The Autumn WORD festival in Christchurch was an amazing week.
We started on Tuesday 12 May, with Helen Macdonald (right) and Steve Braunias in conversation. They were both in their element and had the audience enthralled, very glad that they had come out on a cold night. Those that had not read H is for Hawk were very quick to purchase it afterwards, to get the full story.
I could have listened to Nick Davies for hours, this session really gave us an insight into the British media world and how corrupt it was. This was the event that saw many people say to me how much their friends would have enjoyed it, if they had come along.
Steve Braunias’ Madmen event, in conversation with Philip Matthews on the Wednesday night, was in the restored Heritage Hotel, in a wonderful intimate restaurant/bar. It was a great setting which made you feel as though you were sitting with a large group of friends, enjoying a wonderful conversation.
I attended the event featuring David Walliams on the Thursday night, and regretted that I had not purchased extra tickets in the first week for my boys (due to it selling out so fast). It was a full audience, and David had everyone eating out of his hands. It was great to see parents and children queuing for an hour and a half (on a Thursday night!) to get a personal word and signature from David. The Original Children’s Bookshop was selling at this event, and the parents and their children were purchasing steadily, filling the gaps in their collections.
The next event on Thursday night, was Xinran, who has been to Christchurch before, and always an enjoyable author to listen to. She opens our eyes to what is going on in China, and on this trip, she was talking about the one-child policy and how that is affecting the families and children of today. The way she illustrates her points to her audience is incredibly powerful. This was not a full audience but sales for her books were very strong, with Buy me the Sky the most popular, and steady sales for her previous books.
To finish the week off, on Sunday night, we were at the Court theatre in a converted shed in Addington for the event featuring David Mitchell, chaired by Rachael King. This was the first time this venue had been used for a WORD festival event, and I hope that it is used again. David and Rachael had a wonderful conversation, and the audience all felt a part of it. With no time restraints, they continued on past the scheduled finish time, and it was fantastic. David Mitchell is an amazing author who already had a lot of fans in Christchurch, gathering many more on this trip to New Zealand.
Book sales for the week of the events were very strong. Customers wanted to read the books in advance of attending the festival, so sales were steady from the time of the announcement of the Autumn Season.
By Pene Whitty
Manager, UBS Canterbury