Tickets are on sale now for the country’s newest, and quirkiest, writers festival, to be held in Ōhakune in March. And even if you can’t make it, you can still be involved by donating to its crowdfunding campaign.
A pony ride with a popular children’s author, a literary waterfall walk, poets on bikes and a venue like something out of Twin Peaks: this doesn’t sound like the average writers festival. But then the first ever Ruapehu Writers Festival, which will be held in Ōhakune on 17–20 March, is not an average writers festival.
Locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a long weekend of events – including readings, panel discussions, workshops, sessions for children and a poetry slam – featuring 40 New Zealand writers, from the well-known to the up-and-coming. Tickets and season passes are on sale now, and a Boosted crowdfunding campaign to support the festival is running until the end of February.
Festival sessions include a Friday night lecture by award-winning novelist Elizabeth Knox, a fiction-writing workshop with Auckland writer Sue Orr and the pony ride with Stacy Gregg, the author of the popular Pony Club Secrets series. The setting will be acknowledged in a session about local history with leading non-fiction writer Martin Edmond, who grew up in Ōhakune, and local historian Merrilyn George, and another on the Desert Road.
Other well-known writers who can be heard at the festival include novelists Emily Perkins, Fiona Farrell, Nicky Pellegrino, Jenny Pattrick and Fiona Kidman and poets Paula Green, Harry Ricketts, Tusiata Avia and James Brown. Local writers are also being included, such as novelist and Taumarunui High School teacher Antony Millen, and editors from four of New Zealand’s literary presses will talk about what they look for in new writing. The complete programme is available on the festival website: https://ruapehuwritersfestival.nz/programme/.
The festival is the brainchild of poet, lecturer in English literature at Victoria University, and 2016 Katherine Mansfield Fellow Anna Jackson . She and her husband Simon Edmonds, owner of Tuatua café, have a house at Rangataua, next door to Ōhakune. “We realised that Ōhakune, half way between Auckland and Wellington, is the perfect place to hold a writers festival. While many people visit during winter for skiing, it’s at its most beautiful in summer. And the local community has been so enthusiastic about having this event in their town.”
Joining Jackson and Edmonds on the organising committee is poet and Seraph Press publisher Helen Rickerby. She says, “This is going to be an informal and fun festival, and I think the fact that it’s being organised by writers has given it a different approach.” Jackson says she expects readers and writers involved to come out of the session still talking about some of the ideas and books discussed. Readers and writers will also have chances to meet each other and keep talking about ideas on the waterfall walk – free for anyone to come along.
The festival will be based at the Powderhorn Chateau, right next to the Ōkahune railway station. “It is a fantastic venue, with large spaces and two decks to relax on in between sessions. Being in an alpine forestry town, the hotel has log walls, which reminds me of the hotel in Twin Peaks – but less creepy,” Rickerby laughs.
Tickets are on sale now, with earlybird season passes at just $90 (until 6 February) and individual sessions at $14, with concessions also available.
Edmonds says, “It was important for us to keep prices low, so as many people as possible could afford to come. We have some funding from Creative NZ, but we hope people will support our crowdfunding campaign so we can pay for accommodation and travel for the guest writers, who are generously donating their time.” Because Boosted contributions are eligible for a tax credit, donors will get 33 cents back from every dollar they donate.
- Donate to the Boosted crowdfunding campaign: https://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/ruapehu-writers-festival
- Find out more about the Ruapehu Writers Festival and buy tickets: https://ruapehuwritersfestival.nz/
- For more information contact Chris Wilson on 04-463 9498, 021 0525 300 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Anna Jackson at email@example.com.
- To interview the organisers or any of the participating writers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Profiles and photos of participating writers are available on the festival website: https://ruapehuwritersfestival.nz/writers/
- A media kit, including downloadable logos and images, is available the festival website: https://ruapehuwritersfestival.nz/media/