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‘Auckland Writers Festival announces unbeatable lineup for this year’s festival’

The 2024 Auckland Writers Festival Waituhi O Tāmaki reveals one of the starriest lineups in years, inviting New Zealanders to spend a week with the world’s most interesting people.

The Festival takes over the Aotea Centre and select venues across the city for one week only, Tuesday 14 – Sunday 19 May 2024.

The Festival returns this year with brand-new Artistic Director, and one of the UK’s leading literary talents, Lyndsey Fineran, at the helm, and programming designed to bring the biggest names in books to New Zealand, while platforming the vibrant creativity of authors and ideas in Aotearoa.

The 2024 programme comes hot on the heels of a resurgence in reading habits: book clubs are on the rise globally, BookTok has over 220b views, and celebrities have swapped perfume launches for their own reading clubs – from Reese Witherspoon to singer Florence Welch – as a renewed interest in events, in-person experiences and screen fatigue reignite a passion for reading and discussing books, especially among Gen Z.

Since its inception, the Auckland Writers Festival has become one of the most hotly anticipated book events locally and abroad, with the highest per-capita attendance of any festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This year the Festival demonstrates huge ambition in the names AWF-goers will know and love, as well as a raft of fresh programming to introduce a whole new audience to the joys of book festivals.

As well as authors talks, discussions debating the latest global issues and masterclasses on everything from writing horror to crafting memoir, there’s a new emphasis on bringing literature to life in unique ways. That’s well-covered this year with dynamic events, from a vibrant evening with the Singapore Lit Salon, to Kōrero Corner taking over the QBE space with drop-in sessions and legendary singer songwriter Troy Kingi inviting the audience to help him write a waiata. Over 25 percent of the events will be free and unticketed.

Curatorial voices include award-winning author and filmmaker Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue), 21-year-old poet and filmmaker Matariki Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue), and Professor Damon Salesa, author of the Ockham NZ Book Award shortlisted An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays.

Fineran likens the Festival experience to “a great book shop brought to life” where visitors can wander over to the different areas of the site that pique their interest. This autumn Aotearoa will play host to one of the best and biggest bookshops in the world, with an envy-inducing cross-section of tastes, voices and interests. Whether you’re a first-time reader, a book a year, or a fully committed bibliophile – the Festival is for everyone who wants to experience what books are capable of: opening a world of wonder.

A (SMALL) SELECTION OF FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE

– Bonnie Garmus (Lessons in Chemistry) comes to NZ for the first time to discuss her six million-copy selling debut novel (and ‘Book of the Year’ in every publication imaginable). She discusses her phenomenally successful book and remarkable journey with Michele A’Court.

– Iconic actor and one of our finest exports, Sam Neill joins fellow actor Robyn Malcolm to discuss his memoir Did I Ever Tell You This? in his first New Zealand book appearance.

– The latest Book Prize winner, Paul Lynch, sits down with Kim Hill to discuss winning the literary world’s most prestigious award for his novel Prophet Song, set in the Republic of Ireland as it slips into totalitarianism.

– A fireside chat between one of America’s most celebrated authors, Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, Tom Lake) and her friend and fellow bestselling author Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss)

– Becky Manawatu (Ngāi Tahu) in an exclusive early conversation about her next book Katarina, following on from the hugely successful bestseller Auē, which spent three-and-half-years on the bestseller list.

– One of the world’s best literary historians and global thinkers Peter Frankopan joins Finlay McDonald in his first ever NZ appearance, to discuss The Earth Transformed, a study on climate change’s effect on society throughout history, and his major debut The Silk Road.

– Leila Slimani (Watch us Dance), the award-winning author and journalist, one of Vanity Fair’s ‘Fifty Most Influential French People in the World’ and formerly French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture, meets Emily Perkins (Lioness) to discuss her extraordinary life and work.

– Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) sits down with Asian in Aotearoa’s Jenna Wee about her compelling novels and weaving societal critique into runaway bestsellers.

