Under Rough Ridge Writers' Retreat


Something different is brewing in the hinterland of Central Otago. The small village of Oturehua (pop. 30) in the Ida Valley intends holding a writers’ retreat in early September. It will be hosted in the town, and boasts the point of difference that its tutors are all locals; they also live on the same road.

That’s not quite as remarkable as it sounds, because there’s only one road through the heart of the valley. More interesting is the mix of people who reside in this tiny community in the Maniototo. The dryland farmers who built the settlement have welcomed the writers and artists who have gravitated to the historic settlement with its wide skies.

The trend began with Poet Laureate Brian Turner, a southern man who chose to settle in Oturehua 19 years ago. His pioneering spirit charted the course for others who followed. He writes with the South in his soul, and a love for the vast landscapes that define Central Otago.

Now, several published writers have joined him. The hamlet contains not only poets and authors, but book editors, historians, university lecturers and at least one District Court judge. There’s a strawbale house, a renovated church, a long-established general store, railway hotel and a yurt, along with other historical sites nearby. And for the last 39 years, Oturehua has welcomed the Brass Monkey motorcycle rally.

Now the community is celebrating its literary life through the writers’ retreat. Titled Under Rough Ridge Writers’ Retreat, the event is scheduled for the weekend of 6–8 September. Open to writers both novice and experienced, it aims to reference both the landscape and the heritage of its location to inspire and provoke storytelling.

The tutors include poets and authors Brian Turner, Jillian Sullivan, and Bridget Auchtumy, alongside novelist/screenwriter Mike Riddell, and author/book editor Paula Wagemaker.


Media Release 28 June 2019.