2016 FESTIVAL – IT’S A WRAP!
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.
BECOME A SUPPORTER
WORD Christchurch is a charitable trust that presents the South Island’s largest international festival of literature and ideas, and we need your help.
Our objective: to bring the community together through their love of words in all their forms. Join the family by becoming a Patron or Supporter and help to bring the best writers and speakers to Christchurch, from around New Zealand and the world, to inform, entertain and inspire adults and children alike. We rely on support to keep ticket prices down and meet the costs associated with running a vibrant and essential festival.
Benefits include: invitations to programme launches and festival parties, discounts on tickets and much more. Go here for more information and to sign up. Sign up before Friday, 24 June to get acknowledgement in the 2016 programme.
Anna Smaill long-listed for Man Booker
We have hugely exciting news! New Zealand poet and novelist Anna Smaill, who is heading to Christchurch for WORD Christchurch’s Shifting Points of View programme in the Christchurch Arts Festival, has just been long-listed for the Man Booker prize for her superb novel The Chimes. The novel is set in a dystopian future where music has replaced the written word, and people’s memories are wiped every evening. It is written using exquisite language and tense plotting, and is a favourite in our office.
Anna joins luminaries such as Marilynne Robinson, Anne Tyler and Anne Enright to compete for a place on the shortlist, and for the final prize of £50,000. Anna is only the fifth New Zealander to secure a place on the list, after Keri Hulme, Patricia Grace, Lloyd Jones and of course Eleanor Catton. We wish her very warm congratulations and look forward to welcoming her to the Imaginary Cities panel on 30 August.
Anna Smaill was born in Auckland in 1979. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the IIML, and a PhD in contemporary American poetry from University College London. She is the author of a book of poetry, The Violinist in Spring, and her poems have been published in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. She has lived and worked in both Tokyo and London, and now lives in Wellington, with her husband, novelist Carl Shuker, and their daughter. The Chimes, her first novel, was published in 2015 to great international acclaim.
The Independent called Anna “2015’s most impressive new novelist”.
featuring Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton and Hugh Nicholson,
chaired by Lara Strongman
Sunday, 30 August, 12—1.15pm
TVNZ Festival Club, The Arts Centre
2014 FESTIVAL WRAP-UP
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.
Witi Ihimaera: Maori Boy
Long celebrated as one of our great storytellers, some of With Ihimaera’s best stories, however, are about his own life. They have though —up until now —remained untold. Maori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood, which follows the author through his formative years until the age of 15, is a unique, powerful work which celebrates what it means to be Maori walking in a Pakeha world –- both the good and not so good.
This honest, stirring work tells of the loving family and community into which Witi was born, of his early life in rural New Zealand with his hard-working and proud parents; his sisters, of family secrets, of facing anguish and challenges, and of laughter and love. Many of the characters from real life have made their way into his fiction.
Come and hear these tales first-hand in what is sure to be a heart-warming event with a fine story-teller.
‘WORD Festival the most successful yet,’ Tina Law, The Press, 1 Sept 2014
“Sold-out shows and thousands of attendees have made this year’s Christchurch writers festival one of the most successful yet, its organiser says. The four-day biennial WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival ended yesterday after about 5000 people attended 57 ticketed events led by 120 speakers from New Zealand and across the world.” Read More.
‘WORD Festival offers new views on quake city,’ Philip Matthews, The Press, 1 Sept 2014
“People from outside Christchurch can help Cantabrians to see their strange, ruined and hopeful city in new ways.
Writer Elizabeth Knox sees Christchurch as “a city living in memory and expectation, with ghost streets and dream buildings”. It was a typically original view from one of New Zealand’s leading writers, who came to the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival yesterday to deliver the first Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture.
The festival has established the lecture to honour the memory of Mahy, the prolific and much-loved Christchurch writer who died in 2012. Knox’s lecture covered realism and fantasy in writing, illustrated through profound and often moving examples from her own experience.” Read More.
