NEXT FESTIVAL: 25-29 August 2021
WORD Christchurch is the largest literary organisation in the South Island of New Zealand. Since its inception in 1997, the organisation has been steadily building in size, reputation, awareness, international participation and popularity within the Christchurch and South Island community.
WORD Christchurch is a world-class festival of writing and ideas, attracting 15,000 attendances pre-COVID-19. In 2021 our dates are 25-29 August. We give Christchurch audiences direct access to the best authors in New Zealand and the world, ground-breaking ideas, Ngāi Tahu stories, and opportunities for local writers and readers to create new work. With an audience satisfaction rating of 99.4% in our 2020 festival survey, we’re confident that we succeed in that mission.
The core of the festival is renowned authors discussing their work, showcases of poetry and song, expert panels debating local and global issues, youth and school programmes designed to inspire a love of reading and writing, and a wide range of fun, festive special events. A typical programme comprises 75 events spread across five days, with 150 authors as our guests. Our primary venues are The Piano, Tūranga, The James Hay Theatre, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū and Little Andromeda, plus smaller venues around New Regent Street.
A secondary but essential purpose of the festival is to make Christchurch citizens proud to live in a city with a thriving creative and intellectual culture. For five days we flood the CBD with a buzz of excited people and conversations, filling not just our venues, but the neighbouring restaurants, bars and hotels. As we emerge from a decade of rebuilding, and look towards urban revitalisation and recovery from COVID-19, WORD Christchurch plays an important role in the return of life to the city’s heart.
In 2020 during the world-wide pandemic we postponed our international festival dates from August to October and reprogrammed a New Zealand-led festival. We were the first major literary festival held in the country post-Covid. As a result of the success of the festival in 2020, we are moving from a biennial to an annual festival for the next three years until we can resume some sort of international travel. Meantime we will programme events with New Zealand writers live and international writers via a digital platform.
WORD Christchurch presents events that educate, inform, entertain and inspire the community. In the 2020 festival 40% of our events were free events, including sessions with local refugees, Māori and Pacific communities, free family events, youth events, and the New Regent pop-up festival. Children and families are a priority, and as well as free events for them, we also present a schools’ programme absolutely free of charge to primary and high school students and teachers. We aim to increase literacy and instil a love of books and reading in the next generation.
The organisation employs five permanent staff – Marianne Hargreaves – Executive Director, Rachael King, and Nic Low – Programme Directors, Paula Granger – Partnerships Manager and Magda Lorenzo – Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator. In the festival year, we employ contract workers to assist in the planning and presentation of the festival itself.
The objectives of the Trust are to inspire, challenge, educate, entertain and promote reading and writing as a pleasurable and ‘fun’ activity to both adults and children. The festival and literary events showcase New Zealand and international authors, illustrators and achievers in the industry and promotes them as role models while maintaining the highest levels of excellence and professionalism in all areas of festival operation.
Photo: Mohamed Hassan, Doc Drumheller and Ciaran Fox, The Last Word, New Regent St, WORD Christchurch Festival 2016