The 17th Auckland Writers Festival opens tomorrow, in its most ambitious programme yet, which sees more than 40 international writers, historians, scientists, radicals and thinkers team with the world’s largest showcase of New Zealand literary talent in central Auckland until Sunday 21 May.
This year’s Festival looks set to break last year’s record of 65,000 attendees, filling festival halls, a glittering new pop-up venue and taking to city pavements in events running from morning until late into the night.
Auckland Writers Festival director, Anne O’Brien says she is thrilled to launch the largest literary event in New Zealand:
“Over the next six days we will be hosting more than 200 writers and welcoming large audiences from ages two to 102 for conversations, readings, debates, stand-up poetry, literary theatre, children’s writers and free public and family events in Auckland settings.
“The last few years has seen unprecedented interest in the Festival from audiences who travel not only from all over Auckland, but around the country and abroad to listen to globally lauded writers and ideas men and women who deepen our thinking, make us laugh, move us and help us to make sense of this increasingly complicated world.
“I am delighted to deliver the most varied and expansive programme in the Festival’s history.”
Scotland’s Ian Rankin - one of the world’s greatest detective novelists features as does US 2016 Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Paul Beatty; US feminist icons Susan Faludi and Roxane Gay; Kiwi medical doctor and poet Glenn Colquhoun; US Academy Award-winning writer, George Saunders, whose novel Lincoln in the Bardo has just debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list; three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, US foreign correspondent and writer Thomas Friedman; multi-award winning English novelist and journalist John Lanchester; Commonwealth Prize-winning New Zealand novelist Catherine Chidgey; acclaimed English biographer, historian, novelist and The Spectatorcolumnist A.N. Wilson; US scientist James Gleick and his compatriot, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss; New Zealand’s most respected theologian, 99-year-old Lloyd Geeringon stage with broadcaster John Campbell; Man Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist Anne Enright; New Zealand/English actress, playwright and novelist Stella Duffy; Canadian transgender writer, film maker and songwriter Ivan Coyote; outspoken Australian broadcaster and memoirist Stan Grant; English Masterchef judge and food critic for The Observer, Jay Rayner; local best-selling novelist Jenny Pattrick; poet and novelist Apirana Taylor of Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Ngati Porou and Taranaki descent. British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy returns, as does sensational English actress Rebecca Vaughanwith a solo retelling ofJane Eyre, followingFestival sell-outs of Austen’s Women (2014) and Mrs Dalloway (2015).
The country’s premiere book honours - the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards - is the first public event of the programme at the Aotea Centreon Tuesday 16 May. Come and see who takes home the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, and congratulate the winners of the Poetry category, the Illustrated Non-Fiction category and the inaugural Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction with comedienne and writer Michele A’Court as MC.
The Heartland Festival Room - known to many as the Pacific Crystal Palace - takes pride of place for the first time in the centre of Aotea Square across the Festival period. Audiences will be treated to entertainment through the day and late into the night, including free entry Graham Norton-style ‘on the couch’ salons hosted by long-time writing collaborators Chris Parker and Tom Sainsbury, and playwright, actress and OBE knighted novelist Stella Duffy.
Take a Walk on High Street with the Festival on Friday 19 May and see the inner city boulevard in a different light, as you go on a word trail where more than 20 writers perform Insta-essays, music, spoken word, games and theatre.
Five of Auckland’s brightest spoken word artists take to the stage with three globally lauded performer greats, in an unprecedented showcase of talent in Best of the Best: Spoken Word Showcase at the Town Hall on Saturday 20 May.
Voted Britain’s most influential food and drink columnist, The Observer’s restaurant critic, Masterchef judge and author, Jay Rayner, tells us if it is ever OK to covet thy neighbour’s oxen or eat with your hands in The Ten Food Commandments on Friday 19 May at the Aotea Centre.
Festival week sees a corner of Aotea Square come alive each night with text projections in Pop Poetry: Love Letters, in association with Auckland Council and the Waitematā Local Board. A sparkling collection of intrepid writers join the fun, with one a night writing live but anonymously and only revealing themselves as they sign off...
Join UK writer John Lanchester, Australian broadcaster Stan Grant, New Zealand writer Paula Morris and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Susan Faludi in The University of Auckland Festival Forum, which this year discusses The Great Divide on Wednesday 17 May in the Aotea Centre. The time is now to debate such hotly debated issues as wealth and poverty, race, gender and geographies.
This year’s sold out Festival Gala Night is True Stories Told Live: The Heart of the Matteron Thursday 18 May at the Aotea Centre.Gina Cole (NZ); Glenn Colquhoun (NZ); Ivan Coyote (Canada), Anne Enright (Ireland); Lloyd Geering(NZ); James Shapiro (US); Ian Rankin (Scotland); and Mpho Tutu van Furth (South Africa) tell us a seven minute true story propless and scriptless. Expect these stories from the heart to linger with you long after the lights go down and if you’ve missed out on gala tickets, there are still tickets for all gala writers in their individual events.
British Block-buster children’s literary star, creator of Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort, Lauren Child, will have the under 10s enraptured on Saturday morning in the Aotea Centre and on Sunday morning we celebrate everyone’s favourite magician’s 20th birthday in Harry Potter Hijinks with Professor Frankieincluding spells duels, quidditchdemos, trivia questions and prizes. Family Day runs all day Sunday 21 May in the Heartland Festival Room in Aotea Square and in the Herald Theatre supported by the Freemason’s Foundation. Young readers will be treated to free readings, performances, storytelling with presenters including Tanya Batt, Sacha Cotter & Josh Morgan, Carol Ann Duffy, Toby Morris, Simon Pollard and Apirana Taylor.
The Festival finale on Sunday afternoon is a free entry
www.writersfestival.co.nz for tickets and for more information on appearing writers and their events.
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.
We are also enormously grateful to our Festival patrons for their enthusiasm and generosity.