My congratulations to everyone concerned with the planning, organization and executing of this Festival. I have been to all of the AWR Festivals and for my money this was up there with the best.
Loads of really interesting authors, local and overseas and across all genres, most of whom were great presenters and agreeable folk; largely excellent Chairpersons, over 70 always helpful and pleasant volunteers, obliging publishers’ staff providing introductions to their authors, a superb bookshop staffed by knowledgeable booksellers, okay food and good coffee (if you asked for a double!) which has not always been the case in the past, and of course a great venue.
Here is my summary, based of course on the sessions I attended, sadly I couldn’t be at them all and I clearly missed one of two outstanding sessions.
Hermione Lee’s Michael King Memorial Lecture.
Other memorable events:
An Hour with Peter Ho Davies
Christine Fernyhough & Hamish Keith with Peter Wells
An Hour with Simon Montefiore
Pavolva with Everything
An Hour with Mo Hayder
An Hour with Michael Pollan
And some I missed but have had enthusiastic reports about:
Edith Wharton & the Young Stalin
An Hour with Michele Leggott
In an ideal world one could wish for every session to follow the An Hour with…..format. In theory panels are a great idea but involving three or four authors in a worthwhile discussion in the space of an hour is a difficult thing to pull off and generally speaking these sessions were the least satisfactory of the events I attended.
Among the authors present there were five who either teach, or have taught creative writing – Peter Ho Davies, Paula Morris, Junot Diaz, Witi Ihimaera, and Mo Hayder. Some sort of record?
Nice to see a good sprinkling of Wellingtonians among the Chairpersons – among those I noted - Kim Hill, Fiona Kidman, Kate Camp, Harry Ricketts, Kate de Goldi, and Chris Price.
This Festival would not be possible without women! The entire Festival team is female, the eight strong Festival Trust board comprises seven women and one man, the audiences at the Festival were predominantly female, most of the 70+ volunteers working behind the scenes were women, all the booksellers on site were women,………………….
Wonderful to see a number of Book Groups/Clubs attending, I observed groups from Tauranga, Dunedin and the Far North but I suspect there were many others.
Authors/panelists should be on stage a few minutes before a session starts rather than come in to the dark auditorium.
Bouquets & Brickbats:
Great chairmanship – Finlay Macdonald, Peter Wells, Kate Camp, Paula Morris, Lauraine Jacobs.
Festival organizers for having wi-fi Broadband available in the Aotea Centre, especially appreciated by bloggers like me who could whip out their laptops and report immediately after a session.
The venue – perfect having all events under one roof. Plenty of space, great facilities, even the coffee was good!
The Auckland weather – brilliantly fine, calm days from Wednesday to Sunday.
The cost of weekday parking at the Aotea Centre. Perhaps some sort of season pass or concession rate could be negotiated in future years. After all both The Edge and Auckland City are listed among the major sponsors. It is ok for me on my Vespa but I know forking out $30+ a day was a hardship for some folk.
Ticket prices to Festival events – quite a lot of murmuring from the punters about this. Certainly the prices were higher than the NZ Post Writers & Readers Week last month in Wellington. I received the following e-mail from Festival goer Roger Hall on this subject:
Has anyone commented to you on the cost of admission this year which I think has gone up? Over $20 for a buy at the door ticket for a one hour session seems quite a lot to me and may have been a deterrent. Even if you booked in advance, and you attend only 10% of the 62 sessions on offer that's well over $100, perhaps beyond the reach of many people.
But a wonderful event again.