Cottage French resident, 2021

Caroline Laurent profile photo
Caroline Laurent

Caroline Laurent will join the Randell Cottage writer residency programme as the 2021 French artist in residence.

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 And suddenly, Freedom, 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, The Shores of Anger (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.

1 Nov – Thorndon Open Day: Literature, Music & Art

1 Nov – Thorndon Open Day: Literature, Music & Art

Combined Open Days at Randell Cottage, Lilburn House and the Rita Angus Cottage – the homes of New Zealand writers, composers, and artists.

hand-drawn map
Heritage Week map of Thorndon

Join us on Sunday 1 November for an afternoon celebrating art, music and literature at three historic Thorndon creative residencies. Randell Cottage, Lilburn House and Rita Angus Cottage will be open to the public from 1 to 4pm.

Visitors can enjoy refreshments and readings from Randell Cottage writers, music at Lilburn with birthday cake to celebrate what would have been Douglas Lilburn’s 105th birthday, and the opportunity to explore or sketch in the lovely Rita Angus Cottage garden.

These three heritage properties are in easy walking distance of each other in Thorndon.

Randell Cottage (Heritage Category II), built in 1867 as the family home of William and Sarah Randell and their ten children, is now a writer’s residence for New Zealand and French writers. The current resident is Michalia Arathimos, who will be present to read from her novel-in-progress, Cartographia, described as an exploration of place, migration and identity through the eyes of a New Zealand woman of Greek descent.

Lilburn House (heritage Category I), where composer Douglas Lilburn lived and worked, is now a residence for New Zealand composers. There will be music at 2 and 3 pm.

The Rita Angus Cottage (Heritage Category I) was home to the celebrated New Zealand artist between 1955 and 1970. The abundant flowers and plant life surrounding the 1877 cottage inspired much of Rita Angus’ work. Thorndon Trustees and volunteer gardeners will be on hand with drawing materials and reproductions of some of Rita’s representations of her garden.

Koha would be appreciated at each of the residences. We look forward to welcoming you.

Download a map of the houses

A part of Wellington Heritage Week, 26 Oct–1 Nov, 2020.

Save the Date! Annual Open Day Sunday 1 November 2020

Save the Date! Annual Open Day Sunday 1 November 2020

Wellington Heritage Week logoOnce again, the Randell Cottage and garden will be open to visitors for a once-a-year opportunity on Sunday 1 November as part of the annual Wellington Heritage Week.

We will join forces with our fellow Thorndon creative residencies, Lilburn and Rita Angus trusts.

Watch this site for details of our programme of readings and refreshments.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Michalia Arathimos arrives at the cottage

Michalia Arathimos arrives at the cottage

In late June, we were delighted to be able to welcome our 2020 resident Michalia Arathimos, her partner and two young children to Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. We asked her to share some early impressions of living and working in Randell Cottage.

Michalia Arathimos

The novel I am working on at Randell Cottage is called Cartographia. Central to this story are the notions of leaving and returning, of flight and of landing. Central also to this work is an awareness of the fragility of the idea of ‘home’: how the idea of home may be carried within oneself, or made up in the first place, or imposed upon landscapes over other peoples’ ideas of home. Ξενιτιά, or xenitia, is a feeling common in the Greek diaspora, a feeling of being in exile, or of longing for ‘home’. But the real meaning of xenitia is untranslatable. It’s can be a longing for a home that no longer exists, or which perhaps never existed in the first place.

I arrived back in my hometown of Wellington from Australia on the other side of considerably more strife than I had counted on experiencing. Due to leave in July with our whānau to take up this residency, we made the decision to come home early. Details of our journey may be found here (On kindness, on ignoranceessay). When we moved into Randell Cottage it was with a great sense of gratitude and homecoming. But I could not have guessed how the backdrop of the cottage and its history would work their way into Cartographia.

Randell Cottage history is preserved in the walls. In several rooms in the house glass has been installed over past layers of wallpaper and framed, so you can trace the layers back to the original wood. A small museum encases marbles, pudding dollies, and a homemade top, which would have been the original Randell childrens’ toys. My children study these with fascination, and my four year old tells me over and over: ‘They had ten children here!’ The attitude of the Trust and conservators is one of gentle but not fussy preservation. Cartographia is about peeling back the layers of a place and a history and exposing what is underneath. I am beginning to think of the project as a piece of glass, which this place is helping me to polish.

This week I walked through the Bolton Street Cemetery for the first time. A Trust member had told me that William Randell and other family members were buried there. I was hurrying and it began to rain, and it seemed the Randells inhabited a modest grave, and no directions were apparent. The graveyard was large. It began to pour. I tried to cut through the bush down onto Tinakori road, but all the paths led nowhere. Lost, and quite soaked, I found myself in an obscure area of the graveyard, trying to find my way back to the main route, when I stumbled right on them: the Randells.