‘Essays reflect on rebuild,’ Philip Matthews, The Press, 31 Aug 2014
“Those who spend a lot of time in central Christchurch will know about its strangeness but it can be hard to identify just what makes it strange.
Ryan Reynolds puts his finger on it in a new essay. Christchurch, he says, is a post city and a pre city. We look back and we look ahead. The present tense is limited to demolishing and tidying up the old while preparing to build the new.” Read More.
‘Hager’s relationship with hacker revealed,’ Abbie Napier, The Press, 30 Aug 2014
“Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager today revealed Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater was hacked because the hacker ‘‘thought he was a p****’’. A packed room at the WORD Christchurch festival was silent as Hager described secretly meeting the hacker and Dirty Politics source in public parks, convincing him not to release his information over Twitter.” Read More.
‘Whistleblower’s author and literary stars draw crowds,’ Cate Broughton, The Press, 30 Aug 2014
“Book lovers and political junkies savoured an evening with fiction and non-fiction writers from New Zealand and overseas at Word Christchurch events last night, with several events sold out.” Read More.
‘Fantasy writer captivates young readers,’ The Press, 29 Aug 2014
“A pink-haired American fantasy writer has enthralled Christchurch students at a literary festival event. Laini Taylor read from her young adult smash-hit Daughter of Smoke and Bone in the Charles Luney Auditorium at St Margaret’s College yesterday. The session was part of the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival’s read aloud schools’ programme.” Read More.
‘WORD Festival a success before it starts,’ Philip Matthews, The Press, 27 Aug 2014
“When you have an inside view of an arts festival, you realise that the planning takes months, even years. For those outside, the excitement or anticipation is condensed into weeks. Either way, the best feeling is when all of that build-up ends and the thing finally starts. The people behind the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, especially literary director Rachael King and executive director Marianne Hargreaves, will be feeling pretty good today.” Read More.
“Offence ‘a form of political currency,'” Beck Eleven, The Press, 18 Aug 2014
Author Richard King will be in Christchurch this month for the WORD Writers and Readers Festival. He tells Beck Eleven we are offended far too easily. Read More.
‘Kristin Hersh: Fluent in the language of music,’ Vicki Anderson, The Press, 15 Aug 2014,
“For American alt rock icon Kristin Hersh, every note and word has to fascinate. Every song has to be alive, like a great person . . . full of colours and sweat and memories and potential.
A key figure in the alt rock movement and a prominent solo artist, Hersh visits Christchurch later this month for appearances at WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival.” Read More
‘Quick success a surprise for Setterfield,’ Diana Dekker, The Press, 12 Aug 2014
Diane Setterfield knew her mum would want to read her first try at a book, The Thirteenth Tale, so she chivvied herself along. It turned out more than 3 million other people wanted to read it, too. She talks to Diana Dekker.
‘Colourful names capture cultural heritage,’ Sue Green, The Press, 11 Aug 2014
“Zimbabwe-born NoViolet Bulawayo is promoted by her publishers as a “superstar author”, one whose first novel, We Need New Names, was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. She’s the first black African woman and first Zimbabwean to receive this accolade.
The book, set in a Zimbabwean shantytown and in the US, is told in the voice of a 10-year-old African child, Darling. She immigrates to America, but the adjustment is fraught.” Read More.
Nic Low’s ‘Arms Race,’ Reviewed by Paul Diamond, Radio New Zealand, 11 Aug 2014
In case you missed it – Nic Low’s Arms Race reviewed by Paul Diamond on Radio New Zealand’s Nine-to-Noon today. Listen here.
