Oturehua developing into artists’ community

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A small community of artists and writers has been seduced by the charms of Oturehua in Maniototo’s Ida Valley.
The tiny township is home to talented individuals including novelist and poet Brian Turner, editor Paula Wagemaker and writer Jillian Sullivan.
The latest addition was screenwriter Mike Riddell, who moved to the town recently
with his wife, film director and district court judge Rosemary Riddell.
The couple ‘‘fell in love’’ with Oturehua after staying for a month last February, at the straw bale house built by fellow writer Jillian Sullivan.
Seeing the former Ida Valley Kitchen Cafe was for sale, they bought it and spent the last year converting it into a home for themselves.
It was ‘‘interesting’’ to find in a community of only about 27 people ‘‘ two established writers, and a book editor down the road’’.
‘‘Together we are plotting a writers’ retreat here in Oturehua for early September.
‘‘We are hoping to attract around 50 people, bring them into Central, give them a sense of heritage and place.’’
Poet and author Brian Turner has lived in Oturehua for about 18 years.
There had been a ‘‘slow but steady inflow of people’’, he said.
‘‘I regard it as flight from more heavily populated parts, which can only continue, it seems to me.’’
Writer Jillian Sullivan said she came to Oturehua ‘‘because I needed somewhere that was cheap to live as a writer’’.
She chronicled her journey in her book A Way Home , which describes how, after her marriage ended, she shifted to the small community and built a straw bale house.
Author and poet Bridget Auchmuty, of Nelson, had bought a section and was planning to move to Oturehua in April.
One of the attractions was the writing community that was developing in the town.
To begin with she would be living in a yurt — a portable round tent — ‘‘as a temporary structure to live in’’.
‘‘Ultimately, I will build something, not necessarily a straw bale house like Jillian has — it might be mud brick or some other natural materials.’’
Central Otago had always held an attraction for her.
There was ‘‘something about the light and the wide skies and the golden landscape’’ that ‘‘really appealed’’ to her.
The community was also an attraction — ‘‘it just seems really neat’’.