I told them we loved the house that William built with his own hands. Soaked and ridiculous, I congratulated them on raising kids who had kids who would be patrons of the arts. As a child of migrants I feel an odd affinity for this family, who turned up on the shores of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, traveling, as we did, through Melbourne in Victoria. These Randells arrived on the shore in the wake of a massive earthquake, which had caused a refugee encampment on the beach. We arrived in the midst of a global pandemic.

There would seem to be no better place to interrogate the notion of ‘home’ than right here, in the Cottage, in the spirit of creative excavation.

Michalia Arathimos selected as 2020 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence

Michalia Arathimos selected as 2020 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence

Michalia Arathimos

Melbourne-based but Wellington-born, writer, reviewer and editor Michalia Arathimos will be returning to her home city next year as the 2020 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow. Arathimos will be using her time at the Randell Cottage to work on her second novel, Cartographia, which she describes as an exploration of place, migration and identity, through the eyes of a woman of Greek descent.

Arathimos has published work in many places, including The Lifted BrowOverland MagazineLandfallSport and Headland. She was twice short-listed for Australia’s Overland VU Short Story Prize and won 2016’s New Zealand Sunday Times Short Story Prize. Her first novel Aukati was published in 2017 by Wellington’s Mākaro Press. Arathimos holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s IIML and is currently fiction reviewer for the Melbourne-based Overland Magazine.

Selection panel convener Stephen Stratford says “It was a mast year for applications for this valuable fellowship – in quality and quantity – but Michalia’s application stood out and was the panel’s unanimous choice. Her writing sample sang and the residential aspect of the fellowship will clearly be of benefit to a project which draws from Michalia’s own experience growing up in Wellington’s Greek community.”

Arathimos says she is delighted to be the 2020 resident and is looking forward to her six months in the capital.

“Wellington, with its hills and fault lines and glittering sea, is like a perfect espresso cup of culture and energy. It’s also home to a lot of quiet minorities, like the Greek community I come from, who carry stories that might be less well known than others. I can’t wait to return.”

Three Days on Somes Island

Three Days on Somes Island

2019 New Zealand writer in residence Paddy Richardson has been using her time in the capital to visit Matiu Somes Island, the major setting of her novel in progress, The Green of the Spring.

She’s made several day trips but in November, along with her husband Jim Mackay, stayed for three nights, and says the Randell Cottage residency, “has been invaluable in the opportunities for research and visiting the island.”

Paddy’s writing achieves an extraordinary sense of time and place. Her book Swimming in the Dark transports the reader to Central Otago, with resonances from post-war Germany under the Stasi. Cross Fingers is a crime story that takes us inside the world of the 1981 Springbok Tour protesters. And her latest novel Through the Lonesome Dark set in the West Coast town of Blackball, brings small-town relationships to vivid life, just as it recreates the horrors of trench warfare and the fears of miners drilling under Arras in WW1 France.

Now we wait to – through Paddy’s imagination and research – the harsh internment camp established in the same era on Somes Island in the isolation of Wellington Harbour, through the eyes of Otto Bader, a young mining activist of German heritage. The new book is close to being finished and should be published in 2020.

Paddy says the water was rough and cold for the journey across to Somes. She was especially struck by the wind: “It was incredibly powerful – and the sound of it. It reminded me that there was a rule that the men were not able to remain inside their barracks during the day – imagine being constantly out in those conditions. The prisoners built their own shelter huts as a result. And the men had to carry their water up from the jetty every day – gallons of it – buckets carried on a yoke across their shoulders. Imagine battling against the wind carrying that kind of burden.”

On returning to her base at Randell Cottage, only a short distance from the harbourside, Paddy reflected on the nearness of Somes to Wellington: “It must have been a constant torment, the city was close and yet they were so isolated.”

Paddy has shared a tantalising extract from The Green of the Spring in which Otto makes his own journey to the island:

When we had come up on deck, I’d been able to see Somes in the distance as a rising shape near to the horizon but now we were approaching it I could make out a long shore with craggy, low rocks to one side and a high rounded rise at the centre. It appeared smaller than I had envisaged, though I imagined it would spread further on the other side of the island that we could not see. Apart from a small group of figures I could make out on the wharf, there seemed no sign of life. I’d heard there were over a hundred men incarcerated there, as well as the overseeing military. I wondered how all who lived there could be accommodated in such a small place. The pleasure I had initially taken in the enclosure of sea, harbour and hills changed to a mild sense of panic. A hundred or so men sealed off on a small island? How would we pass our time?

Paddy enjoys the freedom of a swim off Somes Island.