– Troy Kingi lays bare his creative process and invites the audience to help conceive, write and perform an entirely original waiata in under an hour.

– Trent Dalton (Boy Swallows Universe) sits down with Samantha Hayes to discuss his latest novel Lola in the Mirror, and the success of the Boy Swallows Universe Netflix adaptation.

– Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) talks to Claire Mabey about her new novel The Vaster Wilds and what it’s like to have Obama write to you personally to praise your writing.

– Anna Funder (All That I Am, Stasiland) meets Susie Ferguson to discuss her bestselling latest novel based on the life of George Orwell’s wife, Wifedom.

– Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Before the Coffee Gets Cold series) talks to Maggie Tweedie about how his poignant, hopeful novels were born from a tragic loss at an early age, and his latest book in the million-copy selling series Before We Say Goodbye.

Panel highlights include:

– Three beloved writers, Patricia Grace (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa and Te Āti Awa) (Bird Child), Ann Patchett and Bonnie Garmus discuss what their longer life experience brings to fiction in The Long View.

– Professor Peter Frankopan; author, politician and former international civil servant Shashi Tharoor (Inglorious Empire) and The Washington Post’s Asia-Pacific editor Anna Fifield (The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un) discuss the biggest election year in history – 2024 – in The Year The World Votes.

– NZ’s youngest MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou, Te Atiawa, Ngāi Tahu) and activist and redactor of Te Papa’s te reo Pākehā version of Te Tiriti Te Wehi Ratana (Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao, Te Roro o Te Rangi), discuss how the kōhanga reo generation is challenging Aotearoa to look at itself in a whole new way in The Kōhanga Reo Generation Is Here.

– Airana Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāruahine), Freddie Gillies (Because All Fades), and Avi Duckor-Jones (Max) discuss how kiwi men are portrayed in fiction in Writing the New Zealand Male.

– In 2023, over two thousand books were banned in America alone, and the trend is on the rise. Three authors with vested interest in the subject, Lauren Groff, Singapore Literature Prize-winning artist Shubigi Rao (Pulp Vol. 1-3) and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer), come together to discuss in Pulp Friction: The Rise of Book Bans.

Refreshed, returning events include:

– This year the families programme, Pukapuka Adventures, programmed by Gabrielle Vincent (formerly of Basement Theatre and Artistic Director of Tauranga Arts Festival) has trebled in size. On Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 May Pukapuka Adventures will take over the fifth floor of the Aotea Centre, with the liveliest weekend imaginable for kids. From a kids open-mic storytelling session, to dancing, zine-making, bug-hunting and more, Pukapuka has something for the entire family. This year will also include the first-ever app guided experience starting in Aotea Square and leading families on a short walk down Queen Street and surrounding laneways to experience Tim Tipene’s award-winning Pipi and Pou series.

– Festival Gala Night: on Thursday 16 May the beloved opening event of the Festival will feature a stellar line up of eight writers sharing a true and personal tale on the theme of ‘Choices and Chain Reactions’, the moment of choice that led them to where – and who – they are today. MCed by Miriama McDowell.

– STREETSIDE: Britomart: For one night only on Friday 17 May, writers, musicians and artists take to the streets from 6pm for an extravaganza of creative shenanigans in and around the Britomart Precinct. No ticket or registration required – just turn up and join the ride. Curated by the Festival’s new Programmer Manager, Rat World’s founder and one of Stuff’s ‘New Zealanders to Watch in ‘24’, Jennifer Cheuk.

– The 2024 Auckland Writers Festival Honoured Writer is Dame Anne Salmond and Te Kawehau Hoskins (Ngāti Hau, Ngāpuhi) meets her in a career spanning conversation.

Of the Festival programme this year, Lyndsey says, “I couldn’t be prouder of this world-class line up, nor the talented team behind it. It’s ambitious, interrogating, dynamic and fun and I can’t wait for it to all come to life in May. Whether it’s your 20th AWF, or your very first, there will be something for you and we can’t wait to have you part of it”.

 

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