WORD Christchurch 2024: My WORD, from Fragrant Texts to Poetry Machines

WORD Christchurch Festival 2024 has been launched so it's time to peruse the programme and make some picks. WORD Festival proper runs from Tuesday 27 August to Sunday 1 September, but there's a Jesse Mulligan reading party on 22 July and The Savage Coloniser Show is on from 10 to 13 September, so WORD has some beautiful tendrils. There is a tonne of great stuff in the programme, but here are the events and people that have particularly piqued my interest:

Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku

I listened to Ngāhuia read her memoir Hine Toa: A story of bravery and was spellbound. There's nothing quite like a memoir in audiobook form and the format is perfect in this case. This a most rare and special Aotearoa memoir, in which you really get EVERYTHING not just life facts. I felt Ngāhuia's struggle, her aroha, and her incredible strength. It's deep, challenging, upsetting, and funny too.

Read this wonderful review by Matariki Williams in The Spinoff, and read Hine Toa

Tayi Tibble

Tayi is a coooool poet. And Programmer-At-Large for this year's WORD. She's touted as an It Girl by the New York Times. And she's the only literary person who I have a hat of (Tayi did a collab with Huffer). Her poems rock!


Cabinet of curiosities: Thursday 29 August 8pm to 9.15pm
Gloucester Room, Isaac Theatre Royal

A perennial Fest Fave for good reason - Surprise

Last year Emily Perkins revealed her love of Billy Joel's The Stranger. What depravity will be unveiled this year? Only Catherine Taylor, Vera Ellen, Talia Marshall, Saraid de Silva and
Claire Mabey know. Naomi van den Broek is on hosting duties, and she will steer us ably through. This is always a sellout, so book now.

Fragrant Texts: Thursday 29 August 8.30pm to 9.30pm
Little Andromeda

Books are smellin' - smellin' good

This is a gal who buys perfumes that smell likes books and old paper, so you know I am going to be all in on this one. Multisensory artist Dr. Jo Burzynska will talk with WORD Trust board member and all-round academic superstar Dr. Erin Harrington. It's a "fragrant exploration both of how the allegedly ineffable sense of smell is engaged in books, and the smell of books themselves". I cannot resist the final words of description: "This session will include sniffable elements." SNIFFABLE ELEMENTS. 

Ideal home noise: Vera Ellen on Songwriting: Friday 30 August 6pm to 7pm
Altiora / The Gymnasium, The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora

WORD + Music

WORD has always been awesome at putting on music events. Some of my fave WORD memories are musical - Aldous Harding and Kristin Hersh (10 years ago!) and Roy Montgomery and Clementine Valentine last year. This year Vera Ellen and Amelia Murray aka Fazerdaze will talk about songwriting and share some songs. 

Adventures with books: Claire Mabey and Rachael King: Saturday 31 August 10.30am to 11.30am
Tautoru / TSB Space

The sheer pleasure of reading

This will be good - two writers and reviewers in conversation, both with literary festival connections (Claire is founder of Verb Wellington; Rachael was WORD Christchurch's Programme Director). Claire and Rachael have missionary zeal for getting people reading. I suspect my notebook will fill with reading recommendations. 

Ki uta ki tai - Native plants of Ōtautahi hikoi - walking tour with Juanita Hepi: Saturday 31 August 11.30am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 2.30pm

Plant Life!

Juanita's Cabinet of Curiosities talk last year was all about Aotearoa's native plants, so am looking forward to the stories she will share on this hikoi. 

Confluence: Saturday 31 August 7.30pm to 9pm
The Piano


I haven't been to Confluence before, but I've heard it's a standout event, a showcase of Pacific and Māori brilliance. Daisy Speaks is the host, and the Judah Band will serve up soulful tunes. Performers this year include Tayi Tibble, Isla Huia, Faith Wilson and special rangatahi guests.

Zines and Machines

Lost the Plot! The WORD Quiz night: Tuesday 27 August 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Tautoru / TSB Space, Tūranga


I was on the winning quiz team last year, are we the defending champions?! The trophy is on our hot desk, sooooo ... Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

Poetry Machine: Tuesday 27 August to Sunday 1 September 10am to 4pm
He Hononga | Connection, Tūranga

Words of wisdom

Palmerston North City Library’s Poetry Machine will be hanging out at Tūranga. I'm keen to hit the button and see what poem comes whizzing out. 

Ōtautahi Zinefest: Saturday 31 August 11am to 4pm

Zinester Heaven

I go to Ōtautahi Zinefest every year with some money to spend, and come away with awesome local creations. I've built up my own little zine library over the years. Check check check it out!

WORD writers I've read

Quick reviews of books by WORD guests:

Audition Pip Adam

"I couldn't orient myself at first, but now I know that is part of the trippy magic of this story. It is big, it is small, it is infinite."

Big Fat Brown Bitch Tusiata Avia

"If you want to explore the limits of what poetry can do, start here. These poems are brilliant and powerful, exposing the racism she's been subjected to for what it is - mean, small, petty, nasty, wrong. Tusiata is a genius - her formidable intellect, humour, and wise humanity shows in every utterance."

Hine Toa: A story of bravery Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku

"I listened to the audiobook in which Ngāhuia relates her story herself. I was spellbound - it's sad, funny, real as real. Ngāhuia shares everything, even the stuff that hurts."

BBQ Economics Liam Dann

"This was great - interesting, incisive, and a lot of information but shared in the manner of a friendly knowledgeable mate at a bbq." (I listened to the audiobook)

Signs of Life Amy Head

"A collection of interlocking related short stories with a variety of characters, including a young woman called Flick. The mood and the post-quake Christchurch location the writer conjures up is pitch perfect and relatable."

Lioness Emily Perkins

"Emily Perkins knows how to hook you in. This one has a cast of interesting characters, and the lifestyles in it are not very relatable. We are very much in the 1% territory of how the rich are different. You can't look away."

Tayi Tibble

"I love Tayi's poetry. It's both spiritual and ancient, and totally modern and fleshly. Such a bright, clear voice and vision."

WORD writers I want to read

These three books are on my holds list:

Make your own picks of the festival - check the programme online online or picking up a printed copy from your library.