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Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell papers.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-2009/04

Scope and Contents

MSS & Archives 2009/4 was added to Special Collections in a process that took place, largely, between 2006 and 2009. In 2007, Michele Leggott, Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland, successfully applied for funding from the University of Auckland Arts Faculty to digitise select material from the collection. More recently, she has been instrumental in securing the acquisition of the collection as it is now, and of compiling a preliminary inventory, with the assistance of Bryony Sinclair and Fredrika van Elberg. The final arrangement and description of the materials owes much to their work.

This collection is arranged in 22 Series and incorporates a wide range of materials and media. Where multiple examples of individual items existed, only two copies were retained, as in the case of surplus Bumper Books, which were transferred to Michele Leggott. Technical difficulties may restrict access to files on older computer disks and limit the viewing of film reels in this collection. Where folders contained excessively bulky material, these have been split into smaller sets and this is reflected in additional hierarchy of item numbers and evident in continuation of folder names. This representation of hierarchy is also apparent in the numbering of material in descriptions of the contents of folders and files on computer disks. Due to the large number of clippings and reviews across the collection, these will not always be noted in Item descriptions.

Series 1-3 contain numerous scripts and drafts of poetry composed by Alan Brunton for various performances and publications. Also included in these series are related materials such as reviews, artwork and publication proofs. Some material in Series 3 may be copies of computer files from Alan’s Computer in Series 17.

Series 4 comprises prose work in the form of essays, lecture material and a photocopy of Brunton’s MA thesis from Victoria University of Wellington. Also present are photographs and interview transcripts. Thirteen notebooks belonging to Brunton that span much of his career are found in Series 5. They contain prose, poetry and various notes. One of the notebooks is a scrap book with business cards, passport photos and publicity material glued to the pages. Much of it is associated with overseas travel.

In Series 6 are various personal papers mostly connected to Sally Rodwell and Ruby. Included are materials pertaining to schooling, family travel, photographs, artwork and correspondence. A partial restriction applies to this series.

Collections of maps, brochures and blank postcards in Series 7 attest to the extensive travel undertaken by Brunton and Rodwell during their careers, and their interest in collecting such ephemera. The focus of Series 8 is publicity for Red Mole and White Rabbit Puppet Theatre. Included are photographs, posters, related ephemera, and lyrics for the song, Parihaka, signed by Tim Finn. Similarly, Series 9 includes publicity materials but, more broadly, encompasses production materials related to performances with scripts, artwork, reviews, photographs and ephemera.

A key occupation of Red Mole was the hosting of workshops and drama classes. Papers related to these activities, such as scripts, schedules and publicity materials, are found in Series 10, along with papers connected to White Rabbit Puppet Theatre.

Series 11 contains Red Mole photographs in various formats and sizes. Most are prints that have been removed from plastic albums and put in acid-free pockets. Their arrangement makes clear to which albums the groups of photographs belonged, including those numbered I-VII and a set pertaining to Rodwell’s work that are arranged by year. Many of those in albums were intended for publicity and publication purposes. As well as prints, there are negatives and film stills. Some damage, possibly due to moisture, has occurred on some material. Similar materials also feature in Series 12, but with a focus on ROADWORKS. Included are scripts, administrative and publicity materials.

Series 13 contains numerous groups of slides that came in a variety of containers and have been placed in acid-free pockets. There are also some film stills. The subject matter covers tours and performances in New Zealand and overseas, art and images, masks, dolls, and puppets.

A large amount of artwork was produced in the course of Brunton and Rodwell’s activities, often for Red Mole publicity. Some was created by Rodwell; other material by acquaintances such as Richard Killeen, Stuart Shepherd, Jean Clarkson, and Barry Linton. Numerous examples, mainly in the form of posters, are found in Series 14, along with artwork, layouts and a paste-up for publication. Also included is artwork by Ruby Brunton.

Numerous sound cassettes comprise Series 15. A few contain commercially produced music but most are have been compiled by Brunton and Rodwell to record their performances, sound collages and backing tracks. Readings by Brunton, radio interviews, and discussions are also recorded. In addition, there is a phonograph recording of five Red Mole songs.

Series 16 contains reels of Red Mole films, in various sizes, and video recordings of performances and poetry readings by Alan Brunton, Michele Leggott, Russell Haley and Ian Wedde. In addition, some videos are personal recordings. The film reels include outtakes and stills. These are accompanied by related items such as scripts, correspondence, photographs, call sheets, shot lists, and publicity material.

