Sunday, May 15, 2016

Auckland Writers Festival 2016 Breaks All Records and The Bookman is not at all surprised

 I am just back from another knockout day at the Auckland Writers Festival. 

Today I have spent an hour with noted Britsih author Jeanette Winterson, right, ( I have never heard an author read their own work as wonderfully as she does), an hour with outstanding, world-renowned Irish poet Paul Muldoon in a fascinating conversation with C.K.Stead, and listened intrigued as Simon Wilson skilfully interviewed formidable internationalist Emma Sky. In between I listened to authors Serie Barford, Marlon James, Alison May and Damien Wilkins reading their own work.Whew! What a day this has been................

The Aotea Centre has been packed day and night for the past three days and I am not at all surprised that the Festival broke its own record, with 63,000 seats filled.

People young and old flocked to the festival, which is celebrating its 16th year, to see more than 150 novelists, playwrights, song writers, scientists, historians, children’s writers, critics, editors, illustrators and poets from New Zealand and around the world .

Auckland Writers Festival director Anne O’Brien says the enormous enthusiasm and increasing attendance is testament to people’s hunger for more substantive conversations and deeper engagement with the world and each other.

“We know that literate citizens live better lives and build better worlds and we’re delighted to have played our part in cultivating literacy in the country over the last six days.

“This has been the most astonishing six days. The laughter, energy, ideas, conversations, tears and joy from audience and writers alike has been remarkable.

“People travelled from around the country and across the world, and left inspired with stories of change, hope and a deeper understanding of the role they, as individuals, can play in the world.”

More than 5,000 students poured into the Town Hall for inspiring sessions with writers from Britain, US, Australia and New Zealand. 

“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,” says Ms O’Brien.

The schools’ programme increased from two to three days this year, enabling two dedicated sessions for Years 5 and 6 students, as well as a full additional day for Years 9-13 students. All students left the programme with a free book of stories published by the festival. In addition, the transport subsidy funded by the festival has increased this year, assisting more low decile and regional school students to attend and the Festival, with the support of patrons, sponsored three lower decile schools to attend with selected students also taking part in a mentoring programme.

The cream of this country’s writers received honours at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – New Zealand’s premier literary awards - which were hosted by the festival for the first time this year. Stephen Daisley was presented with the inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Prize.

Vincent O’Sullivan was honoured for his life’s work in writing with a pounamu paper knife created by Coromandel artist Chris Charteris as the festival’s 2015 Honoured New Zealand Writer and this year’s Sarah Broom Poetry Prize went to Elizabeth Smither.

My warm congratulations to Festival Director Anne O'Brien and her small enthusiastic team.


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