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2015 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement: Winners announced

19 Oct 2015

This content is tagged as Literature .


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Creative New Zealand has announced the winners of the 2015 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.  

They are social anthropologist Dame Joan Metge, playwright Roger Hall and poet Bernadette Hall.

Each will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. Dame Joan Metge will be honoured for non-fiction, Roger Hall for fiction and Bernadette Hall for poetry. 

Arts Council Chairman, Dr Dick Grant, says, “These awards recognise our finest writers, nominated for an extraordinary legacy of literary achievement. This year the recipients represent diverse, but also profoundly New Zealand perspectives. They are leaders in the practice of their craft and throughout their careers have enriched us with insight, imagination, humour and humanity. I extend them my sincere congratulations.”

The Honourable Maggie Barry, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, will present the awards at a ceremony held at The Grand Hall, Parliament, Wellington, on Thursday 22 October.  The 2015 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, Martin Edmond, will also be honoured at the ceremony.

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 expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval.  This year’s selection panel was John Huria (Chair), Paul Diamond, Morrin Rout, Jill Rawnsley and Murray Edmond.

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

The Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship is open to established writers of any literary genre who have already published a significant body of work. Valued at $100,000, it is awarded for a project that will take two or more years to complete.

Creative New Zealand and Unity Books invite you to a free literary event

The recipients of the 2015 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement: Dame Joan Metge, Roger Hall and Bernadette Hall, will read and discuss their work with the recipient of the Michael King Writer’s Fellowship, Martin Edmond.

This is a free event at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington on Friday 23 October, 12-12.45 pm. All welcome.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Sarah Pomeroy, Senior Communications Adviser
Creative New Zealand        M +64 (0) 27 677 8070
E sarah.pomeroy@creativenz.govt.nz           

Additional notes: author biographies

Dame Joan Metge DBE- 2015 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – for Non-fiction  

Dame Joan Metge is a social anthropologist, educator, lecturer and writer, revered for her outstanding promotion of cross-cultural awareness. 

Metge honours the imagery of Māori oral communication in her writing, bringing her non-fiction writing to life with the wisdom of whakatauki and the richness of metaphor. Her clear voice has made her work readable and accessible; a model for those writing in her footsteps. 

Born in Auckland, Metge graduated with a Master of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Auckland in 1952 and earned her PhD at the London School of Economics in 1958. 

Her firm friendship with a Māori schoolmate opened her eyes to an otherwise hidden Māori world and she is an outstanding example of the many Pākeha New Zealanders who have helped non-Māori to come to terms with Māori. 

Metge trained as a social anthropologist, doing her first fieldwork in the Far North and Auckland city. Her first book, A New Māori Migration traced Māori migration from country to city, starting in the 1950’s. Her subsequent writing shares the knowledge, insights and rewards of cross-cultural dialogue, stressing the need to ‘continue to debate and work out how to relate to each other, with the Treaty as our guide.’

She has published significant books and articles on cross-cultural communication and on Māori history and society, including Rautahi: The Maoris of New Zealand (1967, revised edition 1976), Talking Past Each Other (with Patricia Kinloch 1978/1984) and Korero Tahi; Talking Together (2001).

In Tuamaka: The Challenge of Difference in Aotearoa New Zealand, published in 2010, Metge uses the metaphor of the taurawhiri (woven rope) to develop a model of our future as a nation so that all New Zealanders can gain the strength that comes from twining people and ideas together. She reflects on her life as a New Zealander and as an anthropologist living deeply within two cultures over six decades of field work.

In her new 2015 publication, Tauira, Metge introduces readers to Māori methods of teaching and learning, offering a window on a mid-twentieth-century rural Māori world as described by those who grew up there. In preserving this evidence and these voices from the past, this important book also offers much inspiration for the future.

Metge was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1987 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to anthropology. She was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand's Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her research in the social sciences in 1997 and in 2001, the University of Auckland awarded Metge an honorary DLitt. She was a long-standing member of the Waitangi National Trust Board.

In 2006 she received the Asia-Pacific Mediation Forum Peace Prize. 

In recognition of Metge's contribution to social sciences, the Royal Society of New Zealand established the Dame Joan Metge Medal in 2006, which is awarded every two years to a New Zealand social scientist for excellence in teaching, research and/or other activities contributing to capacity building and beneficial relationships between research participants.

Her portrait, painted in 2011 by Sophia Minson, now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

She continues to advance peace initiatives via her work as an adviser and mentor to researchers in the social sciences and education.

Roger Hall CNZM, QSO - 2015 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – for Fiction

Roger Hall was born in Essex and emigrated to New Zealand in 1958. 

