Monday, February 22, 2016

Low-Decile School Students to Join Internationally Renowned Authors at Auckland Writers Festival

Students from three low-decile schools will be rubbing shoulders with international and local writers at the 2016 Auckland Writers Festival Schools’ Programme thanks to the generosity of two passionate festival supporters.

Mangere College, McAuley High School and Tangaroa College are the recipients of the initiative, which will also include mentoring of selected students across the year, in a Festival partnership with the Manukau Institute of Technology, with support from The University of Auckland. Accomplished New Zealand writers Tusiata Avia (MIT) and Paula Morris (UoA) will oversee the mentoring component.

Now in its eighth year, the AWF Schools’ Programme, which runs May 10-12 and is supported by Freemasons New Zealand, sees students from all over Auckland filling the Town Hall and Aotea Centre auditoriums to capacity to hear some of the world’s finest literary stars for younger readers.
Festival director Anne O’Brien says engaging students who may otherwise not get opportunities to meet and hear writers is the realisation of a long-held wish.

“Fostering a love of reading and books, and a belief in all young people that they too can write their stories is hugely important to us. We are thrilled to welcome students from these three schools,” says Ms O’Brien.

The initiative is one of several instigated by the Auckland Writers Festival this year to enhance its Schools’ Programme.

The event has increased from two to three days enabling two dedicated sessions for Years 5 and 6 students, as well as a full additional day for Years 9-13 students. The result is 14 new sessions with capacity increased to 6000 attendees over the three days.

In addition, the transport subsidy funded by the festival has increased this year, assisting more low decile and regional school students to attend.

The festival is also producing its own book which every attending student will take home free. The book will include an illustration by US writer and illustrator Edward Carey, short stories by Vincent O’Sullivan, Kate de Goldi and Denis Wright, and a selection of poems by Tusiata Avia.

“We are passionate about encouraging the next generation of readers. We want to demonstrate that books are fun, fascinating and potentially life-changing.
“It is hugely satisfying to increase the breadth of the festival’s schools’ programme in all these ways,” says Ms O’Brien.

Irish writer John Boyne of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas fame is one of the world’s leading children’s novelists. He talks about creating fiction and how we tell important stories from our past. Liz Pichon, who writes the multi-million copy bestselling Tom Gates books travels from England to entertain senior primary school students.

US author Michael Grant wrote the bestselling Gone and Beserk series. He’ll be introducing students to a genre-bending news series, Frontline which re-imagines WWII with girl soldiers fighting at the front. Students will be blown away by Australian spoken word performer Maxine Beneba Clarke’s powerful performance exploring matters of life and identity.

British philosopher Julian Baggini brings his wit, infectious curiosity and bracing sceptism, while Kiwi expat Jonathan Gil Harris will have students falling in love with Shakespeare.  Edward Carey will talk about his acclaimed Ironmonger trilogy and the relationship between writing characters and drawing them.

Some of New Zealand’s best-known children’s and YA writing talent will be there, too. Among them are Indian Ink’s Jacob Rajan, the multi-award winning Kate De Goldi, chart-topping country and blues singer Tami Neilson, author-illustrator Donovan Bixley, internationally acclaimed poet Tusiata Avia and much-loved author and painter Bob Kerr.

Tickets – which are only open for purchase via schools - are now available.  The events - which cater for students from Year 5 to Year 13 - have sold out in previous years, so schools are encouraged to book early.

For a full schools’ programme please go to To make enquiries, email and for bookings go to or call Ticketmaster on 09 970 9745.

Day attendance (entry to four sessions) is just $12 per student and must be booked through schools. Workshops, which offer highly motivated students a rare opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, leading writers, are $15 per workshop per student. Schools needing financial transport assistance can apply to the Festival’s Transport Fund.    

The Auckland Writers Festival Schools’ Programme is made possible with the generous support of Gold Partner The Freemasons Foundation.

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