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14 July 2023

From Rhys Darby and Dr Elisabeth Calder to Sir Sam Neill and Miriama Kamo, learn about the Creatives UC is showcasing to celebrate our 150th anniversary!

Rhys Darby
Rhys Darby

BA 1999

After leaving the NZ Army for UC, Rhys Darby discovered a love and talent for comedy in the University Comedy Club. He has gone on to take the comedy world by storm. A well-known face on the international stand-up circuit, he went on to global screen fame when North America discovered him in HBO's Flight of the Conchords (2007-8). Since then, he has become a staple voice in countless animated shows as well as starring in movies like Yes Man, the Jumanji reboots, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and TV shows like the HBO Max hit Our Flag Means Death. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. 

Photo credit: Kate Little

Dr Elisabeth Calder CBE

BA 1959, LittD 2019 

Liz Calder is an editor and publisher who, during her distinguished career, has discovered some of the greatest writers of our time. Her gift for identifying outstanding writers began early in her career, when she published Salman Rushdie’s first novel. Liz has published several Booker Prize winners and is a recipient of Editor of the Year at the British Book Awards and in 2018 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature. She is a founding director of literary giant Bloomsbury Publishing, and despite her busy career, co-founded Women in Publishing and served as Chair of the Royal Court Theatre in London. 

Photo credit: Louis Baum

Hon doc - Sam Neill
Sir Sam Neill KNZM OBE

BA 1972, LittD 2002

Internationally recognised for his contribution to film and television, Sir Sam Neill’s long and distinguished career has included leading roles in both dramas and blockbusters alike.  Working with the National Film Unit in Wellington following University, he landed the lead role in the feature film Sleeping Dogs, New Zealand’s first film to be released in the United States. Launching his acting career onto the world stage, he has starred in many well-known movies and television series, such as The Hunt For Red OctoberThe Piano, the Jurassic Park franchise, and Hunt For The Wilderpeople. In 2022, Sir Neill was awarded a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Guyon Espiner

BA 1993

Graduating with a degree in English Literature and determined to be a writer, Guyon Espiner’s career didn't evolve the way he expected it to. After spending an initial ten years in newspapers, and then a further ten in television, Guyon has now spent nine years in radio. Motivated by hunting out injustice and inspired by those who stand up to abuses of power, he has traveled the world as a political editor for TVNZ, hosted live election debates, broken some big investigative stories, hosted Morning Report for five years, and has been instrumental in helping mainstream media’s adoption of te reo Māori.

Fred Chong

BE (Hons) 1998, MEM 1999 

With more than 20 years in the media entertainment business, Fred Chong is a rare breed of tech entrepreneur in today’s creator economy ecosystem.  Besides founding influential Asian digital company WebTVAsia, he is also an internationally recognised award-winning filmmaker, keynote speaker, and music producer. Fred holds a masters Degree in Engineering Management from UC and also studied film production at the New York Film Academy. He advocates the importance of innovation and commercialisation of intellectual properties as his key success factor. “I believe my years at Canterbury helped shape many of the professional and personal traits I have until this day,” 

Miriama Kamo
Miriama Kamo

Ngāi Tahu/Ngāti Mutunga
BA 1995

Miriama Kamo has been telling stories her whole life. From writing in her father's blank diaries as a child to a successful career as an award-winning broadcast journalist, Miriama believes telling people’s stories is a privilege and responsibility. Miriama presents and reports for Sunday, TVNZ’s flagship current affairs programme, and for Marae, NZ’s leading bilingual current affairs show. Miriama is a mother, an author, a trustee, a mentor for Māori journalists, a zero-waste advocate, and the patron 'Te Koruru' of the New Zealander of the Year Awards. And she's a proud graduate UC.

Penney Pang
Penney Pang

BCom 1998, BCom (Hons) 2000, MCom 2001

Leaving behind her career as a chartered accountant working at reputable international firms in Australia and Hong Kong, Penney Pang decided to embark on a new journey in 2008.  After attending various bakery and sugar craft courses in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, she opened her own studio PENNEY PANG Designer Cakes in 2013.  Now a multi-award-winning cake designer, Penney specialises in creating bespoke, couture cakes for special occasions.  Her signature sugar and handcrafted flowers have won various medals in competitions worldwide and she has been invited to judge on several occasions at global designer cake competitions.

Book Launch, UBS. Magaret Mahy, A Writers Life, by Tessa Duder. Also a celebration of Margaret's new book, and lifes work.
Dr Margaret Mahy ONZ

BA 1958, LittD 1993

Margaret Mady is an iconic and celebrated children’s author of more than 120 titles, many of which have won awards and been translated into a host of languages around the world. After graduating from Canterbury University College, Margaret worked as a librarian for over 10 years with her first story A Lion in the Meadow published in 1969 while working at the Canterbury Public Library. While her books have strong supernatural elements, Margaret’s stories are known for their themes of human relationships and growing up. In 1993, Margaret was appointed to the Order of NZ (ONZ) for her lasting contribution to children’s literature.

