Welcome to Joanne Drayton

Welcome to Joanne Drayton

Jo holds the 18th residency for the year and has this to say about her time so far…

‘The sound of bird songs I will carry with me, and the memory of grand high ceilings and low sash windows through which you can contemplate ever-changing vistas of Auckland harbour and city. The Michael King Writers Centre is a watchful place: a sanctuary of stillness. When I got the magic phone call to tell me I had a Michael King/University of Auckland Residency, I didn’t fully realise what that meant. Now I understand it means time alone with your words. Time to contemplate and connect thoughts and ideas together and send them in new directions. This is a rare freedom.

I am working on a biography of the NZ LISTENER. Spawned by the BBC, THE LISTENER began in the United Kingdom in 1929 as a platform for the publication of radio broadcasts. The argument being, ‘Good Listeners made Good Citizens’. However, by capturing the rich, transient voice of radio in print, THE LISTENER, did more than just generate ‘Good Citizens’, it empowered citizens to ‘THINK’—and imagine.

To research this first decade of THE LISTENER before it began in New Zealand in 1939, I have been using the University of Auckland Library’s database, sometimes from the Writers Studio at the Michael King Writers Centre, and sometimes from my office at Auckland University. I will also be using collected volumes of NZ LISTENER magazines in the Research Room of the Auckland Public Library. The privilege is being away from the demands of my life and day-job, and immersed in material, which is a remarkable thread of our cultural consciousness’.

Jo is an acclaimed New Zealand author whose output has been globally recognised. Her book The Search for Anne Perry was numbered in the top 10 non-fiction books on the New York Times bestseller list in 2015. It was a finalist in the prestigious New Zealand Book Awards in August 2013; it was the subject of a 60 Minutes programme; and a cover story for the NZ Listener. The Search for Anne Perry has been optioned for a feature film.

Her critically acclaimed Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime (2008) was a Christmas pick of the Independent newspaper when it was released in the UK in 2009. Her other biographies of expatriate painters include Frances Hodgkins: A Private Viewing (Random House, 2005); Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate NZ Artist (CUP, 2002); and Edith Collier: Her Life and Work (CUP, 1999). She has curated exhibitions and publishes in art history, theory and biography. In 2007, she was awarded a National Library Fellowship, and in 2017 a prestigious Logan Fellowship at the Carey Institute in upstate New York.

Her latest book, Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love, was released in October 2018 and won the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.