Monday, May 22, 2017

Auckland Writers Festival Breaks All Records

New Zealand’s largest literary Festival broke its own record this week, with more than 70,000 seats filled across six days of story and ideas delivered by inspirational local and international writers. 

The programme, the Festival’s most ambitious yet, hosted over 200 novelists, playwrights, song writers, scientists, historians, children’s writers, illustrators, journalists and poets, including 40 internationals, introduced a new venue, took to the streets, and hosted a glittering spoken word showcase.

Auckland Writers Festival director Anne O’Brien (left) says the result is testament to people’s hunger for more substantive conversations and deeper engagement with the world and each other.

“This has been an exhilarating six days with remarkable people and conversations on stage and in the foyers.

“This Festival was the most diverse yet, spanning continents and cultures and reflecting the interests of people across all age groups. Audiences came from all over New Zealand and across the world, and left inspired by stories of change and hope, and a deeper understanding of the role they, as individuals, can play in the world.”

New Zealand’s much loved public intellectual, Lloyd Geering,  (left), received a sustained standing ovation as did two inaugural Festival events Best of the Best: Spoken Word Showcase and The Song of the Book. Ian Rankin brought his Inspector Rebus books to life and revealed his love of The Mutton Birds. Gifted raconteur, Roxane Gay’s straight talking broke new ground. Food critic Jay ‘Acid’ Rayner delivered a witty show and a big thumbs down to our pineapple lumps.  Rupi Kaur, Caroline Brothers and Steve Sem-Sandberg moved audience members to tears. Thomas Friedman, one of the world’s foremost authorities on politics and foreign affairs, presented a powerful vision of the future, as did New Zealand rising star Max Harris in the 2017 Michael King Memorial Lecture.. George Saunders’ warmth, humour and outstanding writing won him thousands of new readers here in New Zealand. Susan Faludi shared the story of her late father’s gender reassignment at age 76; a story as ground breaking as her Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Backlash. Mpho Tutu Van Furth’s grace and wisdom, demonstrated on a personal and societal level, left us with much food for thought. We learnt a whole lot more about why Trump won the US elections from such deep thinkers as John Lanchester and Stan Grant. Chris Parker and Tom Sainsbury brought the house down in their late night salon style soirees as did Professor Frankie who had Harry Potter fans – adult and children alike – in stitches, celebrating the magician’s 20th anniversary.

More than 5,700 students, from as far afield as Christchurch, filled the Aotea Centre for inspiring sessions with writers from Britain, US, Australia and New Zealand. 

The cream of this country’s writers received honours at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards – New Zealand’s premiere literary awards and the opening event in the Festival’s public programme. Catherine Chidgey was presented with the inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize.

Dame Fiona Kidman was honoured for her life’s work in writing with a pounamu paper knife created by Coromandel artist Chris Charteris as the Festival’s 2017 Honoured New Zealand Writer and this year’s Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, judged by UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy went to Hera Lindsay Bird.

Auckland Writers Festival Board Chairwoman, Pip Muir, says it only remains for her to sincerely thank the many people who made this year’s extraordinary outcome possible.

“I am enormously grateful to the authors for their wisdom and discourse, to the audience for their warmth and engagement and to the sponsors and patrons for their generosity and loyal support.

“We took some risks this year, investing in a new venue – the Heartland Festival Room - and introducing a number of new events. These initiatives have been enthusiastically received and it is thanks to the tireless work of the Festival staff and volunteers, that the Festival has been such a success,” says Ms Muir.

The Auckland Writers Festival warmly thanks new Platinum Partner Heartland Bank; Gold Partners The University of Auckland, Freemasons Foundation, Ockham, SPARK, Creative New Zealand and ATEED; and all our Silver, Bronze and Supporting Partners and Patrons.


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