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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Paddy Richardson Selected as 2019 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence

Photo of Paddy Richardson

Photo credit: Caroline Davies

Dunedin-based writer Paddy Richardson is to be the 2019 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow. Richardson has published seven novels and two short story collections. Her Randell project, The Green of Spring is the sequel to her 2017 novel Through the Lonesome Dark. Set in WWI New Zealand, it tells the story of young mining activist Otto Bader who is arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ and incarcerated on Somes Island along with others of Austrian and German origins.

Selection panel convener Stephen Stratford says “Many of us wanted to know what happened next for the characters in Through the Lonesome Dark, longlisted for the 2019 Dublin Literary Award, which is right up there with the Booker. For the sequel, Paddy will be able to research the Turnbull Library’s holding of letters and diaries of Somes Island inmates. A perfect synchronicity of project and residency.”

Richardson says she is delighted to be the 2019 resident and is looking forward to her six months in the capital.

The Randell Cottage Writers Trust was established in 2002.  The restored Category II historic building, gifted to the Trust by the Price family, hosts two writers a year; one from New Zealand and the other from France. It is currently home to Christchurch writer James Norcliffe. The 2019 French resident, novelist and dramatist Karin Serres arrives in Wellington in late January 2019.

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James Norcliffe at the National Library, 6 December 2018

We finish the year with a presentation from our current resident, James Norcliffe, at the National Library on Thursday 6 December, from 12:10 to 1:00 pm.

James wears a number of writing hats. He is a children’s writer, poet, editor, teacher of creative writing and promoter of poetry in Christchurch. Apart from a collection of short stories set in China, The Chinese Interpreter, and a few other short stories, he has rarely written fiction for adults. Hie time in the Randell Cottage has given him the opportunity to write a novel for grown ups.

His wide-ranging talk will include readings from recent published work and background on how the pieces came about and then – braving the superstition regarding talk of work in progress – he will discuss The Frog Prince, his current Randell Cottage project.

Time: 12:10 to 1:00pm
Date: 6 December
Venue: Programme Rooms, National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Street.

Admission: free, although koha is appreciated as a contribution to the maintenance of the historic Randell Cottage.

RSVP: info@randellcottage.co.nz

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Notice of Annual General Meeting

You are invited to the Annual General Meeting of Friends of the Randell Cottage Writers’ Trust to be held on:

Tuesday, 20 November 2018, 6.00 pm in the Gallery, Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street, Wellington.

Please RSVP to info@randellcottage.co.nz or call Robyn on 04 4764823 evenings by 15 November.

AGENDA:

  1. Welcome
  2. Apologies
  3. Quorum: 10 people
  4. Receive and approve the Minutes of the 25 October 2017, Annual General Meeting of Friends of the Randell Cottage Writers’ Trust
  5. Matters arising from the Minutes
  6. Receive and consider the Annual Report from the FRC Committee Chair
  7. Receive and consider the Annual Financial Statements from the Treasurer
  8. Receive and consider the following recommendation from the Committee of the annual subscriptions for the year (2018/19): that subscriptions for 2018/19 remain at $15.00 for seniors/students, $30.00 for individuals and families and $60.00 for businesses as set at the 2016 AGM.
  9. The election of the Officers of the Society:
    President: The Chair of the FRC Committee, Sian Robyns, has expressed her willingness to be nominated as President again
    Treasurer: Tracey Schuyt has expressed her willingness to be nominated as Treasurer
    Secretary: Robyn Skrzynska has expressed her willingness to be nominated as Secretary again
  10. The election of the three Ordinary Members of the Executive Committee:
    In accordance with the Rules:
    Tim Gruar and Leslie Brown have expressed willingness to be nominated as ordinary members of the Committee.
    There is room for the nomination of at least one ordinary member to the committee.
    Note: Any other nominations for President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Committee, with details of seconders (if any) and evidence of the willingness of the nominee
    to serve should be emailed to the Secretary at info@randellcottage.co.nz in advance of the meeting.
  11. Any other business.

The business part of the meeting will be followed by a speaker. Details to come.

Light snacks will be served.

 

Please RSVP to info@randellcottage.co.nz or call Robyn on 04 4764823 evenings by 15 November.

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Former residents honoured for lifetime contribution to New Zealand literature

Feminist and working-class stories, poetry as song, and a deeper understanding of New Zealand art – these are just some of the frontiers explored by this year’s winners of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.

They are beloved Māori dramatist and fiction writer Renée, revered critic, curator and poet Wystan Curnow and admired poet, publisher and librettist Michael Harlow.

Wystan Curnow, Michael Harlow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Renée, Monday 15 October, 2018

Wystan Curnow, Michael Harlow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Renée,
Monday 15 October, 2018

Each has been awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. Renée will be honoured for fiction, Wystan Curnow for non-fiction, and Michael Harlow for poetry.

“Our warmest congratulations to Renée, Wystan and Michael,” says Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan.

“Each of these extraordinary storytellers has a unique perspective on New Zealand identity, and has significantly contributed to our country’s literary landscape, creating a strong legacy for New Zealand writers.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington on Monday 15 October.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.

Nominations are assessed by an external expert panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval. This year’s selection panel was Jill Rawnsley, John Huria and Murray Edmond, chaired by Lauren Hughes.

full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.

(Image: Creative New Zealand)

 

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Applications for 2019 CNZ RCWT Writers Fellowship now open

Applications are now open for the 2019 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writers Fellowship. The deadline for applications is Friday, 2 November 2018.

More information about the residency can be found here.

The successful applicant will be announced in December.

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Applications for 2019 Writers Fellowship open

Applications for 2019 CNZ RCWT Writers Fellowship now open

Applications are now open for the 2019 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writers Fellowship. The deadline for applications is Friday, 2 November 2018.