After the deaths of Brunton and Rodwell, various files were downloaded from computers used by the couple and numerous floppy disks, CDs, CD-ROMs and DVDs were retrieved. They comprise Series 17, which is arranged in five subseries: Subseries 1 is made up of twenty-four disks containing a range of subject matter; Subseries 2 comprises files downloaded from Brunton’s computer on 24 July 2002; Subseries 3, to which a partial restriction applies, has files downloaded from Rodwell’s computer on 27 November 2006 and includes material originating from Brunton and Ruby; Subseries 4 is a photographic record of masks and puppets created and acquired by Red Mole over a number of years; Subseries 5 is a large set of various floppy disks, a number of which may contain material found elsewhere in the collection.

Series 18-20 consist of publications of Alan Brunton, material contributed by him to other publications, and other authors’ publications promoted by Bumper Books. Included are papers that relate to Bumper Books’ administration. Diverse materials are found in Series 21. They include correspondence, publicity material, papers relating to community issues, performances, Magdalena Aotearoa, Brunton family history, and obituaries for Alan Brunton. Brunton and Rodwell’s interest in community activities and issues in the later years of their lives are also evident in Series 22. It contains material regarding the talking island bay oral history project, involvement with the Island Bay Life Saving and Surf Club, and action over a local development and the practise of creating artificial reefs.


  • 1950 - 2007


Conditions Governing Access

Partly restricted. No access to Series 6 or series 17, subseries 3, except by written permission of Ruby Brunton (email contact: The permission of literary agents, Michele Leggott and Martin Edmond, must be gained for reproduction of any of the material other than for private research. These restrictions shall be reviewed after 1 January 2041.

Biographical / Historical

Alan Mervyn Brunton (1946-2002) and Sally Katherine Rodwell (1950-2006) had active careers in theatre and the performing arts, in New Zealand and overseas, from the late 1960s to 2006. Individually, each was talented and creative across a range of skills and disciplines, including scriptwriting, poetry, choreography, mask and puppet-making, costume design, and film-making. Red Mole and White Rabbit Puppet Theatre were vehicles created by Brunton and Rodwell in the 1970s for much of this activity. In the 1990s this extended to ROADWORKS, which sought to encourage and nurture future actors from diverse communities through workshops and performances.

Alan Brunton was born on 14 October, 1946, in Christchurch. He attended Fairfield Primary School and Hamilton Boys’ High School and gained a BA from the University of Auckland and, in 1968, an MA (Hons) in English from Victoria University of Wellington. Writing and publication were important pursuits to Brunton. As a student, he contributed articles and reviews to the student association’s periodical Craccum, was the magazine’s Arts Editor in 1969-1970, founded with Jim Stevenson, and edited, the first two issues of The Word Is Freed, and co-edited Spleen in the 1970s with Martin Edmond, Russell Haley and Ian Wedde. Brunton’s first book, Messengers in Blackface, was published in 1973 and more than a dozen others followed. Fq and a collection of performance texts, Grooves of Glory, were published posthumously by Brunton’s press, Bumper Books, in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

Sally Rodwell was born in Dunedin on 16 May, 1950. She attended Rotorua Intermediate School and Rotorua Girls’ High School, and gained an MA in English at the University of Auckland in 1970. In the same year she was involved with the Student Capping Week Revue: Was 1969 Really Necessary?, chaired the University Theatre Company, was Director of the University Arts Centre and Cultural Affairs Officer for the Students’ Association. Rodwell studied and taught speech and drama, and later gained diplomas in Russian language and teaching English to speakers of other languages. She was also co-founder of the Living Theatre Troupe in 1971 and, more recently, co-founder, with Madeline McNamara, of the Magdalena Aotearoa Trust, a branch of an international women’s performance network. Before her death, Rodwell was studying towards a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) through Victoria University of Wellington.

From 1970 to 1974, Alan Brunton travelled around Europe and Asia. In 1973, he was in Bali and wrote urging Rodwell, who had a teaching position in New Zealand, to join him and other New Zealanders there. She went and, in 1974, they founded Red Mole and, in 1975, White Rabbit Puppet Theatre, which aimed at young audiences. Brunton and Rodwell also married in 1975 and, in ensuing years, their travels and performances took them to England, back to New Zealand then to Mexico, New York and other destinations. Their daughter, Ruby, was born in Taos, New Mexico, in 1985. In 1988, Rodwell, Brunton and Ruby made New Zealand their base. Alan Brunton died suddenly on tour in Amsterdam on 27 June 2002; Sally Rodwell took her own life on 15 October 2006.

Brunton, Alan. (1991). Slow Passes, 1978-88, Alan Brunton ; with an introduction by Peter Simpson. Auckland [N.Z.]: Auckland University Press.


14 metres (28 boxes)

Language of Materials



In off-site storage. Expect delay of 12-24 hours from time of order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Ruby Brunton in October 2008.

Inventory of the papers of Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell, 1950s-2007.
Yvonne Sutherland and Stephen Innes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand