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Karukatea Fest one for the books

The 2024 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, which ran from Friday to Sunday, was a huge success, with 21 of its 39 sessions sold out.

The festival attracted 9000 visitors to the region, a turnout that Featherston Booktown Trust Chair Peter Biggs describes as “nothing short of phenomenal”.

“Our revenue from ticket sales saw a 25 per cent increase over last year with numerous sold-out events,” he said.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our loyal festival goers for their unwavering support; seeing the whole town joining in on the festivities was fantastic.”

The festival kicked off with the Fish and Chip Supper on Friday night, where many presenters, guests, and ticket holders were kept well-fed while listening to an insightful and humorous speech by Dame Susan Devoy.

Dame Susan canvassed a range of topics that are covered in her autobiography Dame Suzy D: My Story, which was released in April, including her career as a top international squash player, her service as race relations commissioner, and the time her kids got to meet Sir Edmond Hillary and one of them noted, “My mum said you’re famous because you climbed Mt Eden,” while the other observed, “You must be really rich because you own all of the money.”

“This was my first time visiting Booktown and my second time visiting Featherston; I’ve driven through maybe once before,” Dame Susan told the Times-Age.

“Unfortunately, I had to leave Saturday, but I wish I could have stayed because if Friday night was anything to go by, I know it would be a good weekend.

“I was saying to some of my friends that it is something we should do next year.”

One of the final sessions of the festival, on Sunday morning, involved former journalist and lawyer Linda Clark interviewing Newsroom literary editor Steve Braunias.

The chat comprised a brisk canter through Braunias’ career to date, from his time as a court reporter to the writing of his more recent articles – including his April 29 interview with Act party arts, culture, and heritage spokesperson Todd Stephenson [covered in Saturday’s Times-Age editorial], who emerged from the encounter looking woefully ignorant about his new portfolio.

Braunias said he enjoyed his time in Wairarapa and thought the event programme was “excellent”.

Another of the dozens of events was Pioneers of Hop and Grain on Sunday afternoon.

RNZ producer Denise Garland interviewed beer expert Greg Ryan about the history of the fermented beverage and its widespread popularity in NZ.

Ryan also touched on the well-known historical period in NZ known as the six o’clock swill, when pubs and bars were forced to close at 6pm under the law.

Alongside these events, there were many more featuring authors, experts, and household names such as John Campbell, Tama Iti, and Joy Cowley, to name just a few.

Biggs was also keen to encourage people who attended any of the festival’s events to fill out a survey on the booktown.org.nz website, which he said will help the trust to make improvements to future events, as well as assist in securing funding.

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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