It’s a Wrap!

September 7, 2018


Wow. What a time we had! Thank you for coming to the 2018 WORD Christchurch Festival and making it the most successful ever.

Thousands flocked to events in Christchurch to celebrate words in all their forms at the WORD Christchurch Festival. The festival, with a theme of ‘adventurous’, drew a bigger audience than ever before, with attendance well in excess of 15,000, a whopping 25% increase from the previous record set by the 2016 festival.

There were so many highlights, but here are just a few:

Philip Hoare led a once-in-a-lifetime whale watching expedition to Kaikōura the day before the festival opened, as part of his programme of events, and charmed everyone at the festival with his passion and enthusiasm for the sea and everything in it.

Tusiata Avia’s programme of four events were exciting and dynamic and created an inclusive space for stories and performances of gender, sexuality, identity, radical self-love, poetry and voguing. Her Fast Burning Women session with Selina Tusitala Marsh was called ‘the best writers’ festival session I’ve ever seen’.

Helen Clark spoke to mayor Lianne Dalziel to a sold-our crowd at the Isaac Theatre Royal, and then surprised punters by appearing in the foyer to shake hands, sign books, and pose for selfies.

John Campbell gave a rousing introduction to the seven writers of the Starry, Starry Nights gala, and poet Robin Robertson dedicated our favourite poem in the world to us.

Political buttons were pushed, with Muslim writer Ed Husain and American journalist David Neiwert both taking on extremism; Disunited Kingdom? got everybody riled up about Brexit; and Edinburgh International Book Festival director Nick Barley hosted a panel that looked at the meaning of freedom in today’s world.

Saturday night’s raucous Great WORD Debate at The Piano, in which thriller writer A.J. Finn opened up about his battles with mental illness and Tom Scott did a sterling impression of Sam Hunt, was sold out. Across town, rock stars of poetry and music energised the audience of all ages and backgrounds at The Gym in the Arts Centre for The Neu! Ōtautahi! Incident!, a ‘collision of some of Scotland, Aotearoa and beyond’s favourite wordsmiths’, hosted by young Scottish poet Michael Pedersen and featuring Omar Musa, Hollie McNish, Hera Lindsay Bird and Samuel Flynn Scott of Wellington band The Phoenix Foundation among others, with a surprise guest appearance by Sonya Renee Taylor, who blew the audience away.

2500 primary and secondary students across Christchurch and Waimakariri took part in satellite schools events and were treated to poetry from Youtube sensation Hollie McNish, Malaysian-Australian rapper Omar Musa and Auckland-based American slam poet Carrie Rudzinski and readings from transgender British YA author Juno Dawson, who issued a language and content warning before she read (none of the students minded).

On Saturday night, the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Best First Novel were presented by visiting international crime writers Denise Mina and A.J. Finn to Alan Carter (Marlborough Man) and Jennifer Lane (All Our Secrets).

The event closed on a high with a standing ovation at the Adventurous Women event with extreme sports star Hollie Woodhouse, former Gloriavale resident Lilia Tarawa, ex Paris showgirl Margaret Austin, and adventuring engineer, Michelle Dickinson, hosted by broadcaster Miriama Kamo. The four women recounted tales of adventure that had the sell-out audience in tears and belly laughs.

There are so many more highlights, but we just can’t fit them in. Instead, look out for podcasts of our events, coming soon, and read reviews by the dedicated and hard-working bloggers at Booksellers NZ, Christchurch Libraries, and these summaries by Giovanni Tiso, and by Steve Braunias in The Spinoff.

We’re exhausted but energised and we hope you are too. We’re already excited for the next one and we hope to see you at one of our many upcoming future events.

Ngā mihi

Rachael & Marianne

WORD Christchurch warmly thanks its major funders Christchurch City Council, Creative New Zealand and the Rata Foundation; platinum partners Heartland Bank and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu; gold partners University of Canterbury and Kathmandu; festival and session sponsors Milford Asset Management, Kate Sylvester, Harcourts Gold, Pegasus Health and the Listener; and all our festival patrons and supporters, partners, supporting publishers and volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you!

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