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Festival to be a ‘stunner’

Peter and Mary Biggs with Kevin the Booktown cat. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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It is with a sense of barely contained excitement Mary and Peter [Biggsy] Biggs share a sneak preview of this year’s Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival coming up in May.

Their lush and peaceful garden on the outskirts of Featherston is the backdrop to the snap and crackle of conversation as they describe the packed upcoming schedule.

Mary is the Booktown operations manager and Peter is the chairman of the Featherston Booktown Board of Trustees.

“I think it’s going to be a stunner,” Mary said.

“It’s the variety and diversity of the writers that are coming and the subjects we are going to cover.”

“When we finished developing the programme, my first thought was ‘I want to go to everything’,” Peter said.

“It’s so rich and varied and exciting. I reckon that’s the sign of a great festival. That you just want to go to every event and experience everything.”

Kevin, the Booktown cat, walked through the discussion, purring his agreement.

The three-day event starts in the week before May 7 with a programme in schools.

“We are going to bring Wairarapa students down to Kurunui in Greytown for a poetry workshop for 250 children,” Mary said.

Writers attending this event include Te Kahu Rolleston, Nga Hine Pukorero, and Ben Brown.

The weekend will kick off on the evening of May 7 with an address from New Zealand poet laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh and a fish and chip supper.

There will be 55 events altogether across a range of Featherston venues.

Everything about books from bookbinding and printing to presentations from writers and panel discussions are included.

This year there will be internet-focused sessions on self-publishing as well as podcasts.

“The workshops are often practical and based around the artefact of the book,” Mary said.

Attendees can expect to see a range of eminent writers.

“What we have found over the years is that writers compete to come because it’s a genuine and generous experience for them,” Peter said.

One of the highlights will be the Mother’s Day afternoon tea at The Loft.

Full details of the weekend programme will be announced later this month.

Mary and Peter were founding board members of Featherston Booktown.

“It was just a dream which our neighbour Lincoln Gould had,” Peter said.

“He had heard of the International Organisation of Booktowns, which we are now part of.”

The first Featherston Booktown Festival was held in 2015 and has grown from there.

In 2019, more than 6000 attended.

The 2020 programme was cancelled due to covid-19.

Joy Cowley, the celebrated children’s author and festival patron has already held a well-attended workshop in the lead-up to the launch.

“She is an amazing patron of Featherston Booktown,” Peter said.

The festival programme will launch formally on March 31 at the Featherston Rugby Club room.

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