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Booktown is the tie that binds

Featherston is rolling out the red carpet for the 7000 visitors expected to Wairarapa’s largest literary weekend.

Featherston is New Zealand’s only designated Booktown, meaning a small country town with a high concentration of second-hand or antiquarian bookshops within it.

Booktown’s marketing coordinator Jen Olson said the festival had grown from strength to strength since it started in 2015.

“It’s now a national-level literary festival held in cosy little Featherston,” she said.


Olson said it was difficult to pinpoint Booktown highlights as there were 50 events.

“We have a whole lot of events about women and literature from Women Go Wild to Patricia Grace and her book Cousins, and a massive amount of women poets as well.

“Falling under the environmental theme from Walking Towards Writing, there’s Poems Against Sustainability, which is about having good conversations around climate change.”

The seventh Featherston Booktown kicks off on Friday with the now famous Fish’n’Chip supper – with guest speaker the acclaimed writer, Witi Ihimaera.

The rest of the weekend will be filled with stellar writers and literary entertainment, starting with Late Nite Lit’s singing sensation Moana Leota and her band, putting poetry to music.

Brains will buzz all weekend with talks by literary heavyweights including Dame Fiona Kidman, Patricia Grace, Owen Marshall, Victor Rodger, Roger Hall, Joy Cowley and Selina Tusitala Marsh.

There will be red-hot poetry readings, a celebration of Asian-Kiwi writers, political autobiographies, horror stories in a historic hotel, award-winning children’s book illustrators, and discussions on honest and bold memoirs like Megan Dunn’s Things I Learned At Art School, and Noelle McCarthy’s Grand.

Olsen said Booktown was a fun way to find new authors.

“There might be an event that’s on a topic that you’re interested in and can come and check it out.

“You don’t have to read, you can come and listen to an author talk about what they’ve written, and maybe that’s a way in.”

She said while Featherston was small, the event was not.

“This is a national literary event that happens to be held in Featherston.

“We get really distinguished writers.

“A really nice thing about it is that the venues are small, they’re cosy and they’re comfortable places where people have experienced big life events already.

“So that might be a church hall or a town hall or a school, those are part of rural people’s lives anyway.

“So our rural communities, our small communities, will feel more comfortable coming to something like a literary festival because they’re in these cozy, known venues already.”

All children’s events are free with more than 2,500 book vouchers were being given to primary-school-aged children in South Wairarapa, to spend at the festival or in local bookshops during the following week.

Olson said the initiative was exciting because it may lead to a child buying their first book.

“It’s quite powerful and really exciting that we can help encourage and promote literacy in young children,” she said.

Featherston Booktown runs from June 8 to 12 with the majority of events over the three day weekend.

Tickets are available at eventfinda.co.nz and the programme of events is online at booktown.org.nz.

public interest journalism


Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. She regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional pup.

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