2014 Cultural Studies Competition

Judge’s Report – Brenda Allen & Cassandra Fusco

Judges Brenda Allen and Cassandra Fusco were again delighted with the quality and variety of the written and visual arts materials submitted. Our sincere congratulations go not only to the winners but to all entrants, and our thanks for making our experience so absorbing. We hope to bring you the prize winners and more starting with our December 2014 celebratory issue.

First Prize: ‘When Coal Was King’ by John Ewen
The winning essay is a memoir of growing up on the West Coast of the South Island in Runanga, a coal mining town. The writer recalls the initial shock of moving from the city and the various stages of community he experienced growing up as well as the relative freedoms of a time before helicopter parents. The essay is peppered with humour and good natured tolerance for the “long drop” that replaced the convenience of city living. The whole is tightly structured and economically written with forward momentum that never gives the reader doubt as to the importance of the narrative.

First Runner-up: ‘A Foreign Country for Old Men and Women’ by Jane McNaughton
This serious essay addresses a topic that is, or will be, a concern to us all: care of the aged. The writer shares observations of and concerns about the state of geriatric care in private homes that are set up as property investments. We learn about the caring but low paid and undertrained workers, some of the difficulties they face, and the nation’s general lack of concern. The essay is tightly crafted with forward momentum and is supported by references to authoritative publications.

Second Runner-up: ‘The Prehistory of Tauranga Writers’ by Diane Andrews (nee Pithie)
Both of these are precise pieces that show, the one through mechanical and the other through organic form (to borrow Coleridge’s terms), there is no single approach that is inherently superior when an author perches over the silence, listening for a poem. In the former, the cheeky correctness of rhyming ‘Voltaire’ with ‘prayer’; in the latter, an incandescent ending: ‘and my father was the sundial/ we stood around, all summer,/ casting long shadows on the lawn.’

The judges have enjoyed all of the essays and are sure that you, too, will enjoy these works whether lively or serious.

Brenda Allen and Cassandra Fusco


1st Place: ‘When Coal Was King’ by John Ewen
1st Runner-up: ‘A Foreign Country for Old Men and Women’ by Jane McNaughton
2nd Runner-up: ‘The Prehistory of Tauranga Writers’ by Diane Andrews.