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Festival funding ‘feather in hat’

The organisers of Featherston’s Booktown are thrilled to have landed over $200,000 for next year’s edition of the annual literary festival.

Booktown was one of the 40 successful applicants out of over 200 nationwide for funding from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Sector Regeneration Fund – a process the festival’s operations manager Mary Biggs described as “one PhD of a funding application”.

This included the “unusual” request for community endorsements affirming the event was worthy of funding, something Mary said worked in the festival’s favour.

“We just had overwhelming support,” she said.

“It was one of the things that the Ministry actually commented on – that we had over 150 people supporting our funding application.”

Featherston Booktown chair Peter Biggs said the funding will
have a significant impact.

“We operate very efficiently and on a very tight margin, as with all arts organisations and charities. There’s an element of fragility around the financial situation,” he said.

Operating costs have increased over the years – due the festival’s growth and everyone being paid accordingly – “so this is a real help in terms of enabling us to plan sustainably for the future, and give us a bit of breathing space financially”.

The funding will be allocated for a range of initiatives, including the rural reader’s programme, the young reader’s programme, an audio platform to capture local iwi stories and increased engagement with other international Booktowns.

The financial boost comes in the lead-up to Featherston hosting the International Organisation of Booktowns global conference next year, and Peter said it is fantastic to have both national and international votes of confidence in the event.

“We will be the centre of the Booktown world for a week or so. We want it to be something really memorable for the delegates in terms of their experiences of Featherston, of the region, and of New Zealand.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly said with the funding comes a responsibility to deliver a high calibre event next year.

“It puts Featherston in a really good position to make the most of the international conference next year, which is a big deal,” Connelly said.

“It truly is a feather in Featherston’s hat that they could pull this off.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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