The country’s largest literary showcase, the Auckland Writers Festival, brings a world of stories and ideas to the city this May, offering laughter, knowledge, ideas and inspiration for audiences of all ages with more than 230 of the planet’s best writers alive today.
Appearing exclusively at the Festival is Norwegian literary rock star Karl Ove Knausgård. He joins a stellar line-up including US New York Times number one bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler; CWA Gold Dagger winner Jane Harper and Australian literary statesman Alex Miller; award winning New Zealand writers: Festival co-founder Peter Wells, globally lauded Lloyd Jones and national treasure Anne Salmond; leading American neuroscientist David Eagleman; Kiwi cartoonist Tom Scott; leading journalist and memoirist Diana Wichtel; New Zealand’s 2017 Venice Art Biennale representative Lisa Reihana; British novelist, the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, Susie Boyt; US Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Goldstein; Kenyan Nobel contender Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o; New Zealand’s poet laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh; poet, novelist and critic C.K. Stead; Bill Gates-backed originator of the Big History genre, David Christian; Australian broadcaster, director, children’s writer and daughter of the late, great John Clarke, Lorin Clarke; Rolling Stone editor and environmental writer Jeff Goodell.
The country’s largest literary showcase, the Auckland Writers Festival, brings a world of stories and ideas to the city from the 15th to the 20th May, offering laughter, knowledge, ideas and inspiration for audiences of all ages with more than 160 of the planet’s best writers alive today.; renowned British philosopher and author A. C. Grayling; Kurdistani poet and feminist who established the region’s first tertiary gender studies programme Choman Hardi; global literary star, former UN under-secretary and writer Shashi Tharoor; New Zealander novelists Catherine Chidgey and Linda Olsson; Bulgarian-Kiwi historian, travel writer, novelist and poet Kapka Kassabova; The New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross; freelance journalist and Myanmar specialist Francis Wade; and prolific science fiction writer and futurist Neal Stephenson.
The Festival is internationally recognised now as one of the best literature celebrations in the world, with six days of ideas, readings, debates, stand-up poetry, literary theatre, children’s writers and free public and family events. Festival attendance has grown exponentially with audiences topping 73,000 last year.
Auckland Writers Festival director Anne O’Brien says this year sees a heady mix of high profile and cutting edge literary stars.
“I’m thrilled to present the Festival’s most diverse line-up of writers yet,” she says.
“We know that our audience loves to discover and learn and in response to this demand, there is a depth of talent the likes of which we have never seen. Sharlene Teo, Durga Chew-Bose, Annalese Jochems and Jenny Zhang – young women producing extraordinary work - sit alongside global literary luminaries like Karl Ove Knausgård, Alex Miller, Lloyd Jones and Catherine Chidgey.
“I encourage you all to see not only those writers you know and love, but also those with interesting backgrounds and areas of interest.
“This Festival offers writers on a scale unique in New Zealand. It only happens once a year. Don’t miss it!”
Multi-million copy bestselling children’s author, Jeff Kinney, joins the Festival early – on 1 May – to entertain readers big and small with his Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories. Former British Children’s Laureate and political observer Chris Riddell will be a highlight for many, too, mid-Festival on Wednesday 16 May.
Comedians the Festival has, including our own Michele A’Court with tales of love and marriage; major English writer, actor and one half of the double act Mitchell and Webb – Robert Webb and Australian actor, writer, producer, director and broadcaster Peter Helliar who will discuss his first children’s book series Frankie Fish, appear in events throughout the Festival.
The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards is the first public event of the programme at the Aotea Centre on Tuesday 15 May. Come and see who will take home the big prizes, with Stacey Morrison as MC and Glasgow-based writer, journalist and founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books Alan Taylor joining the New Zealand judging team in selecting the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize winner. It’s the book awards’ 50th anniversary this year, and what better way to celebrate than with a quiz on who’s who in NZ lit’ – and you’re all invited!
Rhodes Scholar and author Damon Salesa challenges us in this year’s Michael King Lecture, to embrace our Pacific talent, and finally act like a Pacific Nation on Saturday 19 May.