‘Trip to the dark side of the moon,’ Kirsten Krauth, The Australian, 9 Aug 2014
“It’s July and ABC Radio National is celebrating 40 years since the moon landing. While Neil Armstrong’s first steps and words are auto-looped in a media frenzy — again — I open Nic Low’s Arms Race and join Armstrong and fellow astronauts on a trip to New Zealand in The Culler, a story set in an isolated mountain outpost. As with the other stories in this debut collection, the atmosphere is strangely alluring and desperate, layered with misinformation, and the dialogue teeters on a knife’s edge, threatening to disintegrate or explode.” Read More
The finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Crime Novel are…
The finalists for the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Crime Novel are:
Paul Cleave – Joe Victim
Alan Duff – Frederick’s Coat
Donna Malane – My Brother’s Keeper
Liam McIlvanney – Where the Dead Men Go
Keep up to date on all things to do with the Ngaio Marsh Award at their Facebook page. The winner will be announced at the 2014 WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival on 30 August.
‘Eleanor Catton’s stellar success,’ Kim Knight, Sunday Star Times, 4 Aug 2014,
“A man walks into a West Coast pub and sells half a million copies of a literary fiction novel constructed according to the astrological alignments of the planets. This year, for local book retailers, fact was stranger than fiction.
‘We deal with hard data,’ says Nevena Nikolic, sales and marketing manager with Nielsen BookScan. ‘I can’t comment, except to say it is unprecedented to see a New Zealand fiction title take out of the honour of the biggest-selling book in New Zealand.'”Read More
‘Memories of Margaret Mahy,’ Beck Eleven, The Press, 3 Aug 2014
‘She was the cherished children’s author living in our own backyard. A resident of Governors Bay for half a century, Margaret Mahy wrote picture books, novels, short story collections and poems. Her unlimited imagination made her one of 12 “Christchurch heroes” immortalised as a bronze bust at the Arts Centre. She was an obsessive reader who became a librarian, writing children’s stories in her spare hours until she could afford to go fulltime. A mother of two, a grandmother of seven.’ Read More
‘Hinemoana Baker: poems and boys’ homes,’ Saturday Morning, RNZ, 2 Aug 2014
‘Playing Favourites with Kristin Hersh,’ Saturday Morning, RNZ, 2 Aug 2014
“American songwriter and guitarist Kristin Hersh founded indie art-punk group Throwing Muses at the age of 14. She has since released eleven albums with the band (most recently 2013’s Purgatory / Paradise), as well as nine solo records and a number of other collaborations. Here is Kristin, playing favourites with Kim Hill.”
‘Real life heroes: Food critic Ruth Reichl,’ Nici Wickes, NZ Herald, 31 July 2014
‘I sit looking at the phone number I’ve been given for US-based food writer Ruth Reichl and wonder if it’s better to flag the interview than risk dashing the fantasy. She writes so enthusiastically and passionately about food. She makes Anthony Bourdain and AA Gill look like a pair of miserable bastards full of disdain for their subject.’ Read More
‘Russia like a beguiling hole,’ Philip Matthews, The Press, 30 July 2014
As Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, Luke Harding had first-hand experience of Vladimir Putin’s strange new world. Philip Matthews reports. Read More
Meg Wolitzer interviewed by Wallace Chapman, ‘Sunday Morning’, RNZ, 27 July 2014
In case you missed it, Meg Wolitzer was interviewed by Wallace Chapman on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Sunday Morning’ this past weekend. Here is the link to the interview. Enjoy!
‘WORD Festival a phoenix rising for Christchurch,’ Jillian Ewart, Booksellers, 24 July 2014
‘Here’s a shout out to those intrepid Cantabrians – brave, resilient people who saw their recent writers festivals crumble in earthquakes one and two. Now they have dusted themselves off for a fantastic new festival, WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival in association with The Press from August 27-31 2014.’ Read More
Rebecca Macfie wins NZSA Best New Book Award – Non-Fiction
Rebecca Macfie has just been announced the winner of the NZSA Best New Book Award – Non-Fiction for her book Tragedy at Pike River Mine. See the full list of winners here. Rebecca will take part in two sessions at the 2014 WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, Tough Stuff, where she will discuss how she writes about difficult subjects while still staying true to her artistic vision and Rebuilding Christchurch: Red Zones, Green Frames and Blueprints.
