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Festival launch gets the word out

Mary and Peter Biggs at the Launch of the Featherston Booktown Festival Programme. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

More than 60 people braved driving rain and icy winds to head to the Featherston Rugby Club rooms for the launch of the 2021 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival programme last week.

Lincoln Gould, one of the inspirations behind bringing ‘Booktown’ to Featherston, was looking forward to the festival.

“It’s a wonderful, fantastic programme.”

Festival operations manager Mary Biggs was there with husband Peter ‘Biggsy’ Biggs, chairman of the Featherston Booktown Board of Trustees.

“The board, with Peter and Mary, have done a huge job,” Gould said.

He had been in Clunes, a small town in Victoria, Australia, some years ago where he had seen the concept in action.

He said Featherston had the features needed to identify as a Booktown. When he came home, the idea took off.

“I thought, ‘this could work in Featherston’, it’s an historical town, in an area of natural beauty,” Gould said.

“I got together with a few people and away we went.”

Gould now ran Messines Bookshop in the middle of town, which focused on military history. Booktown, meanwhile, had gone from strength to strength, with the seventh annual festival under way in May.

Slam poetry master Jordan Hamel also attended the launch, ahead of performing at the festival. He had performed both in New Zealand and offshore. Notably, in 2019 he competed in the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship in San Diego. He was the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam champion. Hamel would be part of the school’s programme, as well as running a poetry workshop.

“I’m so happy to be part of the programme. Peter and Mary are so amazing with what they are doing for me and others to support the arts,” he said.

The festival had 55 events involving 99 presenters and 22 booksellers. Highlights would include a panel discussion on cancel culture, lockdown stories from some of New Zealand’s top storytellers and a crime-writing workshop.

There would be a presentation from Donovan Bixley on his popular children’s series “Flying Furballs” and “Maui”.

Appropriately, many workshops would be held in the ‘Joy Cowley’ room at the Royal Hotel, named after the acclaimed Featherston children’s writer. Cowley would also be reading some of her stories at the Chicken and Frog Bookshop on Sunday.

A Booktown was a small rural town or village, close to major cities, where second-hand and antiquarian bookshops were concentrated. Most were in areas of historic interest or natural beauty. Residents set up events around books – whether selling, writing, reading, and, in Featherston’s case, an annual festival.

The festival kicks off with a fish and chip supper on Friday, May 5 at 6pm.

  • Tickets and more information, including the full programme, are available at www.booktown.nz.

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