Following the successful of last year’s Walk on High, the Festival presents Call On O’Connell on Friday May 18, in which more than 30 writers treat audiences to restyled news delivered from barbershop stools; under the table tales from the Wine Chamber; racy readings with chocolate, past writers remembered, and reports from abroad besides!
Come and find out ‘what happens next’ in the #METOO movement at The University of Auckland’s Festival Forum on Wednesday 16 May, featuring Kurdistan Region feminist Choman Hardi, Māori development and media specialist Ella Henry, US scientist Hope Jahren and British comedian and writer Robert Webb.
The sparkling Heartland Festival Room returns, right in the middle of Aotea Square, treating audiences from the morning til late into the night, with a wide selection of stories, including musical moments from Nadia Reid, Lawrence Arabia and Moana Maniapoto. Further to all things musical, cultural critic and author Alex Ross shares the concert stage with mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew and Aotearoa’s pre-eminent modern ensemble STROMA. Together they present a companion soundtrack to Ross’s book, The Rest Is Noise, featuring some of the most beautiful and intriguing compositions of the last 100 years. This will be a very special event held in the Town Hall on Sunday 20 May, presented by Chamber Music New Zealand in association with the Festival. Auckland chanteuse Linn Lorkin joins forces with playwright Dean Parker in a performance piece based on Parker’s Man Alone sequel, Johnson.
There’s a change of pace in the Festival’s Art Gallery Series this year, with films featuring literary greats including Maurice Sendak, Margaret Atwood, Hone Tuwhare, Amoz Oz, Virago Press and Margaret Mahy.
Theatrical writing is celebrated, too. Internationally acclaimed as the successor to Billie Whitelaw for her brilliant interpretations of the work of Samuel Beckett, Irish actor Lisa Dwan delivers a performance lecture in celebration of the Nobel Prize winner on Friday 18 May. Director Nancy Brunning honours labourer turned award-winning Māori writer Rowley Habib with a distinguished cast including: Rawiri Paratene; Te Kahu Rolleston; Tanea Heke and Mitch Tawhi Thomas performing throughout the Festival; as is Melbourne solo performer Emma Mary Hall with her monologue piece We May Have To Choose.
Five of Auckland’s brightest spoken word artists take to the stage with globally lauded performer greats, in an outstanding showcase of talent in Best Best Showcase on Friday 18 May.
Always a sell-out, this year’s Festival Gala Night is True Stories Told Live: Under Cover on Thursday 17 May at the Aotea Centre. Susie Boyt (England), Lisa Dwan (Ireland); Gigi Fenster (South Africa/NZ); Alex Ross (US); Damon Salesa (Samoa/NZ); Tom Scott (NZ); Shashi Tharoor (India); and Jenny Zhang (US) 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.
Head on down to the Town Hall on Sunday 20 May for Family Day, where there’s a packed day of performances, presentations, animals and insects, story time and activities for children. James Russell’s hugely popular Dragon Brothers series is ‘almost’ present with an augmented reality treat in Aotea Square throughout the Festival.
The event finale on Sunday afternoon is an hour with Honoured New Zealand Writer, Witi Ihimaera (Te Aitanga-a-Mahāki, Tūhoe, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui). His writing has touched generations of readers and is awarded and celebrated here and around the world. The first Māori writer to publish both a book of short stories and a novel, he has since written more than 30 books for adults and children, as well as screenplays, scripts, essays and libretto. Join us in this free event paying tribute to one of our literary taonga.
“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.
Ms O’Brien says it’s a privilege to present such diverse and talented writers from here and around the world.
“I encourage everyone to come along and engage with words and ideas offered in books, song, stand-up, performances, prose, in debates and conversations, from voices both familiar and new.”
Tickets on sale from 9.00am, Friday 16 March via Ticketmaster.
The Auckland Writers Festival warmly thanks Platinum Partner: Heartland Bank; Gold Partners: The University of Auckland, Freemasons Foundation, Ockham and Creative New Zealand; and all our Silver, Bronze and Supporting Partners. We are also enormously grateful to our Festival Patrons for their enthusiasm and generosity.