Philip Simpson awarded $100,000 Michael King Fellowship

Botanist, Takaka resident and founding Project Crimson Trustee, Philip Simpson, has been awarded the $100,000 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship. The funds will be used for Philip to research and write a comprehensive natural and cultural history of the New Zealand totara tree. 

The Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship is New Zealand’s largest writing fellowship and supports established writers to work on a major project over two or more years.

In April 1999, Philip became Project Crimson’s first South Island Advisor after working for the Department of Conversation for 20 years. Throughout his involvement, Philip has brought considerable practical and academic knowledge to the Trust.

After meeting Michael King in 2000, Philip never imagined that he would one day hold the Fellowship named in his honour.

“It will change my life forever. It’s a marvelous gift – two uninterrupted years to immerse myself in the mysteries of totara!” said Philip.

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright said he was pleased the Fellowship would support such historically significant work.

“As a Montana award-winning writer Philip Simpson has already contributed two comprehensive and hugely enjoyable books on New Zealand’s natural and cultural history”, Stephen Wainwright said. “The iconic significance of the giant totara trees in New Zealand’s development coupled with Philip’s considerable rigour in his approach will result in a unique work of non-fiction”.

Among Philip’s achievements are his two hugely successful books, ‘Dancing Leaves: the story of New Zealand’s cabbage tree, ti kouka’ and, ‘Pohutukawa & Rata, New Zealand’s Iron-Hearted Trees’.  The first went on to win the Environment section of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2001 and the second, the Montana Book Awards Medal for Non-Fiction in 2006.

Philip will be the seventh recipient of the Michael King fellowship since it was introduced in 2003.