Hall is New Zealand's best known dramatist with more than 40 plays to his credit. He  began writing as a student at Victoria University with many capping shows and drama society revues, and also appeared in late-night shows at Downstage Theatre in its first years. 

He started writing for television in the 1970s and over the next four decades his television output would grow to include one-off plays, documentaries, pioneering New Zealand television series Buck House and Pukemanu and more recently on political satire Spin Doctors. 

Hall wrote his first stage play Glide Time in 1976, depicting the frustrations and petty triumphs of a group of a group of public servants working in the stores branch of a government office. It gave rise to a radio show, a one-off television adaptation and the popular 1980s television series Gliding On. Many successful plays followed, together with musicals, pantomimes, radio dramas, books and plays for children and comedy series for television. 

He won the Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago in 1977 and 1978 and was based in Dunedin as a teaching fellow in the English Department where he taught the playwriting course, until he moved to Auckland in 1995.

Career highlights include: 

Middle Age Spread, his best-known play internationally, which ran for 18 months in London’s West End, won the Comedy of the Year Award (Society of London Theatre) and in 1979 became one of the first New Zealand plays to be transformed into a feature film, starring Grant Tilly. 

1979’s Prisoners of Mother England, a play in fifty-nine short scenes about English immigrants to New Zealand. 

Footrot Flats the Musical, co-written in 1983 with Philip Norman and A K Grant, which has had more than 120 productions in New Zealand and Australia.
An adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, A Dream of Sussex Downs (1986) was followed with a pair of plays written on either side of the 1987 sharemarket crash—The Share Club (1987) and After the Crash (1988). The characters of these plays were exploited further in the television series, Neighbourhood Watch (1990).

Conjugal Rites (1990) achieved international success and was made into a situation comedy series for Britain’s Granada television starring Gwen Taylor and Michael Williams.

In Market Forces (1995) Hall revisited the characters of Glide Time and Gliding On in the environment of the restructured public service.  He achieved another popular success with C’mon Black! (1996), a solo play about a devoted rugby supporter on tour in South Africa.

In recent years, he has written the box office hits Spreading Out (2004), Taking Off (2004), Who Wants to be 100? (2007), Four Flat Whites in Italy (2008), A Shortcut to Happiness (2011) and You Can Always Hand Them Back (2012). For several years he has written an annual pantomime for Circa Theatre in Wellington (with songs by Paul Jenden and Michael Nicholas Williams) and in 2007 he co-wrote the commissioned work, Who Needs Sleep Anyway? celebrating Plunket's Centenary, with his daughter Pip Hall.

Hall contribution to the arts includes setting up Monitor, a society to improve children’s television, in the 1980s and he has served on many arts boards and organisations including the New Zealand Literary Fund Advisory Committee, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and was a Chairman of the Fortune Theatre Board, the Frank Sargeson Trust, the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust, and Governor of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. Notably he organised the first New Zealand Writers' Week, held in Dunedin in 1989. The event continues in Dunedin in a modified form every two years.

He is currently a Legacy Ambassador for UNICEF, and his latest publication is The Best Playwriting Book Ever.

He has been awarded the Fulbright Travel Fellowship, USA (1982); the Turnovsky Prize for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts (1987); the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal, an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University (1996); the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in (1997); a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hackmann Awards in Auckland (2011) and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dunedin Theatre Awards (2011).  In 2014 he was presented a Scroll of Honour from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc for a lifetime of excellence in the performing arts. 

Roger Hall was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for Community Service in 1987 and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services as a playwright in 2003.

Bernadette Hall - 2015 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – for Poetry

Bernadette Hall was born in Alexandra, Central Otago and grew up in Dunedin.  She was educated at St Dominic’s College and went on to gain an MA in Latin from the University of Otago. She moved to Christchurch with her family in 1981 and continued her teaching career there.  She retired from high school teaching at the end of 2004 and now lives with her husband John in a renovated fisherman’s bach at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui, North Canterbury.

A poet and playwright, Hall began publishing in her 40s and quickly established herself as a unique poetic voice in New Zealand literature.

The author of ten poetry collections, her work has been widely published in national and international anthologies. Her poems have been included in the on-line anthology Best New Zealand Poems on seven occasions.  In 2011 she was the editor of this anthology.

Hall has received several major awards for her writing. She has been writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury (1991), Burns Fellow at the University of Otago (1996), and held the writer’s fellowship at Victoria University (2006) where she was attached to the International Institute of Modern Letters. In 1997 she took part in the International Writers’ Programme in Iowa, and in 2004 she shared an Artist in Antarctica award with her friend and collaborator, the Dunedin artist, Kathryn Madill. In 2007 she held the Rathcoola Residency in Donoughmore, Ireland. 

