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Laughton King and Natalie Tate

With their travelling roadshow ‘barefoot educator’ Laughton King and partner, portraitist Natalie Tate will roam NZ. LINDY LAIRD describes the pull of the gypsy life in her 12-3-07 article published in the Northland Advocate.

“ONLY weeks before Whangarei man Laughton King takes to the road on a new journey he had a poignant reminder of where he’s been.

At a recent social event he was approached by a 26-year-old man who remembered him from 15 years ago. Back then, Laughton King was an Education Department psychologist in Northland schools and the young man was a teenager having problems in the education system.

“I’ve never forgotten what you told me and the help it was,” he told Laughton King all those years later. It was a nice reminder of why King held that job for 20 years before going freelance. Now, 10 years after putting up the private practice sign that reads “psychologist, counsellor, mediator”, it’s about to come down again.

“At age 57, I’m going to become a gypsy,” he declares happily, “a barefoot psychologist.” Laughton King and his partner, artist Natalie Tate, have refitted a former mobile television unit into a home and studio. Inside a bed, bathroom and kitchen will snuggle up to books, paints, computers, camera gear, kayaks and bikes. Tate has long dreamed of travelling and working around New Zealand. She and King have shaped a plan where they both can make a living on the road – “collaboratively”.

On a trip that could take a year – or longer – and travel the length of New Zealand – or further – Laughton King will hold pre-arranged seminars for teachers and parents at schools and towns along the way. Laughton King’s speciality field is “The Reluctant Learner”, the title and topic of his best known and three times updated teacher/parent/therapist resource book.

The couple expects his seminar-on-wheels to be welcome in areas where people usually have to travel away for upskilling. “Small towns around New Zealand often get bypassed,” Laughton King says.

His private work has included counselling services, writing books on child development and behaviour, and making psychological assessments for New Zealand and Australian – and once South African – court cases.

On the road, Laughton King will research another book and keep the channels open to some clients via email and cellphone.

Where most of his work is deeply personal and confidential, portraitist Natalie Tate’s is also personal but very much on public view. She has always chosen to set up her easel and paint in public places.

“I’ve discovered that working publicly develops an energy that feeds my work,” she said. As well as portraits that capture one face or expression, Tate specialises in “family heritage paintings” – far wider in scope, yet just as personal. One current commission is of a camping ground where a family who has holidayed there for years will be painted into the scene. Another will have Tate and King in the saddle on an East coast back country muster – to capture the essence of the life of the portrait’s subject, a farmer.

As a child Tate’s art was warmly received and encouraged at home but never really seen as a career path – “although my heart was always in imagery”. She taught herself to paint and has made a living from it since she was 21. As a child King struggled with learning problems. By age 10 he had an awareness that school life shouldn’t have to be so hard. He coped – just. In the early 1970s, armed with a university degree but no specific work ambition, and because he himself was a bikie, he landed a job in Hawkes Bay researching the Mongrel Mob.

“And I thought, hang on, now I know what I want to do.” So the bikie went back to university for a post-graduate degree, and joined the Education Department, taking the Northland job he thought might last a year. “Within that year I discovered Whangarei had a lot to offer.”

It was a two-way offering. Laughton King has been involved in several community projects. The keen botanist played a major role in getting Whangarei’s Russell Rd Quarry Gardens underway in 1990. But 30 years after he planned one year here, he’s off on a kind of busman’s holiday. Midway between a mobile clinic, an artist’s and writer’s retreat, a seminar on wheels – the King and Tate travelling roadshow’s coming to a town near you.”

46,000 kilometers, 400 seminars and four years later, with a wealth of magic memories, Natalie and Laughton are now based on their life-style block on the coast near Whangarei.  Currently building their new house and studio, they work from home but still travel anywhere in NZ and Australia to work with teachers, parents and the dyslexic children themselves.

__About Laughton King


__About Natalie


Laughton King and Natalie Tate