News 2016

Annual Report March 2015 to February 2016

05 July 2016

Annual Report

Michael King Writers’ Studio Trust

For the Year March 2015 to February 2016

Catriona Ferguson, Chair

I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce another annual report from the Michael King Writers’ Centre. It is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the work of the writers who have spent time at the centre, boast a little about our programmes for younger writers, remember some of the wonderful events we have been part of and acknowledge all of the people who help to make this happen.

Writers’ residencies

  •  Four writers held supported residencies over the period of this report. In 2015: Autumn Resident Roger Horrocks, Maori Resident Mere Whaanga and the University of Auckland Resident was Rochelle Bright. The 2016 summer resident was Hannah August.
  • 69 writers applied for the opportunity to hold a residency at the centre in 2016. The other three residents for this calendar year are/were: Elspeth Sandys (Autumn Resident), Briar Grace-Smith (Maori Resident) and Vivienne Plumb (University of Auckland Resident.
  • 38 writers have held supported residencies at the centre since it began in 2005 to February 2016, including two from China.

We now have a very impressive list of alumni, and a growing list of important work that has been written during residencies at the centre. In 2015 University of Auckland resident Rochelle Bright added to this when she completed a libretto during her residency. Rochelle is currently fund-raising to take her previous work Daffodils to the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Amongst the finalists for the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards were three former MKWC residents. Rachel Barrowman shortlisted in the General Non-Fiction category for Maurice Gee: Life and Work was a resident in 2010 while she researched this work.  David Eggleton, poetry finalist for The Conch Trumpet was a resident in 2009 and Roger Horrocks, poetry finalist for Song of the Ghost in the Machine was the Autumn Resident in 2015.

We continue to spread our wings internationally through a partnership with the NZ China Friendship Society, the Shanghai Writers’ Association and the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries which enables us to support a Chinese/New Zealand residential exchange. In 2013, Huo Yan from Beijing became the first Rewi Alley Fellow, with an eight week residency at the centre. In 2014 novelist Alison Wong was selected to take part in the Shanghai International Writing Program in September and October. Last year Xiao Bai, a writer from Shanghai spent two months at the MKWC.   We have signed a MOU with our partners to continue the exchange in 2016 and 2017. Auckland poet Heidi North-Bailey has been selected to join the Shanghai Writing Program later this year.

Visiting writers

We are delighted that our second bedroom continues to be in demand from writers seeking a quiet space to write and think. The rent that these writers pay generates a small amount of income which contributes to the operating costs of the centre. During this period we received a 17% increase in this income stream.

14 visiting writers stayed in the room during 2015, plus the Rewi Alley resident during September and October. They came from around the country and from Sweden, Canada, Ireland and Australia. The writers stayed for periods from one to five weeks with three visitors staying on two or more occasions.  Reservations are almost full until the end of 2016.

 Residential workshop

We have held seven annual residential workshops at Vaughan Park in Long Bay, usually at Labour Weekend. Last year’s workshop was called Writing War and attracted 14 paying attendees and 16 presenters and panellists.

The programme worked well as we had a top lineup of speakers who gave their time very generously. We’d like to note the huge contribution by Devonport author and MKWC supporter David Veart, who single-handedly carried a large part of the programme. Several others also helped to support the weekend and particular thanks are due to Liz Allen, MKWC Trustee.

Other presenters included Patricia Grace, Puawai Cairns, Christopher Pugsley, Gavin McLean, Jennifer Haworth, Sandra Coney, Maire Leadbetter and Damien Fenton.

The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. The residential workshops provide peer support and inspiration to mid-career writers and are designed to focus on specific aspects of non-fiction.  Our eighth workshop is entitled Writing New Zealand: People, Politics, Place. It will be held at Labour weekend and we are pleased to have confirmed prominent writers Fiona Farrell and Albert Wendt as key note speakers.

The workshop is funded by Foundation North and we are grateful for their ongoing support.

Young Writers Programme

Each year up to 130 Year 11 to 13 students from all over the Auckland region take part. There are no fees for students. These workshops for aspiring young writers grew out of a series on the North Shore in 2008.  From these small beginnings, our work with young people has developed into a programme offered to secondary schools across the Auckland region, from Dargaville through to South Auckland.

