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Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing

21 January 2024

Ursula Bethell was a Christchurch-based poet and artist. The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing, jointly funded by the University of Canterbury Faculty of Arts and Creative New Zealand, provides support for New Zealand writers and fosters New Zealand writing. Learn more about the Ursula Bethell Residency.


Ursula spent many of her days travelling between the two locations before settling down in Rise Cottage on the Cashmere Hills. Bethell's early works were published under the pseudonym Evelyn Hayes. The first of Bethell's collections, From a Garden in the Antipodes , is her best-known work, but Time and Place (Caxton, 1936) was her most valued: a compilation of poetry in memory of Bethell's close friend Effie Pollen. Ursula Bethell, recognised as one of the pioneers of modern New Zealand poetry, passed away in Christchurch on the 15th January 1945 at age 71.

History of the Residency

The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing, jointly funded by the University of Canterbury Faculty of Arts and Creative New Zealand, was established by the University of Canterbury in 1979 to provide support for New Zealand writers and foster New Zealand writing. The Residency allows authors of proven merit in all areas of literary and creative activity an opportunity to work on an approved project within an academic environment. Since its inception the University has been home to 40 fiction-writers, poets and dramatists, a number of whom have made a valuable contribution to the development of young writers studying at the University. We have also had the opportunity to celebrate the successes of our Residents throughout the years, one of the most memorable being Keri Hulme's Booker Prize in 1985.

Current Writers in Residence

Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) is an author, contributing editor at New Zealand Geographic and until recently the Programme Director of WORD Christchurch Festival of books, storytelling and ideas. His writings on wilderness, history, technology and race have been widely published and anthologised on both sides of the Tasman.

His first book, polemical short story collection Arms Race (2014)was an Australian Book Review and Listener book of the year, and shortlisted for the Readings Prize and Queensland Literary Awards. Uprising(2021) details nine walking expeditions through the Māori history of the Southern Alps, and won the CLNZ Writers Award, the Wiley Prize and was runner-up, Non-fiction, at the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards. His latest is Little Doomsdays (with Phil Dadson, September 2023), exploring what previous civilisations tried to preserve when faced with their own demise. Ian Wedde, in New Zealand Review of Books, has called it “one of the most engaging, inventive and original sequences of writing I’ve read in a long time.”

While in residency at the university, Nic will be working on a novel about a group of Māori soldiers who, heading home through London after WW1, decide to rob the British Museum. It marries literary fiction with the heist genre to explore indigenous direct action and the colonial legacy of the British Museum, and to ask: what is the nexus between art, theft and war?

Postal address for the Ursula Bethell Writers in residence:
English Programme
School of Humanities
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch, New Zealand

Ariana Tikao (2023)
Octavia Cade (2023)
David Coventry
Tina Makereti
Vana Manasiadis (2021)
Behrouz Boochani (2021) 
Nathan Joe
Amy Head (2020)
Alison Glenny (2019)
Lawrence Patchett (2019
Albert Belz (2018)
Lynley Edmeades (2018)
Karen Healey (2017)
John Newton (2017)
David Howard (2016)
Philip Braithwaite (2016)
Nick Gibb (2015)
Coral Atkinson (2015)
Vivienne Plumb (2014)
Frankie McMillan (2014)
John Pule (2013)
Geoff Chapple(2013)
Helen Lowe (2012)
David Eggleton (2012)
Eleanor Catton (2011)
Graeme Tetley (2011)
Tusiata Avia (2010)
Victor Rodger (2009)
Rachael King (2008)
Philip Norman (2007)
Carl Nixon (2006)
Charlotte Randall (2005)
Graham Lindsay (2004)
Catherine Chidgey(2003)
Gavin Bishop (2003)
Apirana Taylor (2002)
James Brown (2001)
Stuart Hoar (2000)
Norman Bilbrough (1999)
Alan Brunton (1998)
Brian Turner (1997)
Hone Kouka (1996)
Michelanne Forster (1995)
Kate Flannery (1994)
Sue McCauley (1993)
Fiona Farrell (1992)
Bernadette Hall (1991)
Mervyn Thompson (1990)
Kim Eggleston (1989)
Gary Langford (1989)
Brian McNeill (1988)
Mike Johnson (1987)
Kevin Ireland (1986)
Rachel McAlpine (1986)
Graham Billing (1985)
Keri Hulme (1985)
Margaret Mahy (1984)
Murray Edmond (1983)
Barry Mitcalfe (1982)
Owen Marshall (1981)
Jennifer Compton (1980)
Michael Morrissey (1979)

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