The Prime Minister, Jeff Tweedy, Sir Antony Beevor among Stellar 2019 Auckland Writers Festival Line-up

The 19th Auckland Writers Festival programme launched yesterday, revealing a line-up of more than 200 events featuring over 230 globally acclaimed public intellectuals and much-loved literary stars offering conversation, laughter, ideas and inspiration for audiences of all ages from 13 to 19 May.  

Jeff Tweedy
Jeff Tweedy

Appearing exclusively in New Zealand is memoirist and founding member and leader of American rock band Wilco, Jeff Tweedy. Joining him is acclaimed British historian Sir Antony Beevor; Canadian writer, visual artist and author of the iconic work, Generation XDouglas Coupland; memoirist and former Straitjacket Fits front man Shayne Carter; celebrated New Zealand novelists Tessa Duder, Lloyd Jones, Fiona Kidman, Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt and Vincent O’Sullivan; much-loved Irish writer John Boyne;  English writer, mathematician and concert pianist Eugenia Cheng; best-selling children’s writer Sally Gardner together with her erotic fiction adult nom de plume, Wray Delaney; one of our best known poets, novelists and critics C.K. Stead; 2018 British Women’s Prize-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie; 2018 American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Andrew Sean Greer; globally best-selling author of The Book Thief and Bridge of Clay Markus Zusak; te reo Māori champions Scotty Morrison and Tīmoti Kāretu; Festival co-founder and award-winning writer Stephanie Johnson; current Katherine Mansfield Fellow Paula Morris; Kiwi trailblazers Marilyn Waring, Sir Kim Workman, Sandra Coney and Maris O’Rourke; one of Europe’s major literary voices, Germany’s Jenny Erpenbeck; South Africa’s Sisonke Msimang who was born in exile to freedom fighters; leading Asia journalist Richard McGregor; influential New Zealand artist Gretchen Albrecht; award-winning English hip-hop artist, writer, poet and founder of The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company Akala; Swedish authors of the Bill Gates championed book Factfulness Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling; one of the Pacific’s leading cultural custodians, former Samoan Prime Minister Tui Atua; multi-award winning Canadian novelist of Fugitive Pieces fame, Anne Michaels; and many more!

The Festival is internationally recognised now as one of the best literature celebrations in the world, with seven days of ideas, readings, debates, stand-up poetry, literary theatre, children’s writers and free public and family events. Festival attendance has grown exponentially, with audiences topping 75,000 last year.

Auckland Writers Festival director Anne O’Brien says it is enormously heartening to see so many people of all ages and with such varied interests, coming to the Festival each year.

'The Festival is part of the life-blood of New Zealand. It expands our world views, deepens our understanding on issues of the day, celebrates stories and writing, and offers a heady, seven-day, fun-times immersion.

'Where else can you hear a historian talk about sex work, a philosopher talk about what we can learn from octopuses, meet a freedom fighter and see performance poets all under one roof?

'If you haven’t been before, come and join the party, and if you’re a Festival regular, welcome back!'

Ms O’Brien says that the Festival is also proud to introduce its Māori name Waituhi o Tāmaki, with its many poetic resonances with water (wai, waiata meaning song-poem or reflecting water), writing (tuhi  - to write) and story-telling through other forms of writing such as kōwhaiwhai and tā moko.

Te reo Māori scholar and author Hēmi Kelly (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whāoa), says its many references include 'to the writing waters or artists or writers in this case whose stories are etched into this land like the flowing waters of a stream.'

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern appears in Stardust & Substance on Friday 17 May with Toby Manhire, discussing the remarkable weeks leading up to the 2017 New Zealand election and the impact of the result both domestically and around the world, as documented in the book of the same name.

English economist Kate Raworth joins us at the beginning of the week on Monday 13 May. Described by George Monbiot as the John Maynard Keynes of the 21st century, she contends that we need to reframe the economy by meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet. She discusses her book, Doughnut Economics, with Rod Oram.

The 51st Ockham New Zealand Book Awards will be held at the Aotea Centre on Tuesday 14 May. Come and see who will take home the big prizes at this premier event, with Stacey Morrison as MC.

eugenia cheng
Eugenia Cheng

With Jeff Tweedy and Shayne Carter on the bill, music was always going to be a key feature in this year’s Festival. There are more melodious events on offer, too. Journey through the four seasons in Man, Sitting in a Garden on Wednesday 15 May with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in collaboration with  writer Witi Ihimaera, composer Kenneth Young and internationally renowned New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill. O’Neill also sings Schumann, Bach and Wagner, with English writer, mathematician and musician Eugenia Cheng on piano in The Sum of the Score on Friday 17 May. US Singer/songwriter Val Emmich has adapted the Tony Broadway Musical of the Year Dear Evan Hansen, into a novel. He’ll be on stage with Petra Bagust discussing the work, on Friday 17 May, with Auckland’s National Youth Theatre Company performing four hit songs from the show.  Join Whiti Hereaka, Kelly Joseph, Nic Low, Tina Makereti, Paula Morris, Regan Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Kingsley Melhuish on Thursday 16 May for an hour of mythic Māori magic in Pūrākau: Maori Myths Retold.

