Cottage a haven of peace for Christchurch Artists


Dunedin’s Caselberg writers and artists cottage made available to two Christchurch artists displaced by recent earthquakes.

The Caselberg Trust is happy to announce that their artists and writers residence at Broad Bay, is to be made available to two Christchurch writers, whose work spaces have been badly affected by the recent Christchurch earthquakes.

The small cosy cottage overlooking Otago Harbour is a peaceful creative oasis, and the perfect antidote to the stress and concerns facing artists trying to work in a city that has suffered great loss and where lives continue to be disrupted.

Caselberg Trust Chairperson Dr Janet Downs said “The Caselberg Trustees felt very strongly that we needed to support Christchurch writers and artists, by making the cottage available to those displaced in the recent earthquakes”.

Having put the word out around artistic networks in Christchurch, the Trust selected two writers ‘in need’; Halina Ogonowska-Coates of Sumner and Anna Smith of Lyttelton. Both writers have been granted 3 months ‘residence’ rent free at the Broad Bay cottage during the remainder of 2011, and Ms Ogonowska-Coates will be moving into her Dunedin home and work space later this month.

Halina Ogonowska-Coates is a writer, film maker, broadcaster and oral historian. She says of her current situation. ‘I have always worked from a studio at my home in Sumner. Unfortunately my home is on a cliff and has been made uninhabitable, due to rock fall, by the February earthquake. I am homeless at the moment and staying with friends and finding it very hard to work. According to the Earthquake Commission and the insurance company it will be at least 18 months before I have some sort of resolution re payout for my wrecked house.’

‘For me, a creative project is very much part of my life and the way through difficult times. Without a space to write, or live, this task is proving pretty much impossible.’

Anna Smith has written poetry, short stories and a novel. She says of her current situation. ‘As someone who lives in Lyttelton and has had her place of work badly affected by the quake, the possibility of being able to work unhampered by these kind of difficulties would mean a great deal.’

‘I currently have a short story collection in preparation but need time to make each story stronger through careful editing. It has been difficult to find the time and the energy to concentrate sufficiently over the last six months to give this project the attention it needs. It would be marvelous to have the opportunity to get back to the task of writing on a piece of steady ground!’

Both writers have Dunedin connections

Anna lived for 3 years in Dunedin between late 1989 and 1992, while teaching Women’s Studies and English at Otago University. She lived at Portobello ‘and loved it’. She is very much looking forward to returning and once again exploring the many landscapes of Otago Peninsular.

Halina started school in Dunedin at St Francis Xavier school in Mornington. Her father, Ken Coates, was a journalist on the ODT in the 1960s. She remembers vividly, ‘the sound of the typewriter banging out stories on the kitchen table’ and is looking forward to ‘freezing cold winter mornings’.

About 10 years ago Halina returned to Dunedin to direct and work with Shona Dunlop MacTavish on a documentary about her life and work.

Recent major projects from both writers

Halina Ogonowska-Coates

Touring narrative exhibitions Born, Remember Me, It Happens at Home and I Feel Lucky.

She is the author many books including Krystyna’s Story, I’m Still Elva Inside and Invincible Women.

Her work includes festival release documentary films A Different Blonde and Out Into The Blue and many radio documentaries commissioned by Radio NZ including Rakiura, Restorative Justice and Seasonal Work.

In 2005 she won the Qantas Media Award for Best Radio Documentary and in 2006 was awarded a Media Peace Award.

Anna Smith

Smith, A. et al (2004) Angels and Flies. Performance at Lopdel House, Titirangi during Auckland 2nd triennial 20 Mar 04 – 30 May 04.

Smith, A; Morison, J (2002) Angels and Flies (collection of poetry and a story in an exhibition catalogue). Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch. 22.

Smith, A. (2006) Oatmeal Brose. Takahe 47, 41-42.

Smith, A. (2006) Politics 101: a novel. Canterbury University Press.

Smith, A. (2010) Hesitation Waltz. Jaam 28, 126-131.

Short Fiction currently under consideration: Three Little Maids, Last Prayer, and Bad Blood.

Chloe Geoghegan