IT’S A WRAP ON 2021!

November 18, 2021

We did it!

After the most tumultuous year in WORD’s history (yes, even more so than in 2010 when the festival was shut down by a huge earthquake!) we staged a great festival. We harnessed technology to beam writers both into the festival and out to the world.

Audience numbers in venue may have been COVID-compliant, but enthusiasm was in abundance, with every event receiving a warm reception and audiences going away buzzing with stories and ideas.

A huge thank you to the Christchurch Town Hall for hosting us in the Douglas Lilburn Auditorium, which enabled us to give Abbas Nazari, Helen Clark, Patricia Grace and Adventurous Women the audience they deserved.

You can read reports from nearly all events by the Christchurch Libraries team, who live-blogged throughout.

Best of all, the complete range of sessions in The Piano and the Town Hall are now available to watch at your leisure – you just need to grab a digital ticket, which start for as little as $10 for a whole day. If you want to pay a little more, you will be helping WORD recover from a difficult year and help ensure we have a future.



Helen Clark in conversation with Bronwyn Hayward was informative and enlightening on climate change, with analysis of the COP conference, and on COVID-19 and what work needs to be done to achieve vaccine equality.

Just before his event, Abbas Nazari’s family stood on the stage of the Christchurch Town Hall where 17 years ago they received their New Zealand citizenship. The session with Abbas, introduced by Mayor Lianne Dalziel, was brilliant – moving, warm, wise and informative – on the Tampa and the current situation in Afghanistan, with ex-Prime Minister Helen Clark offering context from 20 years ago and today, and brilliantly chaired by University of Canterbury’s Ekant Veer.

We celebrated, in programme co-director and chair Nic Low’s words, “one of the pou of New Zealand literature”, Patricia Grace, and she was as thoughtful and intelligent as we expected, standing on stage during audience questions and moving towards the speakers, giving them her full attention, even deflecting an inappropriate question with generosity.

New Zealand writers gamely zoomed in for their sessions and one person commented that they almost felt it was more intimate than seeing them from afar on a stage. A huge thanks to Jacqueline Bublitz, Sue Kedgley, Alison Jones, Glenn Colquhoun, Joanna Grochowicz, Rick Gekoski, Charlotte Grimshaw, Dave Lowe, Tayi Tibble, Kate Camp, Anjum Rahman, Hinemoa Elder and Mike Joy for rising to the occasion.

Ngāi Tahu stories took their prominent place on the stage with Tā Mark Solomon on his life and leadership, Nic Low and Tā Tipene O’Regan on the stories and places of Te Waipounamu, and Te Maire Tau and Mike Joy talking about the case for Ngāi Tahu and water, which was informative for all who attended.

This is the third year we have staged Adventurous Women, and the night was a journey through triumph and tenacity with five incredible women: Kyle Mewburn, Hinemoa Elder, Julie Zarifeh, Anjum Rahman and Emily Writes.  As ever it was rollercoaster of tears and laughter and we pay tribute to the speakers for sharing their stories so generously.

We pivoted sharply once we realised that the New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival couldn’t go ahead under level 2, and that we were in danger of losing it, and with it, dozens of local writers and all the hard work of Audrey, our new Regent Street co-ordinator. Huge kudos to Ruth and Susan and the Foundation team who came on board so enthusiastically. The Foundation Pop-Up Festival was a triumph – a riot of colour and energy, and it closed the festival with a bang. We loved the opportunity to discover and showcase new local talent as well as embrace some of the stalwarts of Christchurch’s literary scene. You can read a very thorough review of it on Flat City Field Notes.

Māori and Pasifika poets, musicians and storytellers came together through the generosity of Cross-Polynate and Daisy Speaks, including Tusiata Avia, Ben Brown and many more, for a magical night at The Piano with Confluence.

There were many more wonderful moments – to catch up on most them, visit our digital tickets page to see for yourself!


“I had the nicest time, and the whole experience [was] so intimate despite being so far away! Genius!” – HELEN MACDONALD

We’re delighted to report that The Faraway Near was a success, presenting intimate conversations with world-renowned authors over a coffee or a glass of wine. Hari Kunzru discussed the nature of conspiracy theory while anti-vaccination protestors chanted and drummed outside (they weren’t protesting against Hari, in case you were wondering). Helen Macdonald’s pet parrot paid a visit, flitting from screen to screen, and A.C. Grayling and Kim Hill jousted over the nature of knowledge itself.

“…very innovative and cool…beautifully decorated … a very quantum event, illustrating the principle of ‘superposition’, by which a particle—me—can be in two or more places or states at once.” – RUTH OZEKI

Audience members were welcomed into the TSB Space, which had been transformed into a very cool bar, thanks to our production manager Vanessa, who decorated with “retro weirdness” according to one reviewer. Before each session, punters could be seen stalking around the room, taking photos. See for yourself on the Christchurch Libraries Flickr account and in the photos below!

“The table set-up made it easeful and human and low-key and I could relax. Morrin was warm and generous and very well prepared…audience questions were really good – stimulating and intelligent—the audience was friendly — usually with zoom one doesn’t feel that —once again an effect of the tables idea.” – HELEN GARNER

Massive thanks to those who contributed to our Boosted campaign – you helped make it the cool space it was – and another thanks to our production manager Vanessa Reed who transformed the TSB Space at Tūranga so even the librarians didn’t recognise it.

And let’s see you all there next year!

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