Readers and Writers

The Hawke’s Bay Readers and Writers events bring the best writers, poets, bloggers, journalists, innovators and artists together with audiences to debate issues, to open up worlds and to share the stories that are at the heart of all human experience.

Award-winning authors Diana Wichtel, Barbara Brookes and current New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh are just three of many award-winning authors taking part in the Readers & Writers events at the 2018 Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival.

In this most unusual of occasions, eight of the eleven Poets Laureate are coming home to celebrate the poetic heritage of Hawke's Bay. Begun in 1997 by John Buck and Te Mata Estate and handed over to the National Library in 2007, the award of Poet Laureate has always been formally centred here: each of the Poets Laureate has had their official inauguration at Matahiwi Marae, each has been presented with their personalised, carved tokotoko (orator’s staff) by Jacob Scott, and each has given a public celebratory reading in Havelock North. Bill Manhire, Rob Tuwhare for his father Hone, Elizabeth Smither, Michele Leggott, Cilla McQueen, Ian Wedde, C.K. Stead, and Selina Tusitala Marsh will be reading in Havelock once again at Poemlines: Coming Home. All delighted to be coming back with their tokotoko (including Hone’s wine thief, Michele’s pool cue, and Selina’s fue) to read to audiences who have welcomed them very warmly in the past, especially in the legendary barrel room at Te Mata. This is a very special get together of our finest public poets for a superpower reading on the theme of home.

Diana Wichtel, whose book Driving to Treblinka came out of her curiosity and mission to learn about her family’s story, shines a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today. It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too. It is the story of a girl growing up in Canada, her mum a Kiwi, her dad a Polish Jew, a man who leapt in desperation from a concentration-camp-bound train, a moment around which everything in this book orbits. In the session Who do you think you are? Diana is joined by Taihape-born Helene Wong, whose memoir Being Chinese: a New Zealander’s Story is the result of a three-decade quest to excavate her family’s history, examine the experience of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand, and resolve her own feelings about her identity. Talking with local author Anna Mackenzie they will discuss how the past affects the generations who follow and their experiences in writing their memoirs.

Many New Zealand women have been reading Helen Brown’s columns about everyday life since the 1980s. Helen’s memoir Cleo took the world by storm in 2010 when she shared how her family recovered from emotional devastation after her nine-year-old son was run over and killed. A New York Times best seller with two million copies sold, it’s currently in print in more than 17 languages. A major movie is in development with filming scheduled to take place late 2018 - early 2019. In her session Finding my way home, Helen will share the roller-coaster journey to her latest book Bono, the rescue cat who helped me find my way home.

With the commemorations of Suffrage 125 running September to November 2018 it would be impossible not to recognise this in the festival programme. The Shrieking Sisterhood: women’s voices from the past with Barbara Brookes (A History of NZ Women), Angela Wanhalla and Lachy Paterson (He Reo Wahine: Maori Women’s Voices from the Nineteeth Century) discuss the diverse ways in which women argued for rights. These three noted historians will share stories about the dramatic progress and inspiring achievements of NZ women over the last 100 odd years.

But have we really come that far? Are male writers still taken more seriously than women writers in today’s world? Bestselling author Catherine Robertson and local author Tina Clough both write books that are immensely popular. In Rebel Girls they will discuss their writing and how to get people who dismiss books written by women writers to give them a go.

Following on from the successful social commentary of last year’s festival is What’s happening to our news? a panel discussion between local media experts Tom Belford, Craig Cooper and national media personalities Bill Ralston and Janet Wilson. We question the objectivity of our news and ask if the people of Hawke’s Bay really can rely on their media. In the wake of Fake News how can we be sure what we read, see and hear is balanced and truthful? This style of session is a perfect example of the aims of this literary programme – to celebrate writers and thinkers, to celebrate our stories, to open up worlds and create a space to have conversation or debate issues important to people, to challenge and inspire as well as entertain.

Readers & Writers Weekend Pass

The full Readers & Writers programme is available here.Why not purchase a Readers & Writers weekend pass? The $105 pass gives you great-value licence to go to see them all without needing to book or to pick and mix on whim.

Individual tickets are available are available on our website here, of course, or from i-Sites in Hastings, Havelock North and Napier.


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