Top Ten – My picks for the WORD Christchurch Festival 2021

It's only a matter of days until WORD Christchurch Festival 2021 is go - so I've decided to nail my colours to the mast. Here's my schedule!

takahē: Magazine in residence - Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 August 12noon to 4pm

Why? Because I want to spur myself to write something and submit it - but mainly to see a magazine get made! Oh, and really keen to see a cover handprinted on a vintage press.

This year our magazine in residence is takahē, an Ōtautahi-based magazine of fiction, poetry, art, review, and essay, since 1989. Drop in to visit their dynamic editorial team and special guests in the Tūranga foyer, submit your work (poetry and short fiction up to 1000 words), and find out what goes on behind the scenes at a literary magazine. See them editing and laying out the limited-edition zine, hand-printing the covers on a vintage press, and launching the finished product with readings and toasts on Sunday afternoon. You can also email your work to

Te Piki o Tāwhaki: The Ascent of Tāwhaki - Thursday 26 August 6.30pm; 8pm

Why? I want to see Tūranga come alive with the story of Tāwhaki that's so integral to the place itself, and to hear the place resonate with the sound of taonga pūoro.

This not-to-be-missed transformation of Tūranga will fly you to the heavens in pursuit of matauraka, the knowledge of the gods. Presented by master storyteller Joseph Hullen (Ngāi Tūāhuriri / Ngāti Hinematua), taonga puoro virtuoso Ariana Tikao (Ngāi Tahu) and Juanita Hepi (Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tukairangi), this is your chance to hear a uniquely Murihiku Ngāi Tahu telling of a story that is well over a thousand years old.

New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival - Friday 27 August 6pm to 7.30pm

Why? Because New Regent Street alive with booky happenings is quite a sight to behold.

Follow us down the rabbit hole into the packed-out bars, cafes, shops and broom-cupboards of New Regent Street for a selection of rapid-fire readings, launches, games, interactive poetry and talks. We transform Christchurch’s most characterful laneway into a literary hive, with a dozen venues hosting back-to-back events and activities. Romance at Gin Gin? Improvised poetry at the AV club? Rapid-fire book launches at The Last Word? Sea shanties and salty rants at Wilko? All this and more, featuring over fifty local and visiting writers for your pleasure. And best of all – it’s free!

WORD Gala: This place you return to is home - Friday 27 August 8pm to 9.30pm

Why? The WORD Gala is always a high point. A taster of talent; a feast of thought. I'm a big Tayi Tibble fan, and Rick Gekoski is the literal King of Literary Anecdotes.

The idea of home has been at the forefront of global consciousness in recent times: staying home, coming home, struggling to get home, finding a new home when the old one is no longer safe. Taking our title from ex-pat New Zealand author Kirsty Gunn, resident in Scotland, we ask five of our festival stars to tell us about their place to return to, their tūrangawaewae, or how our homes have shaped us. Featuring Patricia GraceRick GekoskiSue KedgleyTayi Tibble and Kate Camp, hosted by Michèle A’Court.

David Mitchell and Tiny Ruins: If I were a story and you were a song - Saturday 28 August 6pm to 7.15pm

Why? I love Tiny Ruins' music & David Mitchell is quite a phenomenal writer - so am eager to hear a unique words & music show.

A world-exclusive collaboration between story and song! Acclaimed British writer David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Utopia Avenue) will digitally join one of New Zealand’s most cherished singer-songwriters Hollie Fullbrook of Tiny Ruins for a unique and intimate performance. During lockdown, Fullbrook reimagined prose by Mitchell as songs, while Mitchell reimagined songs by Tiny Ruins as short fiction.

Bad Diaries Salon: Near - Saturday 28 August 7.30pm to 8.30pm

Why? People airing their secret shame & less than lily white laundry? Count me in!

 Bad Diaries Salon features four writers reading from the good, the bad and the scandalous of their personal diaries and early writing. Candid, original and unedited, this is the angst-ridden written word, rediscovered and shared for your pleasure. Featuring Kate Camp (whose previous Salon appearances at Verb Wellington have brought the house down), Victor RodgerLaura Jean McKay and Kyle Mewburn, and hosted by Salon founder Tracy Farr.

The Faraway Near: Notes from an Apocalypse (Mark O'Connell with Tom Doig) - Saturday 28 August 8.30pm to 9.30pm

Why? I think a trip to the Faraway Near is a Festival must. I picked this session because I am apocalypse-curious, but I reckon they all sound ripper.

Before Irish writer Mark O’Connell published Notes from an Apocalypse in early 2020, he had no idea that he would be launching his funny-but-serious book into what was possibly the actual end of days. Notes details preppers around the world, from environmentalists fearing the ravages of climate change to billionaire entrepreneurs dreaming of life on Mars, to the strange story of Peter Thiel and New Zealand artist Simon Denny, which went viral in the Guardian online. Join O’Connell, live from Dublin, in conversation with fellow doomsday researcher Tom Doig.

Her Say - Sunday 29 August 3pm to 4pm

Why? Because Jackie Clark is a legend and a powerhouse, and she always centres the women affected.

In 2013, Jackie Clark launched The Aunties, a grassroots charity helping women to rebuild their lives after enduring abusive relationships. Her Say features the very different stories of a number of these women, told their way, spoken from the heart. Join Jackie and two of the women from Her Say, Jane and Delicate, in conversation with Michèle A’Court.
All royalties from the book go to The Aunties to support their work, and $10 from every ticket sold will be donated to Christchurch charity Aviva.

Kā wai o Tahu: Marlon Williams, Ariana Tikao, Ruby Solly - Sunday 29 August 6pm to 7.15pm

Why? It will be a treat for eyes, ears, and heart. Taking my Mum and Dad! Sorry - this is sold out. Which is a good reminder to make sure you book in for the things you want to see, pronto!

The hammer of rain, a river’s murmur, the roar of a flood. Cicada song and parched hills. Crystal clear streams, and drained swamps and poisoned lakes. Come swimming with us through songs and stories of the beauty, power and threat of water as it moves through our lives and southern lands. This spectacular closing event features performances from Marlon WilliamsAriana Tikao, and Ruby Solly, plus exquisite new work from special guests.

Happy WORDing!

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