What a festival it was! Thank you for turning out in droves to watch and listen and to be inspired and entertained by the power of words. With more than 6000 seats filled across the festival, we are well and truly back to pre-quake audience numbers and more.
We are grateful for all the media coverage the festival received, the enthusiastic tweeters and bloggers, and for those who simply talked about the festival and spread the word.
There are so many high points, but here are a few:
John Campbell’s enthusiastic MCing in the Transitional Cathedral for The Stars Are Out Tonight.
200 happy children and parents who turned out for our free family sessions on Saturday to listen to and meet some fantastic authors of picture books, junior and young adult fiction.
Eleanor Catton’s wisdom and extraordinary talent and intellect, in her long-awaited session in the Transitional Cathedral with Kate de Goldi. We could have listened to them talk all night.
Anis Mojgani, like an irresistible pied piper, gathering an audience as he went, by performing a poem each at Rising Voices, Pecha Kucha and The Stars Are Out Tonight, and at the Read Aloud Schools’ Day, until he had a full house for his Saturday evening session, Fiercely Hopeful. A triumph for poetry.
The Great New Zealand Crime Debate where the show was stolen, depending on who you talk to, by either Lianne Dalziel, Marcus Elliott, Steve Braunias, Meg Wolitzer or MC Joe Bennett. The debate is now well and truly a festival institution and we’re not sure how to top it next time, but we’ll try!
Kristin Hersh’s mesmerising performance in the Transitional Cathedral on Saturday night, where she received a standing ovation, and her brutal honesty in her songwriting panel that had the audience in tears at the Physics Room on Sunday. One publisher said in her 25 years in the business, it was the best and most moving festival session she’d ever been to.
Speaking of moving, we knew we’d made the right choice to deliver the inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture: Elizabeth Knox stunned everybody with her talk, ‘An Unreal House Filled With Real Storms’. Once word got out about the experience, anybody who wasn’t there to witness it soon wished they had been. Luckily for us, the lecture was recorded by Radio New Zealand and will be available as a podcast in the future, along with many other sessions.
The Sunday Fringe was a new addition to the festival and we succeeded in broadening the audience with a programme of quirky and interesting sessions that included a live theremin performance, poetry, songwriting, independent publishing and superhero comics, which offered something for a younger, less mainstream crowd. One young man declared to me that it was one of the best days of his life.
The festival also became a platform and forum for important political discussion. Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s session Foreign Correspondence was an early sell-out with 300 people attending to hear about Russia, the Ukraine and Edward Snowden, and the panel he shared with Nicky Hager on Saturday morning, Secrets, Spies and Free Speech, also sold out. We had no idea when we booked Nicky for the festival that he would be letting off the bomb that was Dirty Politics just prior, and when Judith Collins resigned that day and the media were clamouring to interview him, it seemed for a moment that WORD Christchurch was the centre of all things political.
The festival closed with Red Zones Green Frames and Blueprints: Rebuilding Christchurch, which took place in a packed room. Passions ran high, and more than one person mentioned to me how important it was to have a forum for discussions such as this one, and how good it was that so many influential festival participants from out of town were in attendance, who could witness the discussion and take it back to the North Island with them; to spread the word.
These are just a few highlights – I’m sure everyone who came will have their own set to mull over, and to discuss with their friends and family.
We would like to send out a huge thank you to all of our sponsors, and all of our writers and performers and chairpeople and publishers, but most of all, we’d like to thank you, our audience, who turned out in such huge numbers and showed your support. You made us feel as though we live in a real city again.
And Giovanni Tiso reports on WORD Christchurch, and puts the festival in a wider political context, in Pantograph Punch.
You’ll be hearing from us again soon.