The programme is funded by Creative New Zealand, the Auckland Council Regional Arts and Culture Programme and the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust.

Three one-day workshops and three master classes with leading writers were held in 2015. Two experienced tutors Ros Ali and Jo Emeney co-ordinate the programme. Guest writers included Charlotte Grimshaw, Paula Morris, Anna Smaill, Ian Wedde, Robert Sullivan, Tusiata Avia, Virginia Larson, Toby Manhire and Tim Wilson.

The fourth issue of Signals, the literary journal for young writers, was published in December (700 print run), launched at the National Library in Auckland and distributed free to students, schools and teachers for the start of the first term in 2016.

The Christine Cole Catley Writing Awards in Poetry and Prose were presented at the Signals launch. The Poetry winner was Sophie van Waardenberg and the Prose prize was won by Joanna Li.

Funding for this project is from Creative New Zealand, the Auckland Council and the Joyce Fisher Foundation.

The Poetry Project

We also run a young writers programme for primary and intermediate schools. The Poetry Project started as community collaboration in Devonport in 2009 and has grown to be available to schools across the Auckland region. It is now funded with a combination of grants from Creative New Zealand and the Auckland Council.

25 creative writing workshops were provided for eight schools across Auckland, with 525 pupils taking part, led by local poets: Daren Kamali, Gus Simonovic and To’a Telea. The themes in 2015 were Anzac Day and Matariki.

Students write their poems on a specially-designed poster, and their final work can be shared in live readings or “published” on a wall. Most schools have several workshops – the poet works with the classes involved, students then work with their own teacher and the poet takes a follow-up session.

A highlight of the 2015 project was the collaborative exhibition with Northart Gallery, focused on commemorating Anzac Day and WW1. It was organised through the Northart Manager, the TPP co-ordinator and the MKWC.

We welcomed a new Co-ordinator, Carrie Rudzinski to the project in 2016.



 In 2015, the centre arranged or facilitated over 20 literary events in Devonport:

  • The winter In Conversation series of events at the centre comprised five events with 10 writers (Geoff Allen and Philip Braithewaite, Roger Hall and Arthur Meek, Kevin Ireland and Peter Bland, Tessa Duder and Iain Sharp, David Slack and Tracey Barnett).
  • A powhiri was organised with the Devonport Library Associates (DLA) for the Maori Writer in Residence Mere Whaanga.
  • A Devonport Library Associates event with MKWC Autumn resident writer Roger Horrocks attracted 120 people.
  • A special Matariki event was arranged in partnership with Paper Plus with Mere Whaanga and Wellington author Patricia Grace, for the launch of her latest novel Chappie.
  • We participated in the Auckland Heritage Festival: Tessa Duder explored the life of Sarah Louise Matthew, wife of Auckland’s first surveyor Felton Matthew
  • The 2016 annual Poet’s Picnic was held on Auckland Anniversary Day (1st February) and attracted over 50 people with local poets and YWP alumni reading their work.

Our 2016 programme is well underway, thanks to the work of Lynn Dawson, who heads the MKWC Friends group.

In addition to events, the centre is regularly used for activities, such as the Michael King Writers’ Centre book group which meets at the centre once a month, with an emphasis on reading NZ books. Often, the visiting writer or the resident writer takes part. Writing and book groups use the facility for occasional meetings.  Former resident writer Deborah Shepard held a six-week series of Memoir writing workshops in 2015, and this year her series of Memoir Master Classes was over-subscribed.

Friends of Michael King Writers’ Centre

The Trust thanks all of those involved with the Friends of the MKWC, a group of supporters and people who are interested in the project and are involved with a range of activities. The Friends play an invaluable role in literary events and open afternoons, contributing hours of volunteer time and boundless energy. The Trust owes huge thanks to Lynn Dawson for her enthusiasm and hard work.

House and garden

Martin Keay continues to maintain the garden after landscaping and initial planting funded by Angela and David Paykel. He has been joined in early 2016 by our community worker and a volunteer.

