Tuesday, May 18, 2010
We’re Blown Away
What a festival! Our gratitude to the writers, the audience and the volunteers knows no bounds. We feel proud to have honoured our valued sponsors, funders, patrons and supporters. Our heartfelt thanks to all of them, as always.
The tenth Festival boasts record numbers with attendances of 25,500, including a 23% increase in bookings for the Schools Programme. This is particularly pleasing given the loss of the Premium Saturday evening event that was to feature Elizabeth Gilbert due to her cancellation. The loyal festival audience turned out in force yet again - old friends reunited, many brought new friends into the fold, and events like “Somebody Stole My Game” with Chris Laidlaw, Gregor Paul and Lloyd Jones brought in new festival-goers.
The crowds, who come from all over Auckland and some from much further afield, were outstanding, good natured and engaged. They embraced the writers with warmth and intelligence, and asked searching and provocative questions. Antony Loewenstein said ‘The Festival was a unique chance to engage audiences on issues so rarely discussed; on mainstream issues such as Isral, Zionism, war and peace. As a writer, I was embraced and challenged, like it should be.’
Visiting writers were stunned by the audience sizes: there’s nothing like watching the face of a writer who expects a trickle of thirty people when you forewarn them there’s a 700-strong sea of faces waiting for them.
Festival volunteers were outstanding – without them the festival, and many audience members, would be lost. How do you thank someone who takes annual leave to spend their time every year sitting at an Information Desk in the Aotea Centre for 4 days? Or travel at their own expense from Dunedin to be a volunteer? It’s a selfless act so vital to the success of this event, and a testament to the festival that they come back year after year (some have volunteered at all 10 festivals).
As for the writers, we couldn’t have asked for a more lively, generous and witty group of individuals to gather in one place. From go to woe, they were enlightening, inspiring and fun, and we know they felt their days were ‘well spent’. “I was blown away by the reception” was the phrase we heard repeatedly from departing authors, with a number commenting they’d enjoyed their best event - ever - at the Auckland festival. Rick Gekoski for one, who added ‘It was extraordinarily exciting – great audiences and loads of stimulating speakers. It really was a privilege being part of it.
Artistic Director Jill Rawnsley and Publicist Angela Radford are off to the Sydney Writers’ Festival this week, confident it will be a ripper having seen a number of the visiting writers in action in Auckland. We very much look forward to catching up with them again.
And now, on to planning for 2011!