Media & Press

Brochure launch puts spotlight on Literary Festival

Auckland is coming to Whanganui! Not in its entirety, but as part of the 10th biennial Whanganui Literary Festival, which starts with the Fringe Festival from September 20 – 28 for local authors, followed by the main festival (featuring outside authors), starting September 29 and running until October 1.

A brochure launch was held on Saturday, July 22, where Joan Rosier-Jones, chairwoman of the Whanganui Literary Festival Trust, spoke about the history of the festival.

A correspondent wrote to the Festival Trust: “Our book club is very excited about the line-up for this year’s festival. Many of us would have liked to have gone to Auckland, but the airfares were so expensive. Accommodation and tickets on top of that made it just too dear.”

“And now we find that most of the authors coming to Whanganui were at the Auckland festival, so Auckland has come to us!”

These authors include Fiona Sussman, a two-time winner of the Ngaio Marsh Mystery Fiction Award; Witi Ihimaera; investigative journalist Stephen Davis; Poet Laureate Chris Tse; novelists Sue McCauley and Stephanie Johnson; and historian Jock Phillips.

“Many of these authors have also attended both the Auckland and Brisbane Literary Festivals,” says Rosier-Jones.

“The Whanganui experience will be quite different for them. Many of our visiting authors from the past have commented on how relaxed the Whanganui Festival is, and how well they are taken care of here.

“This year sees the 10th biennial Literary Festival produced for Whanganui.

“One of the most attractive things about the Whanganui Festival is that its size and style provides the audience with a chance to personally meet the authors.

“Most festivals in larger centres take place in huge auditoriums where the author is quite distant and book signings afterwards are hustled because of numbers and timing.

“In Whanganui, it is much more relaxed. Book signings allow for a friendly word or two with the author, which can make the inscription more personally meaningful.

“Apart from the opening, which the authors attend, we also have Dinner with the Stars on Saturday, September 30 – this year at the wonderful Bushy Park Homestead. Here, the authors play round-robin at the tables between courses, so everyone gets a chance to chat with them. At the other events, the authors are available and invariably approachable.

“The Fringe Festival starts with the launch of Tongariro National Park: An Artist’s Field Guide by local illustrator and graphic designer Desmond Bovey, described as an exquisite piece of natural history publishing. A panel, a literary quiz and activities for children are but a few of the offerings.


The first Whanganui Literary Festival was held in 2006. Joan Rosier-Jones came to Whanganui from Auckland the year prior, where she had been president of the NZ Society of Authors. Her first book was published in 1986 by Hodder & Stoughton, followed by a further six books.

“Somebody had suggested a literary festival, and I thought, ‘That was a good idea’,” said Joan. “The first two festivals were made up of my friends, so we started looking wider, and it has grown like topsy. After the second festival, we decided to go biennial to avoid burnout.

“I was chair of the Festival Trust until 2013, but wanted to take the reins for the 10th festival as I consider it ‘my baby’. We’ve been working since last year for this September’s festival,” she said.

Source: Whanganui Chronicle

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