Daniel Faitaua
Daniel Faitaua

BA 1999

Studying at UC opened TV reporter Daniel Faitaua’s mind to the world around him, sparking his dream of living and working overseas. Following 15 years as a journalist, Faitaua landed his ‘dream job’ as TVNZ’s Europe correspondent. “I get paid to learn about how the world works, meet fascinating people, and explain stuff that matters and sometimes change lives.” Following several unprecedented events in his three-year stint abroad (covering the Queen’s funeral, war in Ukraine, jubilees, Prince Philip’s funeral, elections, Brexit, all amidst lockdowns), Faitaua was also elected President of London’s Foreign Press Association, the first kiwi ever to lead the organization in its 134-year history. He now returns home to take up the mantle as a presenter on 1News. 

Eli Matthewson
Eli Matthewson

BA 2010 

Beginning at the Court Theatre in Ōtautahi doing Scared Scriptless   while studying at university, Eli Matthewson has since performed around the country and worldwide – including at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival multiple times. The head writer of Have You Been Paying Attention and co-creator of the sit-com Golden Boy, he was rewarded for his contribution to comedy in 2021, winning New Zealand’s top comedy honour, the Fred Award. Last year saw Eli join The Edge’s Breakfast Show as a radio host, as well as debut in the first same-sex couple on Dancing With The Stars NZ. 

Daniela Maoate-Cox

BA 2011, BA (Hons) 2013, GradDipJ 2018

A former Senior Journalist for Radio New Zealand’s The House, Daniela Maoate-Cox kickstarted her parliamentary career covering legislation, issues, and insights from Parliament after several years in RNZ newsrooms. Of Cook Island and English descent, Daniela focused much of her journalistic work on Pacific issues. Now working as the Kaiarahi Tuku Kōrero / Communications Lead, Daniela is leading the New Zealand Parliamentary Communications team to support internal and external comms for Parliamentary Service and The Office of the Clerk, and was part of the Pitomata team who drafted He Ao Takitaki, the ao Māori strategy for these parliamentary agencies. 

Photo credit: Emma McAuliffe

Paul Ewen

BA 1995 

Born in Blenheim but spending his formative years in Canterbury, Paul was part of the RDU student radio team and studied the arts at UC, kick-starting his creative career. In 2014, he wrote his debut novel Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author, which was received to huge acclaim. He was Writer in Residence at the University of Greenwich, and is a working member of Writers Rebel UK. Recently he was commissioned by Warp Records and the band Squid to write a story for their 2023 album, and he is currently working with Brian Eno to push the climate emergency message within the arts. 

Photo credit: Nik Strangelove

Stuart Lipshaw
Stuart Lipshaw

BA 2006

Entering the publishing world in 2010, Stuart worked as a publishing assistant and project editor before becoming managing editor of New Zealand’s biggest book publishing house, Penguin Random House NZ. He has helped many of the country’s finest writers to bring powerful, entertaining and educational stories to readers. In 2018, Stuart fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing his own book, authoring Oh Boy: A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Men, capturing stories of Kiwis who followed their dreams and made the world a better place, inspiring kids to do the same. His second book, Good Sports: A Storybook of Epic NZ Sporting Heroes, will be published in September 2023.

Margaret Lovell-Smith

BA 1972, MA (Hons) 1973, DipJ 1974  

Margaret Lovell-Smith’s childhood love of books developed into an interest in writing and an MA in English at UC. Working as a journalist persuaded her she was more interested in investigative writing and a curiosity about local history led to research and writing contracts. Several of her publications have focused on women’s experiences and achievements including her 1992 edited anthology The Woman Question: Writings by the Women who Won the Vote. Margaret’s work has helped illuminate and detail passages of history that may otherwise go unrecorded. Her most recent research focuses on those who worked for peace and resisted militarism before and during World War I. 

Dr Owen Marshall CNZM

BA 1963, Christchurch Teacher’s College 1964, MA (Hons) 1964, LittD 2002

After 25 years as a secondary school teacher, Dr Marshall resigned to concentrate on his writing. Considered one of New Zealand's leading fiction writers, he has written, or edited, 35 books - bringing his `visual' style of writing to his fiction, highlighting mood and character. His novel Harlequin Rex, published in 1999, won the 2000 Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction. He became an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2000 and a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2012 for his services to literature. He was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in 2013.

Amanda Billing
Amanda Billing

BE 1997, BA (Hons) 1998, DipT 1998

Well known for her role as Dr Sarah Potts on New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street, Amanda Billing became involved in the Arts after leaving full-time secondary school teaching in 2002. In her twenty-year career, Amanda has graced our screens often, appearing in other successful local shows such as Power Rangers Ninja SteelBrokenwood Mysteries, and Kid Sister, as well as numerous stage shows. In addition to performing, Amanda is a freelance portrait photographer and a visual artist.

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