I was very happy to be invited along to the launch of Wellington Writers and Readers Week. A few of the staff and reviewers for Booksellers NZ will be covering events from the week on the blog as they happen, in the hope of carrying on conversations started by the performers on stage. The week runs Friday 7 – Wednesday 12 March.
Arriving early, I had a chance to chat to one of the coordinators for the Week, Claire Mabey. She was very excited, and happy that all the arrangements for individual writers had been finalised.
The room was bustling by the time the speeches were made announcing the Festival programme for 2014. Looking around, I could see almost every ‘face’ of literature in Wellington, plus a few other special guests like Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. Kerry Prendergast, who is Executive Chair of the NZ Festival Trust, was not in attendance. A few years ago, just after the first election in which Celia won Kerry’s seat, they spoke one after the other, and things were amusingly tense.
The speeches were led by NZ Festival Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza, who has come most recently from a role as artistic director of the Perth Festival, but started her festival journey here in Wellington as tea lady. Her memories of festivals past included one of being ‘blown away’ by Chris Price at an event during the writers’ festival. Damien Wilkins followed her, speaking on behalf of Victoria University as a sponsor; then Kathryn Carmody came forward and spoke very gracefully, thanking all of her partners in putting together this spectacular line-up.
There is something for everybody in the line-up, from those who read historical fiction, with Tom Keneally and Elizabeth Gilbert as previously announced; to those who like to learn something that will make them look at life differently, like Dr Marco Sonzogni and Diarmaid MacCulloch. There is also some fantastic illustrators, with Leo Timmers (right), Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińsky, and Alison Bechdel .
Leo Timmers is running a live drawing workshop, with Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińsky also showing some of their techniques. Both workshops are for practising illustrators and graphic designers only, making them a truly fantastic opportunity for these people to extend their skills. Get in quickly for these!
The first Writers and Readers week headed by Wellington book industry wonder woman Kathryn Carmody, is bound to be a massive hit. Tickets for Friends of the Festival and Bookmark Pass holders go on sale today, and all tickets are available to the public next Friday 7 February.
For the full programme, head online to festival.co.nz/writers-week.
By Sarah Forster