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NZ First in North Shore City - Writers' Studio

NZ First in North Shore City - Michael King Writers' Studio
June 15, 2005

The opening chapter will soon be written at the Michael King Writers' Studio when the first fellow takes up residence in the old signalman's house on Mt Victoria in Devonport.

Author Geoff Chapple will move into what will become the first literary centre in New Zealand next month.

North Shore City mayor, George Wood, says it is wonderful to see the project come to life.

"I've always been supportive of having such a centre in our city, and have done everything we can to make this become a reality," he says.

"Ours is a strong literary history and the centre means we can keep up the tradition of supporting not just local writers, but others from around the country."

Council offered the Michael King Writers' Studio Trust a 10-year renewable lease over the signalman's house for a peppercorn rental.

Author and historian, Michael King, who died last year, had lived and worked on the North Shore. His most recent book, The Penguin History of New Zealand has become the country's fastest and biggest selling book ever, and has sold 180,000 copies so far.

Trust chairperson, author and commentator, Gordon McLauchlan, says the catalyst for the writers' studio was the joint public tribute to Michael King North Shore City council and the Frank Sargeson Trust last year.

"That's when the idea of a memorial like this really took off, but we would never have been able to bring it about without the unflagging support and generosity of the council and the Department of Conservation," he says.

"This facility, situated in the heartland of the publishing industry and in an area which has produced an extraordinary number of literary stars, will have a powerful influence on writing at both a regional and national level. Its position is immediately above Devonport, an arts enclave like none other in the country."

The trust has also received donations from at least a dozen other supporters, including the Becroft Foundation and the Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust.

This will help with furnishing the signalman's house, and renovations needed to turn it into a literary centre. With further fundraising this should begin next year.

"When finished the centre will include accommodation for a writing fellow, a manager, shared areas for small public events and for mentoring new writers. Space will be available to display literary memorabilia, for a library, and accommodation for visiting writers," says Mr McLauchlan.

In fact the first six-month stint at the writers' studio - funded by Creative New Zealand - will be split between two authors.

Geoff Chapple, author of six books of biography and history, including Te Araroa - The New Zealand Trail, will be there for the first three months. He will work on an historical play about one-time Member of Parliament and mayor of Invercargill, Joseph Hatch.

Well-known Dunedin writer Diane Brown, who is the author of two poetry collections, two novels and most recently the travel memoir Liars and Lovers, will take up residence at the studio for the following three months.

She will work on a contemporary novel set in Auckland, which has the working title of Hooked.

The signalman's house on Mt Victoria was built in 1898 and was designed by Edward Bartley, a Devonport resident and councillor. The signalman's job was to advise of ships arriving that bought news and letters from overseas.

A formal opening for the Michael King Writers' Studio will be held in July.


Note to editors:

Michael King Writers' Studio Trust members include Peter Bartlett, Christine Cole Catley, Dinah Holman, Witi Ihimaera, Gordon McLauchlan (chairperson), James Mason, Geoff Walker, Wensley Willcox (treasurer) and Helen Woodhouse (secretary).

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