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Bookworms unite, official Booktown’s coming

Featherston Booktown Trust, from left, Mary Biggs, Lincoln Gould, Peter Biggs, Liz Mellish, Pete Monk, and Sam Duckor-Jones. Absent from photo: Ross Vickery and Kate Mead. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Sam Tattersfield
[email protected]

Featherston will be bursting with books from May 9-12.

This year’s Booktown Festival, featuring a range of events throughout the four days, will be Featherston’s first as an official Booktown, after being conferred by the International Organisation of Booktowns in 2018 as the first Booktown in New Zealand, and 22nd in the world.

A Booktown is a small rural town or village in which second-hand, rare, and characterful bookshops are concentrated. Most Booktowns have developed in villages of historic interest or scenic beauty.

There’ll be an eclectic mix of fun at the festival, including appearances from an exciting and diverse range of Kiwi wordsmiths, such as novelists Lloyd Jones, Dame Fiona Kidman, Greg McGee, Catherine Robertson, children’s book writer and illustrator Gavin Bishop, blogger and writer Emily Writes, and poets Ashleigh Young, Tayi Tibble, Te Kahu Rolleston, and Kate Camp.

Featherston was eligible for Booktown status because it had several bookshops [the town has six] and holds a regular book festival.

The first Featherston Booktown weekend took place in 2015, attracting 2000 people.

Since then, it has grown each year, bringing visitors to the town and increasing national interest in the distinctive event.

The 2018 festival had almost 5000 visitors and all the ticketed events sold out.

Organisers said people were queuing in the streets to get into programmed events.

“In a fast-moving digital age where many of us have high stress levels, it’s fantastic to celebrate the simple joy of reading and the miracle of the book,” operations manager Mary Biggs said.

“It’s also refreshing to spend a weekend in the beautiful South Wairarapa, experiencing a genuine and generous community like Featherston bringing people together around books, writing and ideas.”

The festival will have panel sessions, workshops, children’s activities and literary-themed special events.

Some topics covered will include parenting and literature, the secrets of a crime writer, special previews of yet-to-be-finished novels, women and literature, queer writing, fierce girl poets, the Keith Murdoch mystery, the history of New Zealand newspapers, and a Harry Potter quiz.

Events will be held at venues throughout Featherston, and the festival will kick-off with the now famous Fish‘n’Chip supper, which will feature high-profile speakers such as special effects guru Sir Richard Taylor; Booker Prize-winning novelist Lloyd Jones, and nationally-celebrated young adults writer Kate De Goldi.

This year, the event will feature renowned writer Greg McGee, creator of the iconic play, Foreskin’s Lament.

“The festival is now in its fifth year and some events are back by popular demand, while others are new to the programme,” Biggs said.

“Innovations include a Mother’s Day afternoon tea on the Sunday with five extraordinary women writers, Late Nite Lit – with writers reading their work in intimate surroundings, special children’s reading sessions with Joy Cowley, Who’s on the Couch? breakfast events and the always popular True Stories Told Live.

“We are also thrilled to have a record number of booksellers at Featherston Booktown this year, offering a wide range of books for sale.”

Tickets can be bought on Eventfinda from Monday.

Some events, particularly children’s, are free/by Koha; these will not be shown on the Eventfinda website.

The full programme is on www.booktown.org.nz

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