How Sanctuary became a ‘haven’ for Kiwis


Sanctuary, the annual season of artist residencies at Lighthouse, has welcomed its first international guests. Lunar Collaborative, from New Zealand, spent three days telling stories, writing and painting as they explored ideas in search of their next creative project.

“It really felt like we’d been able to create this little haven at Lighthouse, literally a Sanctuary, and let our art take us where it wanted,” says theatre maker Emily Hurley, who’s staying at her nan’s house in Poole on a visit from her native New Zealand.

A collective of artists and theatre makers, Lunar Collaborative was started by Emily with childhood friend Bridie Sisson and fellow performer Sheyney Ansin in Auckland. After Bridie moved to London and Sheyney started a business teaching roller skating and dance, the group’s Queer/feminist experimental show Cowboy Dreaming played a successful developmental season earlier this year.

Having decided to visit the UK this summer to reconnect with Bridie and fellow Kiwi, theatre maker Alice Kirker, Emily initially thought their Sanctuary residency at Lighthouse would focus on finding a way to make Cowboy Dreaming work in the UK.

“We talked about it, but the logistics of bringing in an entire show from the other side of the world are just too much at the moment,” she explains.

“When you get locked into that cycle of trying to make shows, it’s really easy to lose sight of why we do what we do, which is to be free to express our creativity in the way we chose. Life takes you on crazy, unimagined twists and the more we talked, the more it became clear that we just needed to explore ideas without the need for it to turn into a product – whatever we made in that time would be enough in itself.

“And that was the beautiful thing about Sanctuary. I had five days at Lighthouse, with Bridie and Alice joining me on three of those days, and we were able to connect as people, as artists and makers. On the days when we weren’t in the studio, we drew and painted and shared what we made and talked. We’ve no idea what will happen next, but whatever happens will be informed somehow by the time we spent at Lighthouse.”

That said, there are some ideas that Emily hopes will feature prominently in future Lunar Collaborative happenings.

“Inspired by some books that Alice sent me, we were talking about ideas of Queer Ecology – of how Nature is chaotic and random. It’s Queer, but it’s not labelled; it just is. As soon as you label something it is limited by that label and that’s as true for Queer people as for everyone else.

“So, what we have is maybe a seed of a something that might grow as we connect remotely, which would be great, but even if it doesn’t, we’ve had those three days of just being together.”

Before she returns to New Zealand, Emily is planning to visit the Edinburgh Fringe next month for the first time with her friends.

“I’m really excited to be going to the Fringe and as well as having a good time I want to make connections and see where they lead. Poole is a lovely place, and the people are really kind here – it has been so good for me.

“I don’t know much about making theatre in the UK, but in New Zealand funding is so difficult and even when you get funding – and I’m aways incredibly grateful for funding – it comes with a timescale. So, Sanctuary felt quite rebellious in a way.

“I really needed to take stock and reset, to not worry about a deadline, and I think Bridie and Alice needed a break from just trying to make ends meet in London, so we’ve all got a lot to be thankful to Lighthouse for.”