17 Jul 2018
The biennial WORD Christchurch Festival (29 August – 2 September) has been growing its audience rapidly over the past few years, and in 2018 its theme of ‘adventurous’ has attracted a dazzling array of over 120 international and local writers and speakers who take risks in their lives and in their work, and who appear in nearly 100 events over five days.
Former enfant terrible Irvine Welsh, who tore up the British book scene in the 1990s with the cult novel Trainspotting, heads up a delegation of Scottish writers that incudes Shaun Bythell, the cantankerous author of The Diary of a Bookseller and crime writer Denise Mina who will present this year’s Ngaio Marsh award for Best Crime Novel on 1 September.
Writers who take adventure seriously include Philip Hoare, British Moby-Dick expert and author of The Sea Inside and Leviathan, or, the Whale, who will accompany a whale-watching expedition in Kaikōura and talk about his passions with Kim Hill; Nathan Fa’avae and John Hellemans, who appear in conversation about what drives them to compete in extreme sports; award-winning New Zealand writer Laurence Fearnley, who discusses her new anthology of mountain writing; Hollie Woodhouse, who recently trekked across Greenland and returns to tell her story in the closing night event Adventurous Women; and Robyn Davidson, author of the classic story Tracks, who at the age of 27 walked 2700 kilometres alone across the Australian desert with a dog and four camels for company. Davidson will present the opening night Adventurous keynote on 29 August.
Other speakers include this year’s top international thriller writer, A. J. Finn, talking about his smash hit The Woman in the Window; British YA author and LGBTQI+ activist Juno Dawson; American activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor who has launched a global movement of body acceptance; British YouTube poetry star Hollie McNish; American science fiction writer Ted Chiang; Australian rapper and poet Omar Musa; and New Zealand’s own poets Hera Lindsay Bird and Chris Tse, satirist Tom Scott, comedian Michele A’Court, historian Dame Anne Salmond, novelists Catherine Chidgey, Charlotte Grimshaw, Tina Makereti, Paula Morris and Lloyd Jones, and recent Acorn Foundation Ockham Award winners Pip Adam and Diana Wichtel, and shortlistees Brannavan Gnanalingam and Annaleese Jochams.
As guest programmer, Christchurch poet Tusiata Avia has curated three sessions and a workshop, drawing on drawing on her friendships with writers and creatives of colour from cis and LGBTQI+ communities, featuring Victor Rodger, Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh and Pati Solomona Tyrell and Manu Vaeatangitau from FAFSWAG, the skyrocketing collective of queer indigenous creatives.
Serious non-fiction topics explored include the rise of America’s alt-right with American journalist David Neiwert; an insight into Islam from former radical Ed Neiwert; humans’ relationships with trees with British author and Eden Project trustee Jonathan Drori; the science of city-building with Irish physicist-turned-science-communicator Laurie Winkless; the state of te reo Māori; and the history of the people of Ngāi Tahu. In partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and hosted by its director Nick Barley, a panel with Lloyd Jones, Juno Dawson and British/Ghanian author and film-maker Yaba Badoe will explore the meaning of freedom.
The spirit of Kate Sheppard floats through the festival as we celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage with a number of events that explore feminist issues, including 125 Years: Are We There Yet? with a panel of extraordinary women, including Georgina Beyer and Kim Hill, discussing how far we have come and how far we have to go in the fight for gender equality.
This year features more sessions than ever before that celebrate and explore Te Ao Māori, supported by a continuing partnership with Ngāi Tahu. Events include a walk through the CBD with Matapopore Charitable Trust’s Joseph Hullen, a session on the book Tāngata Ngāi Tahu, and a panelon the current discussions around te reo Māori.
WORD Christchurch programme director, Rachael King, says this year is about audiences and readers taking the plunge and inviting a bit of adventure into their lives. “While this festival showcases plenty of beloved names in books, we hope people will seek out the unusual and the informative and try something new. Every writer has been carefully selected not just for their great work, but because in person they are guaranteed to delight, entertain, provoke thought and open hearts and minds. As ever, we provide a platform for Christchurch people to come together and discuss the big issues of the day.”
More than a quarter of events during the festival are offered free to the public, and there is also plenty for children and families, with beloved authors Stacy Gregg, Barbara Else, Gavin Bishop, and Nanogirl, Michelle Dickinson. Christchurch primary and intermediate schools will be treated to a free pre-festival day in partnership with the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults on 6 August, and secondary students will get their turn on 30 August.
As well as featuring big stories, this year’s festival features a number of intimate events that put the audience up close and personal with writers: the New Regent Street pop-up festival in the small spaces in and around Christchurch’s most charming street; A Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of short lectures held at the Last Word for a small audience; a session on book collecting with Shaun Bythell; and a reading workshop with Philip Hoare on the festival’s featured classic, Moby-Dick.
The WORD Christchurch Festival programme is launched at 5.30pm Tuesday 5 July at The Piano.
WORD Christchurch warmly thanks its major funders Christchurch City Council, Creative New Zealand and the Rata Foundation; platinum partners Heartland Bank and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu; gold partners University of Canterbury and Kathmandu; festival and session sponsors Milford Asset Management, Kate Sylvester, Harcourts Gold, Pegasus Health and the Listener; and all our festival patrons and supporters, partners and supporting publishers.