The Magpie House is the story of the modernist, black and white house at 22 Ascot Street, Thorndon, Wellington, where
composer Douglas Lilburn lived for more than 40 years.
Lilburn was the father of classical music composition in Aotearoa and today the house is a composers' residency.
In this four-part series, Kirsten Johnstone weaves together stories of seven colourful decades in the Magpie House
creating a Forrest-Gump-esque saga of war and music, cold-war espionage and persecution, the search for identity and a
place to call home.
Episode 1: Landfall in Unknown Seas, focuses on the house's Czech/Austrian architect and other refugees, who fled the
Nazis but faced persecution in their adopted homeland during and after the second world war.
"People were writing to the police, thinking that he might be some sort of a spy, communicating things to the Nazis ...
through his broadcast at recitals" – Tom McGrath
"New Zealand has a long history of immigration policy that discriminated against what were called aliens and race
aliens. The desirable immigrants were always people from Britain, people like "us" and Jewish immigrants or refugees
were not wanted" - historian Ann Beaglehole
Episode 2: The Vegetable Club tells the story of a literal vegetable co-op at which the house's first owner, senior
diplomat Richard Collins and his friends, were targeted by the Special Branch of the New Zealand Police during the
height of cold-war paranoia.
"They were blindsided, and unable to refute what was being said about them. It was all secret. And people were saying,
oh, that doesn't happen in New Zealand. I said, well, yes, it does" - Sarah Lake
Episodes three and four explore the later life of Douglas Lilburn, his pioneering work in electronic music, his
relationships with friends and the community and his lasting legacy, as well as the present and future of the little
house at Ascot Street.
The series is expertly created and hosted by Kirsten Johnstone who recently produced the podcast series The Lake for
Stuff. Kirsten is a music journalist and former producer and broadcaster for RNZ.
Additional research by biographer JaneTolerton ONZM, whose books include Ettie Rout, New Zealand’s safer sex pioneer and
But I Changed All That: 'First' New Zealand Women.Release dates:
Episode 1: Landfall in Unknown Seas
Release date — 22 November
Episode 2: The Vegetable Club
Release date — 29 November
Release date — 6 December
Release date — 13 December