Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The Auckland Writers & Readers Festival wound up on 15 May 2011 having seen a record attendance of over 32,000, up 21% on figures in 2010.
Highlights included the ‘New Zealand Listener Gala Night’ which featured eight guests telling true stories - some funny and some heart breaking - widely seen to be a “triumph” by audience members. The largest audience ever at a festival event was ‘An Evening with A.A. Gill’ which took festival entertainment to a whole new level. Gill and moderator Al Brown had fortified themselves with sashimi kawhai, courtesy of Gill’s fishing skills earlier in the day and prepared by the Langham Hotel’s chef Volker.
Dr Izzeldin Aubelaish received a standing ovation on Sunday morning, moving the 800-strong audience to tears. Madhur Jaffrey charmed audiences with her tales of the history of food and innovation in India, and stories of her life. Other popular sessions included New Zealand film-maker Vincent Ward with Charlotte Ryan; James Fergusson’s hour-long exploration of the Taliban with Sean Plunket; an innovative performance of music and spoken word by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra; Naomi Oreskes’ 'Michael King Memorial Lecture' in which she laid out the history of contrarian scientists; Barbara Strauch and Kim Hill on secrets of the brain and the ‘Saving the World’ session featuring Paul Gilding in his first ever festival, and David Mitchell, who utterly charmed the 2nd largest audience of the festival. To quote one audience member: “Everything I’ve seen has been absolutely brilliant.”
Sold out events included ‘An Evening with A.A. Gill’, ‘Antarctica’, ‘An Hour with David Mitchell’, ‘Lunch with Fatima Bhutto’, ‘High Tea’ at the Langham Hotel, Writing Workshops with Kathryn Burnett, Carolyn Burke, David Vann, Claire Keegan and Sean Williams, Poetry Idol and the ‘Intermediate Day’ of the Schools Programme.
Artistic Director Jill Rawnsley said: “It was the most friendly, busy and fantastic festival yet with outstanding
performances from all of the writers and chairs of events – we took some risks this year in programming (the ‘Wordy Day Out’ at University of Auckland for example), and they paid off. It is enormously satisfying.”
General Manager Anne Rodda credits the support received from sponsors as allowing the Festival to take such risks and particularly welcomes the University of Auckland, Cable Bay Vineyards and The Langham Auckland to the Festival’s rich fabric of sponsors and supporters.
The festival team and Board very warmly and sincerely thank all of the fantastic 2011 artists, volunteers, sponsors and supporters, and most of all the audience for partaking in the diverse set of events on offer over five days each May.
Keep and eye out - over the next week we will be posting photos and video from the events.
The photo of A.A. Gill and Al Brown comes from Brown's blog recounting his 'terrifying' experience with A.A. Gill - you can read about it here.