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WORD Festival Returns to Brighten Christchurch’s Inner City

New Look Festival Returns Bigger than Ever to Brighten up Christchurch’s Inner City

The WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival today launches its most ambitious programme yet, with more than 100 writers, thinkers, commentators and performers from New Zealand and around the world appearing in 68 events in the heart of the city.

World-renowned food writer Ruth Reichl, indie musician and memoirist Kristin Hersh and Luke Harding – foreign correspondent for the Guardian and author of books on Edward Snowden and Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks – are among the line-up of writers taking part in WORD Christchurch, formerly known as the Christchurch Writers’ Festival, which runs from 27 to 31 August at the brand-new Rydges Hotel on Latimer Square, the nearby Transitional Cathedral and at The Physics Room in the Old Post Office building.

They are joined by a rich and varied group of novelists and spoken word performers, including our very own Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, the multi-million-copy bestselling British author of The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield, two-time US National Poetry Slam champion Anis Mojgani, acclaimed New York novelist Meg Wolitzer and Man Booker Prize shortlisted Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo.

WORD Christchurch Literary Director, award-winning novelist Rachael King, says the programme has something for everyone.

“We’re thrilled to be launching the most varied programme in the festival’s 17-year history. It’s both international in its scope and intensely local, with sessions that are very relevant to Christchurch audiences, including the Cardboard Cathedral book launch, featuring architect Shigeru Ban himself, a panel based around the Christchurch recovery and visiting US expert Reed Kroloff on rebuilding broken cities. We also have a panel on writing tough stories, featuring Gaylene Preston, creator of Hope & Wire, the TV drama about the earthquakes.

“We have introduced a fringe programme, where a less mainstream audience will find entertaining and stimulating events, such as a panel on the power of superhero comics, experimental poetry, local songwriters discussing their craft, and a theremin performance,” says Ms King.

Another new addition to the festival is the Saturday free family events at Rydges Latimer, with international and New Zealand children’s writers, giving Christchurch kids the chance to get up close to their favourite writers.

Ms King says it was important to the event’s ethos to hold the festival in the heart of Christchurch.

“We want to remind Cantabrians and visitors that the inner city can be a great place to be, and to capture the unique character of Christchurch in its transitional state.”

Tickets to all events are on sale now from The full programme can be viewed at

Special events snapshot

Taste morsels of the weekend literary feast to come and be entertained, delighted and moved as seven of the festival’s international writers speak, read, sing and perform on the topic of brightness in the opening event, The Stars Are Out Tonight. Friday 28 August, 7.30pm, Transitional Cathedral, hosted by John Campbell.

WORD is proud to launch Shigeru Ban: Cardboard Cathedral in the Transitional Cathedral, with Ban himself in conversation with author Andrew Barrie. It tells the story of the building’s remarkable design and construction and outlines the world-famous, award-winning architect’s concerns about post-disaster responses and the role architecture can play in re-establishing a community. Wednesday 27 August, 7.30pm.

Join adept and articulate MC Joe Bennett for The Great New Zealand Crime Debate as he chairs a raucous night of argument and repartee while a stellar line-up of debaters, including Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel and writers Steve Braunias and Meg Wolitzer, argues the moot, ‘Crime doesn’t pay’. The debate is followed by presentation of the2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Saturday 30 August, 8pm, Rydges Latimer.

WORD Christchurch presents a Schools Programme this year, with three sessions at St Margaret’s College, where children from all over Christchurch will travel to see a selection of international and local writers of novels and poetry, including an award-winning illustrator and a comics artist. Free event for all schools, book via

Australian philosopher Damon Young explores one of literature’s most intimate relationships, that between writers and their gardens, at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.Saturday 30 August, 10am, Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre.

New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox, winner of the recent New Zealand Post Award for Young Adult Fiction, presents the inaugural Margaret Mahy Lecture, entitled ‘An Unreal House Filled with Real Storms’. Sunday 31 August, 10am, Rydges Latimer.

Two superb Ngāi Tahu storytellers, Tā Tipene O’Regan and Tahu Pōtiki, with chair Paulette Tamati-Elliffe, recount gripping and memorable tribal stories from creation myths to tūpuna tales, and contemporary stories from Kaikoura to Rakiura and from Hokitika to Horomaka in Kōrero Pūrākau – Ngāi Tahu Storytelling. Sunday 31 August, 11.30am, Rydges Latimer.

WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival warmly thanks its major funders The Press, Christchurch City Council, Creative New Zealand and Canterbury Community Trust; festival and session sponsors Duncan Cotterill, PwC, Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu, New Zealand Institute of Architects, Beca, All Right?, Foodstuffs, Academy Funeral Services, Hawkesby & Co, Harcourts Gold, Heritage Management Services and Publica; our festival patrons and supporters, partners and supporting publishers.

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