More information about the residency can be found here.

Applications for the 2018 fellowship will be accepted from 1 September 2018 to 3 November 2018.

The successful applicant will be announced in December.

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At home in the Randell Cottage, James Norcliffe

Photo of James Norcliffe

Photo supplied by VUP

By James Norcliffe, 2018 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow

New Zealand writers are not really spoilt for choice when it comes to fellowships and residencies. There are a number of well-established and well-endowed residences, usually associated with universities and a couple of prestigious overseas possibilities – the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in the South of France and the Berlin Writer’s Residency.

One of the most singular and attractive residencies, however, must be that run by the Randell Cottage Writers Trust in Thorndon, Wellington. The fellow is offered six months in a charming cottage in St Mary Street off Tinakori Road to work on a given project. There is a stipend and the cottage is rent-free.

The Trust itself was formed in 2001 and the cottage opened its doors to writers in 2002, the inaugural writer being Peter Wells. Before me, there have been 33 writers to date and I am utterly delighted to be the 34th.

Many things make this a distinctive residency. Perhaps the most obvious is the French connection. For one half of the year the W.I.R. is a French writer, and a New Zealand writer has the other half. The funding reflects this: a partnership supported by CNZ, the New Zealand France Friendship Fund and the Embassy of France and added support coming from the Wellington City Council and the Friends of the Randell Cottage.

Then there is the cottage itself. It is a rare experience to spend your days and nights in a beautifully restored work of history. The house dates from 1867 and there is a plaque on the outside wall to verify this. It was originally built and owned by the Randell family who raised ten children here. The current house has larger dimensions than the original built by William and Sarah Randell, as in 1875 an extra two rooms were added to the south side to accommodate the growing family. Apart from a lean-to beside the kitchen the dimensions have remained the same ever since, although the disposition of a couple of the rooms has changed with the front bedroom (three girls) becoming a living room (and a most comfortable writing room) and smaller side bedroom (boys) becoming the bathroom. Originally, the bathroom, lavatory and washhouse were in an outhouse separate from the cottage.

According to great-granddaughter Beverley Randell’s history of the cottage and the family, A Crowded Thorndon Cottage, the Randell’s had seven children when they moved in, including baby Richard, and three daughters afterwards. I find the cottage remarkably spacious, but then I would. In the 1870’s twelve people lived here!

In the early 1990’s, Beverley Randell, her husband the publisher Hugh Price of Price Milburn and their daughter Susan Price, repurchased the cottage and had it lovingly restored to as close to the original as modern convenience allowed. They gifted the cottage to the Trust to allow for the residency.

Trust member Sian Robyns told me how the Price family went to great pains to decorate and furnish the cottage appropriately. She said they scoured the lower North Island to find pieces of furniture, fittings, even hunting down appropriate wood for repairs to moulding and flooring.

The results of these efforts are lovely. When you can stand in the large kitchen and look to your left, you are transported back a hundred and fifty years. A Victorian glass panelled door with a round polished wood door handle opens into the lean-to. Beside it stands a sideboard bearing willow-pattern china – milk jugs, sauce jugs, cups, saucers, plates and bowls, and beside the sideboard a neatly blackened Shacklock Orion coal range with an iron frying pan, a couple of flat irons, an iron saucepan and an iron kettle. The walls are covered in replica Victorian wallpaper: very floral, very busy and very pretty.

If you turn to your right, though, you will see a refrigerator, a stainless steel bench top and sink, an automatic dishwasher and an electric range.

This is the pattern of the cottage. Loving Victorian detail: polished kauri and rimu woodwork, cane furniture, wing chairs, fumed oak dining chairs, Turkish style rugs on wooden floors, and prints of colonial Wellington on the wallpapered walls. All of this in the midst of heat pump and broadband, microwave and HP Office Jet Pro.

My bedroom is a case in point: a magnificent iron bedstead with brass knobs (I always longed for brass knobs) with, not one, but two Victorian-style quilted counterpanes (there is another on the single bed in the spare bedroom), but also an electric blanket of toasty efficiency.

All of this makes for very comfortable living. As it happens I am writing a novel with a dual narrative – one storyline set in the nineteenth century, the second contemporary. It has just occurred to me how wonderfully appropriate it is to be living in the Randell Cottage while beavering away at this. Such serendipity.

The final advantage of the cottage is its locale. The narrow valley down which Tinakori Road runs is not recommended for its sun and, although the cottage is sunnier than I expected, St Mary Street is steep and on the ‘wrong’ side of the road for sun. Despite this, the immediate neighbourhood makes for very pleasant living. Directly opposite are the Wellington Botanic Gardens with their walks and natural delights. Up behind, the rather more strenuous walks of the Te Ahumairangi Hill will take you in all directions, mostly including up. I made it to the lookout after a morning of heavy rain, and – when my shoes dry out – will try it again. It is a short walk to the city itself and not too far to the supermarket. Jacinda, Clarke and Neve Te Aroha are close neighbours although I’ve yet to drop in. Tinakori village seems mainly to comprise eateries and antique shops, so ideal if you develop a taste for food or for Victorian living.

I have a writer’s superstition about waxing on about work in progress. Suffice it to say, from my point of view it’s going splendidly. How could it not? The Randell Cottage is a perfect writing environment, peaceful and quiet with wrap around comfort, utterly charming setting and supported by a team of very helpful, friendly trustees. I feel very fortunate and very grateful.

(This essay was originally published, in a slightly abridged form, in the September issue of The Author, the journal of the New Zealand Society of Authors. We are grateful to NZSA and to James for allowing us to share it here.)

 

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