There was a major change in 2014 when the ownership of the Signalman’s House, along with Takarunga Mt Victoria and 12 other volcanic cones in Tāmaki Makaurau, moved from the Auckland Council/Devonport Takapuna Local Board to the Tamaki Collective, in a co-governance arrangement with the newly established Maunga Authority.

We are in close collaboration with the Authority on practical matters such as the lease. Our lease was renewed for a further 10 years in July 2015, and continues on a month by month basis while we wait for the MA to complete its work reviewing community leases.

We are also in discussions with the MA for displaying information at the Centre during our open events and the possibility of collaboration with art work for the Poetry Project.

Profile, communications, resources

Our e-newsletter is published four to five times a year to a circulation list of over 1900 and 1200 people receive email notifications about events. We monitor the number of supporters who sign up for the centre’s newsletter and track the success of communications through Campaign Monitor. Our email database includes almost 500 NZ writers. The opening rates for our communications range between 30 and 45%, which are respectable figures.

In February 2016 we commissioned marketing and communications review from Belinda Cooke, an experienced local marketing consultant with publishing experience. We are following her guidelines and templates to maximise our efforts in the digital communication arena.


Funding continues to be an enormous challenge. The challenge is two-fold – the completion for public/institutional and private funding and the extensive resource required to apply for and report on public/institutional funding.

The Trust receives an operating grant from the Devonport Takapuna Local Board, administered through the Auckland Council (Community Development, Arts and Culture). The grant for the year from July 2015 to June 2016 was just over $34,000.  

Our major programme of work – the residencies – is funded by Creative New Zealand through its Toi Uru Kahikatea programme (Arts Investment Development). This enables us to apply for two-year funding. In the latest round, we received Creative New Zealand funding for 2015 and 2016 calendar years for the four supported residencies and part-funding for the Young Writers’ Programme and now for The Poetry Project.

Additional funding for the Young Writers Programme has come from the Auckland Council Regional Arts & Culture Programme and the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust. For The Poetry Project, it has come from the Auckland Council.

Foundation North, formerly the ASB Community Trust continues to be an important supporter, with grants of $40,000 each year for the last few years, most of which is used for the residential workshop and some remains to help with the operating costs of the centre.

We have also received grants towards operating costs from the Lion Foundation and the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust.

As described earlier, MKWC receives a small amount of income from letting the front room to visiting writers. We also rely on donations and fundraising activities. With the tight funding environment, the Trust must focus and apply energy to fundraising in the year ahead.

The Trust has a very good relationship with its key partners, the Auckland Council, the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, Creative New Zealand, The University of Auckland, the Lion Foundation and Foundation North. We gratefully acknowledge their support, without which we would not function at all. We also acknowledge the help of other funding organisations, including the Joyce Fisher Charitable Trust and the Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust.

We are also very grateful to all of the individual donors, large and small, who continue to support our project. Without a doubt, the centre delivers excellent results for the funding it receives from all of these sources. A great deal of time is involved not only in running the centre and the projects, but in applying for grants, ensuring grant conditions are met and being accountable for the grants received. We believe strongly in setting high standards for financial management and accountability. We work with top accounting firm Grant Thornton and our accounts are audited by Deloitte.

The Trust

I would like to thank each member of the Michael King Writers’ Studio Trust for their hard work. Each one of our Trustees makes a great contribution and fulfils an important role through its committee structure. Our Trust is focused, strong and hard-working. It is an effective group of top people.

We were delighted that Dr Paula Morris joined the Trust in 2015. Paula is the convenor of the Masters in Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland.

The Staff

I would like to thank the wonderful team who keep the centre running on a daily basis. We were sad to say goodbye to our Centre Manager, Karren Beanland in the middle of 2015 after many years of hard work on behalf of the Trust. But we were delighted to find a worthy replacement in Ka Meechan who joined the Trust towards the end of the year, bringing with her fresh energy and vision.

And I would like to make a special mention of Tania Stewart, our administrator who enabled the Trust to keep running smoothly between Karren leaving and Ka picking up her responsibilities. Tania continues to ensure that things run well at the centre so that our visiting writers have a wonderful environment in which to work. 






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