Her first collection of poems, Heartwood (Caxton Press) was published in 1989. It featured artwork by Joanna Margaret Paul. Three subsequent collections, Of Elephants etc (1990), The Persistent Levitator (1994) and Still Talking (1997), all VUP, have cemented her reputation as one of the more distinctive poets to have emerged since the late 1980s. 

While continuing her professional life as a high school teacher, Hall went on to produce two more collections of poetry. Settler Dreaming (VUP) was published in 2001. In 2002 it was shortlisted for the inaugural Tasmania Pacific Poetry Prize. Featuring design and artwork by Kathryn Madill, it was also shortlisted in the 2002 Spectrum Print Book Design Awards.

The Merino Princess: Selected poems (VUP) with artwork and design by Kathryn Madill, was published in 2004. Vincent O’Sullivan said of Hall, ‘Hers are poems whose technical finesse resonates and performs. They are the work of a questing, generous, civilised mind, one that quite knows what its values are and says so in ways that are definingly unique.’ 

At the end of 2004, inspired by her trip to Antarctica, Hall retired from high school teaching to focus her energies on her writing. The Way of the Cross was published in 2005 to mark the Centenary of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch. It contains fourteen poems by Hall inspired by the Stations of the Cross sculpted by Llew Summers which were installed in the Cathedral.  Poems from The Way of the Cross have been used by the Dunedin composer, Anthony Ritchie, in his Stations Symphony which was premiered by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra on February 22, 2014, in remembrance of all who died or suffered as a result of the February 22 Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

The Ponies (VUP), a collection of profound and beautiful Antarctic poems, was published in 2007. At its heart is a group of poems dedicated to Hall’s niece, Shelley Mather, who died in the London bombings in 2005.  Her 2009 collection of poetry, The Lustre Jug, drew on Hall’s experiences in Ireland on the six-month-long, privately funded, Rathcoola Fellowship. It was a finalist in the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards.

In 2008, she co-founded the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.  In 2013, having retired from teaching at the Institute, she became its Patron.  She was a member of the judging panel for the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards.
Life & Customs (VUP) was published by Victoria University Press in 2013. Damien Wilkins wrote of it ‘ this collection has the power to enchant’.

In the late 1980’s Hall was the poetry editor of Takahe magazine and continued this voluntary work for ten years. Subsequently, she inaugurated a return to the publication of a weekly poem in the Christchurch Press and for five years was the poetry editor there.  In 2002 she co-edited, along with James Norcliffe, Big Sky, an anthology of Canterbury poems (Shoal Bay Press). In 2006 she edited Like Love Poems, (VUP) a collection of selected and mostly unpublished work by her friend, the Wanganui painter and poet, Joanna Margaret Paul. The Judas Tree (Canterbury University Press, 2013) is a collection of poems by New Zealand's first woman war poet, Lorna Staveley Anker edited by Hall. 

She is highly regarded as a performer of her work and as a teacher of Creative Writing. 

An extract from one of Hall’s Antarctic poems has been accepted for a Literary Trail along the Avon River. The extract, with typography by Neil Pardington, will be set up near Scott’s statue in Oxford Terrace.

Martin Edmond - 2015 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship award

The 2015 $100,000 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship was awarded to non-fiction master Dr Martin Edmond, winner of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Non-Fiction and author of some 30 publications and screenplays.  

Edmond, who holds a Doctorate in Creative Arts, plans to use the fellowship to research and write a biographical study of four expatriate New Zealanders who played notable roles in world affairs between 1876 and 2005 (Harold Williams (1876 -1928), journalist, linguist and foreign editor; Ronald Syme (1903 -1989), Roman historian, libertine, spy; John Platts-Mills (1906-2001) radical lawyer, QC, political activist; and Joseph Trapp (1925 – 2005), librarian, scholar and sportsman) and yet are little-known in their home country.

Martin Edmond’s previous works of biography include Battarbee and Namatjira (2014), Dark Night: Walking with McCahon (2011, shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart prize for non-fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2013), The Supply Party (2009), Chronicle of the Unsung (2004, winner of the Biography category in the 2005 Montana Book Awards), and The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont (1999). 

Established in 2003, the Michael King Fellowship was renamed in recognition of the late Michael King for his contribution to literature and his role in advocating for a major fellowship for New Zealand writers.

The fellowship is available to established New Zealand authors of any literary genre with a significant publication record. It is offered biannually for writers working on a major project which will take two years or more to complete.