Friday night’s medley of madcap and mysterious writerly goings-on returns this year in dens and alleys of Central Auckland’s Lorne Street in the guise of Literally Lorne. There’ll be a specially commissioned short detective story from the Scotsman Liam McIlvanney to be read at the Central Library basement by ultraviolet torchlight; high-spirited writing exercises at the Academy Cinema; inspired writing at Gow Langsford art gallery; fun-and-games storytelling and typography at DesignWorks; short poems with sweet cookies from The Receptionist coffee kiosk—all presented by an array of the writing great and good. Look out for Festival favourites Michele A'Court, Emma Espiner, Kirsty Gunn, Karyn Hay, Dominic Hoey, Stephanie Johnson, Renee Liang, Lana Lopesi, Courtney Sina Meredith, Karlo Mila, Tze Ming Mok, Emma Neale, Victor Rodger, Carl Shuker, Damian Skinner, Ian Wedde, Ashleigh Young and others for the perfect Friday night indulgence, at entirely no charge. A full schedule and event descriptions will be posted on our website early April: www.writersfestival.co.nz/literally-lorne

kirsty gunn
Kirsty Gunn

They’re insidious, and according to The Human Rights Commission, they’re on the increase. David Chariandy (Canada), Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany), and Leonie Hayden and Victor Rodger (New Zealand) explore Every Day Acts of Racism in The University of Auckland Festival Forum on Wednesday 15 May, chaired by Carol Hirschfeld.

Always a sell-out, this year’s Festival Gala Night is True Stories Told Live: At the Crossroads on Thursday 16 May. Join us for a memorable evening with eight of this year’s best performers, each delivering a seven-minute true story with no props or scripts.  

Performance strands of the Festival include Wellington comedian Eamonn Marra, voted Best Newcomer at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival in 2014, presenting a 45-minute set exploring anxiety on Saturday 18 May. One of the UK’s most charismatic bards, Luke Wright presents an hour performing his best poems on Friday 17 May, in which he struggles with Brexit, doubt, duty and channels half-cut nights spent shouting impotently at the telly, namely at the BBC’s Question Time. Also on Friday, Poets Showcase: tend II here features six stellar poets challenging the performance concept of tenderness requires a giving away of oneself, MC'd by Grace Taylor.

A three-time Festival sell-out for her extraordinary solo performances of Austen’s Women, Dalloway and Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, celebrated English actress Rebecca Vaughan returns as Virginia Woolf’s 1928 ageless, gender-fluid, immortal fictional poet Orlando, performing throughout the Festival period.

Swapna Haddow

Head on down to the Town Hall on Sunday 19 May for the Festival’s absolutely FREE Family Day! A packed day of performances and presentations including story time with a HUGE 50th birthday edition of Margaret Mahy's much loved classic The Lion in the Meadow, the live appearance of some of our native frogs and skinks with a reptile and amphibian expert, the Great Library Hunt, and fun upbeat sessions with writers, illustrators, singers, and presenters including Zara Clark, Malcolm Clarke, Joy H Davidson, Sally Gardner, Swapna Haddow, Heather Haylock, Bren MacDibble, Scotty and Stacey Morrison, Ruth Paul, Craig Phillips and Dylan van Winkel.

The event finale on Sunday afternoon is an hour with Honoured New Zealand Writer, Joy Cowley. One of New Zealand’s most loved and prodigious writers, Cowley has been crafting timeless work for more than 50 years. Best known for her books for the very young, she is also an accomplished author of adult novels, short story collections and a play. Join us in celebrating Cowley’s remarkable life and contribution to writing in this free session, in conversation with Carole Beu.

Ms O’Brien says it’s a privilege to present such diverse and talented writers from here and around the world.

'The last few years has seen unprecedented interest in the Festival from audiences who travel not only from all over Auckland, but from around the country and abroad to listen to globally lauded writers and ideas, men and women who deepen our thinking, make us laugh, move us and help us to make sense of this increasingly complicated world.

'We are now one of the largest and most respected literary festivals in the world and I encourage everyone to come along and engage with words and ideas offered in books, song, stand-up, performances, prose, in debates and conversations, from voices both familiar and new.'

The 2019 Auckland Writers Festival programme is launched at an invitation-only event at the Aotea Centre on the evening of Wednesday 13 March.

A preferential booking period for Festival Patrons and Friends follows, with public tickets on sale from 9.00am, Friday 15 March from www.ticketmaster.co.nz.

The Auckland Writers Festival warmly thanks Platinum Partner: Heartland Bank; Gold Partners: The University of Auckland, Freemasons Foundation, Ockham Residential and Creative New Zealand; Silver Partners: ATEED, Barfoot & Thompson, Craigs Investment Partners, Foundation North, Hobson Leavy Executive Search, Newstalk ZB, The New Zealand Herald, The University of Auckland Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences; Bronze Partners: Hachette, HarperCollins, Hawkins & Co, Heart of the City, NZ Community Trust, Penguin Random House, QMS, The Lion Foundation, Victoria University Press and Supporting Partners.  

We are also enormously grateful to our Festival patrons for their enthusiasm and generosity.

Go to www.writersfestival.co.nz for more information on appearing writers and their events.

ENDS