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Booktown booms, despite the winter weather

Illustrator Rose Northey reads stories to children at Featherston Booktown. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Despite the unpleasant weather, more than 7000 book lovers filled Featherston for the seventh annual Booktown.

This year’s festival had 100 presenters delivering a variety of book-themed events throughout the weekend.

Literacy lover and Times-Age reporter Mary Argue said Featherston’s streets were lined with cars in every direction.

“Featherston was heaving with people for the duration of the Booktown Festival.

“There were people everywhere. It was just fantastic.

“Heads bowed against the wind and rain, people hurried to events at the ANZAC Hall to attend packed-out talks from literary heroes.”

Facebook group ‘you know you’re from Featherston when’ commenter Mark Randle said the weekend made him proud to be from Featherston.

“It can only get better and better, and I would like to personally thank everyone involved.”

Operations manager Mary Biggs said the organisers were thrilled with the weekend.

“The whole town was buzzing. We had a fabulous programme. The venues were totally full, even the kids’ events.

She estimated there were more than 7000 book lovers who attended, “judging by the traffic volumes, the number of cars parked around the town’s streets and venues and the audience numbers at every event”.

She said the festival was excellent for the area, especially for retailers, and filled accommodation in Martinborough and Greytown.

Biggs’ highlights included Witi Ihimaera’s speech at the Fish and Chip Supper on Friday.

“We had some stellar writers present over the weekend.

“Witi gave an outstanding speech. It was amazing to have that quality in Featherston.”

The Young Readers Programme was also a highlight, where they ran 23 creative events for school-aged children.

Biggs said the event was given enough sponsorships and grants to donate a $15 book voucher to almost 2000 children.

“Research shows kids who read for pleasure are more likely to succeed later in life.

“We’ve always done this scheme, but this year for the first time we had enough sponsorship to give every primary school kid a voucher.

“And the Martinborough bookshop had 130 children spend vouchers there.”

She was relieved the bad weather didn’t cause any disruption to events, as retailers feared there would be a power cut on their big weekend of trading.

The event was postponed from May, due to covid-19 uncertainty.

Featherston is one of 27 ‘Booktowns’ around the world. Featherston Booktown president Peter Biggs attended the global conference in Sweden, where he was elected to the International Organisation of Booktowns.

Featherston will host the conference in 2024.

Biggs said it very significant to have the Southern Hemisphere represented – because it had been predominantly northern Europe until recently.

She said they were excited to host the global conference, and had started plans, including bringing the steam train from Wellington.

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