Open Day 2019 was a brilliant success!

On a gloriously sunny day, under the auspices of Wellington Heritage Week, the three Thorndon Arts Residencies – the Lilburn Residence, the Rita Angus Cottage and the Randell Cottage – opened their doors to well over a hundred visitors who enjoyed readings from Randell writers (and writers we consider friends!), music and art.

(Photos: Tim Gruar – unless otherwise stated)

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Thorndon Open Day: art, literature and music

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

Cottage with garden in frontJoin us on Saturday, 2 November for an afternoon celebrating art, music and literature at three Thorndon arts residencies. The Randell Cottage’s doors, along with those of the Lilburn and Angus residences will be open to the public from 1–4pm. Visitors will be treated to readings from New Zealand writers as well as music and the opportunity to spend some time sketching in Rita Angus’s garden.

The three residences are in easy walking distance of each other. There will be birthday cake on offer to celebrate what would have been Douglas Lilburn’s 104th birthday. A simple map will be available to show the route.

The Randell Cottage, a Category II historic place 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 Paddy Richardson who will be joining us to read from her novel-in-progress, ‘The Green of Spring’.

The Lilburn Residence (Category I), where the composer Douglas Lilburn lived and worked, will be open for visitors to explore, with music in the cottage and the garden.

The garden at the Rita Angus Cottage (Category I) will be open to visitors, who are encouraged to stay and sketch the abundant array of flowers and plant life that surround the 1877 cottage where New Zealand artist Rita Angus lived between 1955 and 1970, providing her with much inspiration and subject matter. Thorndon Trustees and volunteer gardeners will be on hand, with drawing material and reproductions of some of Rita’s representations of her Thorndon garden.

• The Randell Cottage (14 St Mary’s Street);
• The Lilburn Residence (22 Ascot Street);
• The former residence of Rita Angus (194A Sydney Street West)

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Applications Invited For Randell Cottage Writers Residency

Applications are now open for the 2020 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writers Fellowship. The fellowship comprises a stipend, currently set at $22,000, and six months’ rent-free accommodation in one of Wellington’s oldest colonial buildings.

The Trust is particularly interested in hearing from mid-career and Māori and Pasifika writers.

Built in Thorndon in 1867, the Cottage has been painstakingly restored and is close to the National Library, the Turnbull Library, and National Archive. It’s provided a peaceful inner-city base for writers from a range of genres: novelists, poets, biographers…

The first New Zealand resident was Peter Wells, in 2002. He’s been followed by Tim Corballis, Michael Harlow, Renée, Beryl Fletcher, Whiti Hereaka, Jennifer Compton, Kirsty Gunn, Pat White, Peter Walker, Vivienne Plumb, Denis Welch, Tina Makereti, Witi Ihimaera, Owen Marshall, Stephanie Johnson, Stephen Daisley, James Norcliffe and Paddy Richardson.

The Randell Cottage Creative NZ Writer in Residence is selected by a Trust-appointed committee to work on an approved project from July to December each year. The deadline for applications is Friday, 1 November 2019. The successful applicant will be announced in December.

Note: The 2020 fellowship is advertised subject to confirmation of funding from CNZ’s Arts Grants programme. Those decisions are expected in early to mid-November

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Dame Fiona Kidman awarded Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction

Randell Cottage writers were strongly represented in the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards: three of our ‘family’ –Tina Makereti, Vincent O’Sullivan and Fiona Kidman – had novels included in the long list for the Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction. Weeks passed, the judges deliberated, three were whittled down to two, and on the night, it was Dame Fiona Kidman who took the crown. This Mortal Boy (Penguin Random House) is a re-examination of the life and execution of the young Irish migrant Paddy Black. Congratulations Fiona!

Fiona Kidman Ockhams 2019

Dame Fiona is pictured here with Harriet Allan of Penguin Random House (centre) and Margo McCool from the Acorn Foundation.

