WORD Christchurch 2024: A literary bakers’ dozen of festival picks

It's back! Christchurch's WORD festival returns 27 August to 1 September and it is, as usual, chock-full of literary goodness.

Once again I have set myself the task of picking a selection of sparkly events to go to, and as usual have stuffed my diary full like the glutton that I am. I encourage you to take a look at the programme for yourself though, as my own preferences are, as you can imagine, highly relevant to me and my own weird interests!

Let's dig in!

The Savage Coloniser Show

Tuesday 10 to Friday 13 September, 7.30pm to 8.45pm, Black Box Theatre, Papa Hou

At last year's festival, Daisy Speaks described Tusiata Avia as the GOAT and she's not wrong. Avia has taken a lot of heat for poetry collection, The Savage Coloniser Book, and its examination of race and racism. David Seymour famously had a go at her about it but that guy's main contribution to culture is looking a bit like Rimmer off Red Dwarf, so I'm not sure his literary opinion is one I'd pay heed to*. All the more reason to check it out for yourself and make your own call. There will be several performances after the main festival at Black Box Theatre, Papa Hou (4 Rolleston Avenue).

Unpopular Opinions: Ink and Innovation

Thursday 29 August, 6.30pm to 7.30pm, Tūranga

Six humans. Six different opinions. One topic of debate - how is the rapid growth of technology impacting creativity and the written word? With only four minutes to make their case each will they be applauded or booed off stage? If you're in the audience you'll get to decide, I guess. Whose opinions will be the worst? Only one way to find out...

Risky Women

Friday 30 August, 6.30pm to 7.45pm, The Piano

This event is usually a sellout and after attending for the first time last festival, I can see why. The line-up this year looks bloody great - activist and writer Ngāhuia Te Awekōtuku's Hine Toa, has been the hot memoir read the last few months, journalist and author, Anke Richter's research into cults has also been hugely popular and compelling, and then there are two of my absolute faves, Anika Moa and Robyn Malcolm rounding out the quartet. Moa's interview with Malcolm on her RNZ podcast, It's personal, was one of my favourite episodes to listen to so I'd expect there to be a good rapport onstage and some challenging, inspiring and entertaining kōrero.

He Māori

Thursday 29 to Saturday 31 August, 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Isaac Martyn's show was the hot ticket when it came to Ōtautahi last time but I didn't manage to get to it so it's high on my list of "Must Attends" for the festival, mainly because the topic matter - grappling with dual Māori/Pākehā ancestry - is something I struggle with from time to time. I am extremely interested in seeing Martyn's take on this now that I've got a second opportunity.

Romancing the AI

Friday 30 August, 7.30pm to 8.30pm, Tūranga (FREE)

Even if I weren't someone who had just this week finished a blog post entitled, So you've fallen in love with an android, I would probably be keen for this.

Join in with library staff for an AI-assisted crash course through the romance genre. See if it's possible for your love language to be written by AI!

Bad Diaries Salon

Friday 30 August, 8pm to 9.15pm, The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, Altiora/The Gym

If you're not familiar with Bad Diaries Salon imagine a clutch of writers reading from their old diary entries (sometimes with scathing commentary). It's sometimes touching, sometimes awkward, often hilarious and always real. This time round we'll have contributions from Louise Wallace, Josiah Morgan, Jessica Hinerangi and Megan Dunn, with host Tracy Farr.

Rangatahi Boogie

Saturday 31 August, 2pm to 3.30pm, Edmonds Band Rotunda

The perfect outside-but-undercover event to make the most of the stunning Edmonds Band Rotunda. Kids and singing and dancing and storytelling - what more could you want? Greg Malcolm, Jenny Ward and Anika Moa bring the fun and frivolity for kids and parents alike.

Māori in the city

Sunday 1 September, 11am to 12pm, Christchurch Art Gallery

Jordan Tricklebank's hand as Programmer at Large can be seen throughout the programme and in this event he's drawn together a range of Māori writers of different disciplines to consider what it means to live and write as Māori in the city. I'm hopeful this event will tease out some of that urban/rural divide stuff which is it's own specific thing in te ao Māori. As someone who grew up in a city and not in my rūnanga I'm always interested to see how "urban Māori" are portrayed or how their experiences are represented in literature. Tricklebank will chair the session, with Tihema Baker, Nic Low, Robert Sullivan, and Isla Huia.

Strong Female Characters: Robyn Malcolm and Emily Perkins

Saturday 31 August, 2pm to 3pm, The Piano

Malcolm's TV series, After the party, which she co-created has gotten rave reviews all over the place and has been on my "must watch" list for months, and I am still languishing in the holds list for Perkins's award-winning novel Lioness. Will I get their work consumed before this session? My money's on the TV series, at least. Together they make an impressive combo and I'm super keen for anything they've got to say about creating riveting female characters.

The Mermaid Chronicles: Megan Dunn

Saturday 31 August, 3pm to 4pm, Christchurch Art Gallery

Look, I am very much a fan of Megan Dunn's work. She seems a woman in touch with the ludicrousness of things. For instance, her latest book is called The Mermaid Chronicles: A Midlife Mer-moir. A midlife MER-MOIR?! Sign me up. I'm in, fins and all.

Dawn Raids Reading: Pacific Underground at 30

Saturday 31 August, 3pm to 5.30pm, Ngā Hau e Wha Marae (FREE)

Oscar Kightley's 1997 Pacific Underground production, Dawn Raids, feels like a pivot point in New Zealand theatre. It was the play that started everything. And Pacific Underground have been doing the good mahi ever since. This is a unique opportunity - to hear the play read, and for free, no less.

Why am I like this? Dr. Jen Martin

Sunday 1 September, 11.30am to 12.30pm, The Piano

I am currently reading Dr. Jen Martin's book, Why am I like this? and it's a highly readable primer for all sorts of weird human behaviour stuff. If you're at all curious about what makes people tick, then you could do worse than checking out the book and/or this session. Tracy Farr facilitates the chat in what I'm sure will be an entertaining and edifying experience.

BBQ Economics: Liam Dann

Sunday 1 September, 4.30pm to 5.30pm

Look, the whys and wherefores of economics are very much not my wheelhouse, but that's probably why I need Liam Dann's book, or at least this festival session. It's easier to switch off from economics than it is to engage with the topic, but maybe if I understand just a bit of what's going on that'll be less likely? Sounds plausible...

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that some of these sessions overlap. HARD DECISIONS WILL NEED TO BE MADE. Grab a copy of the WORD Christchurch 2024 programme when you're next at the library, or check it out online and be prepared to make your own tough calls...

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


*I'm actually extremely sure I wouldn't.