‘Avoid the kneejerk rebuild,’ The Press, 16 July 2014
“An outspoken architectural critic with first-hand experience of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans hopes Christchurch will avoid the “rear-view mirror” effect as it gets back on its feet. Reed Kroloff, the former editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine in the United States, joins a lineup of international writers in this year’s WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.” Read More
‘Kristin Hersh has no memory of writing her songs,’ The Press, 15 July 2014
“In the early 1980s – dark times for quality rock – Kristin Hersh was a central figure in the direction the genre would take. She was a key link between 1970s idols such as Patti Smith and Debbie Harry and the indie rock chicks to emerge in the late 1980s – Kim Deal, Kim Gordon and P. J. Harvey. Without Hersh and her contemporaries, we might not have Cat Power, Shirley Manson, St Vincent or even Grimes.”
Music is the WORD – rock musician Kristin Hersh headlines Christchurch’s literary festival, WORD Press Release, 15 July 2014
Seminal indie-rock musician Kristin Hersh is coming to New Zealand to share her music and prose at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, presented in association with The Press. Hersh will join literary heavyweights such as Eleanor Catton, Ruth Reichl and Meg Wolitzer at the multi-day festival, which runs from 27—31 August. She will perform her solo show WORDS + MUSIC on 30 August at the magnificent Transitional Cathedral and will make several other appearances throughout the festival.
Read the full press release here.
‘Catton early draw card for Writers’ Festival’, The Press, 22 May 2014
Kiwi novelist Eleanor Catton will speak in Christchurch as part of the city’s biennial writers’ festival. The Man Booker prize-winning writer will talk to local audiences as part of the five-day WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival in August.
Catton earned global acclaim for her book The Luminaries, an 832-page novel set in Hokitika’s 1860s gold rush heyday. Her appearance at the Christchurch festival follows a 2100-seat sell-out session at the Auckland Writers Festival this month.
Literary director Rachael King said she was really excited to have Catton join the Christchurch festival.
Damon Young’s ‘How to Think About Exercise’, Reviewed by The Age
“The idea that exercise is ‘mindless’ derives from the mind-body dualism bequeathed to us by Descartes, and by Christianity’s distaste for the flesh. In the spirit of the School of Life’s practical approach to philosophy, Damon Young advocates a return to the holistic approach of the ancient Greeks, who believed exercise could be virtuous and character-building, as well as pleasureable. There’s the satisfaction that comes from pushing ourselves to our limits, humility as we face up to these limits, a new understanding of pain and the ‘agreeable horror’ of the sublime that teaches us to ‘savour the precariousness of life.’ Through the rituals and rules of competitive sports we learn the meaning of sacrifice without real loss. In pithy, accessible prose, Young offers up a new mantra for intelligent exercise – not ‘just do it’ but ‘just become it’.”
Anis Mojgani’s ‘Songs From Under the River’, Reviewed by Stanton Hancock, Pank Magazine
“Songs From Under The River contains so many wonderfully woven strands of wordplay that it is impossible to do it justice in as few words as these. Mojgani has the rare gift of being able to create inspiring works that spring to life on the page with the same passion and fervor as when he takes them to the stage.”
Ruth Reichl’s ‘Delicious!’, Reviewed by Kate Christensen, NY Times
“Now, once again employing her ability to convey the comforts of food in prose both specific and enchanting, Reichl has written a novel, Delicious! Its title strikes me as perfectly apt, coming as it does from the woman who wrote: ‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious!'”
Eleanor Catton’s ‘The Luminaries’, Reviewed by Lucy Daniel, The Guardian
“‘How opaque, the minds of absent men and women! And how elusive, motivation!” So exclaims the narrator of Eleanor Catton’s irresistible second novel. Four years ago her debut, The Rehearsal, about a sex scandal at a New Zealand high school, won her a cache of nominations and prizes, but hardly foretold the startling gear shift that has given us this historical suspense novel, which won her this year’s Booker prize, aged just 28.”