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An evening with Karin Serres

The evening of 27 March may well have been a dark and stormy night but the atmosphere inside the National was warm and welcoming, as current resident Karin Serres gave her audience an insight into her creative process, her information gathering (and magpie tendencies) and her journey from theatre to literature.

Karin’s next event in Wellington will be at the Alliance Française on 9 May. Details to follow.

Photos: Tim Gruar for the Randell Cottage Writers Trust.

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An Evening with Karin Serres

A scenographer by training, the Randell Cottage’s 2019 French resident is Karin Serres whose work traverses many genres – novels, picture books, plays, for stage and radio, and translation.

Join us for an evening of conversation, readings and reflection on the new perspectives that come from writing away from home on Wednesday 27 March at the National Library.



Wednesday, 27 March
5:30pm – 7:30pm
Programme Rooms, Ground Floor
National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets


The evening is a joint project of the Friends of the Randell Cottage, The Randell Cottage Writers Trust and the National Library, with the support of the Embassy of France in New Zealand.

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Peter Wells

Peter Wells
Photo by Liz Marsh

We were deeply saddened this week by the death of Peter Wells, the first writer to live and work in the Randell Cottage as the CNZ fellow. Peter was a filmmaker, a novelist, a biographer, an historian. He was instrumental in the establishment of two literary festivals. He wrote, and lived, with extraordinary elegance, grace, and humanity. His most recent work, “Hello Darkness”, released just last week, is his diary as a Stage IV cancer patient, first published on his Facebook page and then as a series of essays on The Spinoff.

The many moving tributes to Peter as an artist and a friend, such as these from Jeremy Hansen and David Herkt give a sense of his contribution to New Zealand film and letters, and to the lives of LGBTQI New Zealanders.

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“Chevening” apartment block gifted to Heritage New Zealand

In a remarkable yet typical act of generosity, Susan Price, who with her parents Beverley and the late Hugh Price, gifted the Randell Cottage for use as a writer’s residence has now donated “Chevening”, the Kelburn apartment block she recently restored, to Heritage New Zealand.

She discusses her decision to gift the building in this interview with the Dominion Post.

Susan’s history of “Chevening” will be published later this year.

The Price family’s generosity was also acknowledged by Fiona Kidman in the following letter, published in the Dominion Post on 19 February:

Price family’s generosity knows no bounds

I am delighted to see the acknowledgment of Susan Price’s magnificent gift of the Chevening apartment block to Heritage New Zealand (Feb 16).

This is not the only building of historical significance that Susan and her parents, Beverley and the late Hugh Price, have given away.

In 2001, I was one of a group of writing friends looking for a house to create a writers’ residency. Beverley rang me one day and said she had a restored cottage in St Mary St. It had once belonged to her great-grandfather, William Randell. She and her family would love us to have it. If we accepted the gift, she would see their lawyer and pop the keys in my letterbox when she was passing.

That is exactly what happened. The Randell Cottage Writers’ Trust was formed and, for the past 18 years, this charming colonial residence has been home to a New Zealand writer for six months of the year and a French writer for the other six.

Fiona Kidman, Hataitai

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RCWT ‘family’ well represented in Ockham long list

Oh! We don’t envy the judges of this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – but we are delighted to see three members of the Randell Cottage Writers Trust family included in the longlist for best novels. They are Trustee emerita Fiona Kidman for This Mortal Boy (Penguin Random House), Tina Makereti for The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke(Penguin Random House) and Vincent O’Sullivan for All This by Chance(Victoria University Press).

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Karin Serres welcomed as 2019 French Writer in Residence

© Bertrand Couderc

A scenographer by training, Karin Serres, the Randell Cottage’s 2019 French resident is a novelist, a playwright, for stage and radio, and a translator. She writes for general and YA audiences and will be in Wellington till late June. Her Randell project is a sequel to her 2018 novel, Happa no ko le peuple de feuilles (Happa no ko the leaf people).

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