WORD Gala from Home: WORD Christchurch Festival 2021

The Place you return to is Home. The theme for the WORD Gala is most apt this year, as people try to come back to Aotearoa, and people stay home to save lives. For the first time I watched a Gala from home, in my slippers. Home, from Home.

Corban Te Aika welcomed everyone, with special love for Māori and indigenous writers in the audience and Whaea Patricia Grace.

WORD Programme Co-Director Nic Low is one of the people who have come back to Aotearoa and "Here we are, folks". WORD might have been rescheduled, but the festival has retained its hyper-local focus on "the stories from the whenua beneath our feet".

Rachael King - in her swansong Festival after a stellar 8 years as Programme Director - shouted out to the WORD team: Vanessa, Annie, Paula, Kate, Joseph, Audrey, Dorian, guest curators A.J. and Daisy, University Bookshop, The Piano, Magda "the glue that holds us together", inspirational Executive Director Marianne Hargreaves,  volunteers, and the wonderful WORD sponsors, patrons and supporters. And a big shoutout to WRITERS!

The first guest was Sue Kedgley, who gave us a potted history of moments in that delightful maxim "Women's place is in the home". Women got the vote in 1893, but only got the right to enter Parliament in 1919. Not until Elizabeth McCombs in 1933 did the first woman to get into Parliament (for Lyttelton). A lovely chap called Edward Hills said he agreed with Hitler that women's place is in the home. Men shuddered at the idea of a "drawing room full of declamatory women".

 Tayi Tibble - just picked up by Knopf for a 2 book deal - read us a poem about her school Rangikura, about Ascot Park, about wanting to pack up and leave. Tayi's poetry takes you places.

I always wanted to be somewhere else.

Kate Camp's snippety poems were full of compelling details - Sausage rolls. Meatfat. Washing hair in champagne. Garage door catches wetas. Kingfishers:

After sex, I tip my ash into my boyfriend's upturned hand.

...

I learn to roast a potato on the oven rack ... I have my dog put down.

The end of her reading is so perfect (from the poem Eden Street)

Always towards the third place
Where the starting point is myself ...

I'm at home in my memory.

Patricia Grace 'pou of New Zealand literature'  spoke about the edginess of being the only Māori family in the neighbourhood, being blamed, and words spoken, a physical attack. But the worst thing for her was being underestimated.

Her tūrangawaewae - the home of her father, and her Ngāti Toa people - is  Hongoeka Bay, along the coast from Plimmerton. She always wanted to live there, and now does. It's close to Porirua, and 30 km from the Wellington CBD. People did not have to leave their lands for education or work.

Patricia talks about this place as a child, where she was understood, cared for, a place she and others could play, play, play, climb, slide down hillsides, challenge themselves, and imagine. All the freedom, independence, and responsibility for the smaller tamariki. It "toughened me up for other parts of life".

At home, the houses have been upgraded, now there are two urupa. Cousins and her brother have gone to join the old ones.

There is a wharenui and a marae complex, built over a few decades from 1997.

She sees the stony beach and:

There I am home.

Sue Kedgley 

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Tayi Tibble

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Kate Camp

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Patricia Grace

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WORD Christchurch

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