What a festival we had! Our team has been recovering from what was a crazy, illuminating, stimulating, challenging and entertaining few days. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. The Piano proved itself to be a stunning venue, perfectly suited to our needs and the needs of our audience. We took some risks and experimented with other pop-up venues, and they worked well, adding character and (a pinch of controlled chaos) to the programme. All in all, it was exhausting, exhilarating and wonderful from our side.

Thank you for your huge and enthusiastic support and attendance. With more than 12,000 individual session seats filled across the festival and schools programmes, we have increased our audience by a whopping 50 per cent on last festival.

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:

The introduction of the New Regent St pop-up festival created a real buzz and warmth out on the street and in the bars on the freezing opening night. A huge thanks to our co-ordinator Sionainn Byrnes for making it so welcoming.

The Friday night Isaac Theatre Royal events, 2050 and The Stars Are on Fire, both hosted expertly by Kim Hill, attracted an audience of 870 over both events and led to a visiting Canadian literary festival director calling them “world-class”.

Speaking of Canadians, everybody fell in love with storyteller Ivan Coyote at the Stars Are on Fire, and much like Anis Mojgani did in 2014, Ivan picked up followers at all their events until their Sunday morning session was a sell-out, with other festival writers lining the walls. Tears, laughter and a standing ovation ensued.

Caitlin Doughty similarly charmed and challenged everyone with her take on death, smilingly describing what happens to your body when you are cremated, declaring that after you die, your cat will eat your eyeballs given a chance, but also offering up some serious food for thought around issues of death and dying. Caitlin’s session was also a sell-out.

The Bloomsbury South session at the Christchurch Art Gallery sold out tickets and then everyone turned around and bought Peter Simpson’s book at the subsequent launch, cleaning UBS out of all their stock.
Serious issues were explored: euthanasia, grief, the future of our cities, water, the environment, migration, sex work, indigenous rights, the future of journalism, with all sessions being full and with high audience attention and engagement. It was wonderful to see Christchurch people coming together to discuss the things that matter.

There was also some serious entertainment: The Unicorn brought the house down with his impromptu PechaKucha talk; The Spinoff hosted some late Saturday night shenanigans at C1; Flying Nun fans were treated to some extra songs by Graeme Downes (The Veraines) and Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins) long after the sell-out session was over; Hear My Voice had electrifying performances in spoken word that left the audience swooning; the Great New Zealand Crime Debate was as raucous as we predicted, if not more so; and the festival closed with the Nerd Degree, another belly-laugh-inducing session with special guests Alok Jha and the very quick-witted and funny Caitlin Doughty.

If you missed any sessions, fear not! We will be putting a selection of audio recordings up on our website as podcasts in the near future. Stay tuned.