January 4, 2021
We’re busy brainstorming, reading widely, and having all those juicy conversations you have before you have to get stuck into making the ideas a reality.
To help with the dreaming process (and the delivery), we’re excited to announce a new addition to the WORD team: Programme Co-Director Nic Low.
Nic Low is a Ngāi Tahu author and arts organiser, originally from Christchurch, who has recently returned home after fifteen years in Melbourne (thanks COVID!). He will be sharing the role of curating this year’s WORD Christchurch Festival (25 – 29 August) with Rachael King – who will devote more time to her own writing in 2021 – and will oversee a programme of digital events.
“Australia’s loss is our gain,” says Rachael. “I am so excited to be sharing the responsibility of programming WORD festival and events equally with Nic, who, since he appeared in the very first re-branded WORD festival in 2014, has become a trusted friend and ear to bounce ideas off. He brings a bulging notebook of brilliant ideas, connections and a knowledge of te ao Māori and te reo, which will all add a fresh perspective to our ever-evolving festival.
“I’m also thrilled to free up some time to work on the novel I started during my recent Michael King Writers Centre residency, and to help launch Nic’s new book later in the year.”
We asked Nic a few questions to help you get to know him…
Q & A WITH NIC LOW
What were you doing before COVID struck?
Working on my second book, Uprising, a history of the southern alps from a Ngāi Tahu perspective, told through walking journeys. I’d already done the fun part – fifteen journeys on foot through the mountains retracing historic routes – so I was trying to finish off the writing and editing. Oh, and raising a toddler! His name is Ahi, and he’s awesome. You’ll all get to meet him round the festival in due course.
How did you get into writers festivals?
In my early twenties, I went to the National Young Writers Festival in Australia, which blew my mind. It was full of people all writing, publishing and creating their own work, and there was such a buzz that I had to get involved. I ended up co-directing that festival, and it grew from there. I’ve been a member of the Melbourne Writers Festival programming committee, and a peer of Literature Board of the Australian Council of the Arts, plus a judge for last year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I also ran the University of Melbourne’s International Writing Program at the Asialink institute, organising tours, collaborations and publications across the Asian region.
Any favourite projects?
My favourite would have to be Bookwallah, where we toured five Australian and Indian writers, and a travelling library, across Australia and India by train. We commissioned bespoke leather suitcases that transformed into bookcases, containing a portable library of 1000 books. We’d set up on train platforms, or at writers festivals or markets, and donated the books to local libraries, schools, universities, or curious passers-by. I loved spending a month with the writers riding the rails across India, exploring Indian literary culture in the company of such generous and knowledgeable local authors.
What’s your vision for WORD 2021?
In 2020 WORD was a huge success in focussing on local writers. Without international authors, it was heartening to see everyone celebrating our own talent, from household names like Witi Ihimaera to newcomers like Becky Manawatu. This year I’m excited to work with Rachael and Marianne to keep providing a big platform for our best and brightest, and also expanding our digital program so we can still present the overseas writers we know and love. The challenge is making digital events feel live, and interactive – so it’s not just a big Zoom meeting. We’ve got some promising developments in the works in here. I’m also looking to celebrate te reo Māori, oral storytelling, and writing that comes out of Christchurch, and our southern landscapes—so watch this space!