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Alice Walker to Headline 2014 Auckland Writers Festival

Akld Writers Festival

It’s an honour to be this year’s Auckland Writers Festival PR; working with some of the world’s biggest names in literature. One of the most accomplished writers of our time, Alice Walker headlines this year’s Auckland Writers Festival, joining a stellar line-up including Irvine Welsh, Eleanor Catton, Alexander McCall Smith, Lloyd Jones, Camilla Lackberg and Michael Leunig in the multi-day event running 14-18 May.

The programme – announced at a cocktail function to sponsors, supporters, writers and publishers this evening – is rich and multi-layered, offering 150 writers and more than 120 events over five days in and around Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

Alice Walker will appear in one event only – The Color Purple on Sunday 18 May, 10-11am in the ASB Theatre – named after her globally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.

Festival director, Anne O’Brien says the heady mix of interviews, debates, conversations, poetry, readings, children’s events, workshops, concerts, lunches and soap box stir-ups provides something for everyone.

“This is a festival of plenty. We’ve introduced a Family Day this year as well as events that broaden our reach into books, art, music and theatre. There’s a host of free events, a wide variety of issues up for discussion and a long list of high-profile international and local writer guests making up the programme.

“As well as coming along to see your favourite authors, I encourage you to buy tickets to events that intrigue you, that may take you outside your comfort zone, that will open doors to places and people you may never have heard of before,” she says.

Attendance at the Festival – the country’s largest literary event – grows year-on-year.

“Last year more than 34,000 seats were filled. With an even greater mix of events this year, it’s the must-attend event for everyone who loves books, stories and ideas,” says Ms O’Brien.

Tickets to the festival – which is now in its 14th year – go on public sale from 9.00am, Thursday 20 March: online at , by phone on 0800 111 999, by post to Auckland Writers Festival Bookings, Ticketmaster NZ, PO Box 106 443, Auckland 1143, or in person at the Aotea Centre box office or any authorised Ticketmaster seller.

Auckland Writers Festival marketing development manager, Jennifer Duval-Smith says buying a Festival ‘Take 10’ concession pass is just one of many ways to maximise the exceptional value the Festival offers.

“You can save up to up to 40 percent on standard ticket prices by purchasing a concession pass. Use them yourself or become everyone’s new best friend and share the tickets with your friends or book club,” says Ms Duval-Smith.

All concession pass buyers will be in the draw to win $400 worth of Booksellers tokens including those who purchase before 14 May when Earlybird price offers on tickets expire.

Festival Highlights

The festival is proud to announce The Bone People as our first Great Kiwi Classic in a new initiative delivered in partnership with the New Zealand Book Council and culminating in a giant, free ‘book club’ discussion of the text at 4.00pm on Sunday 18 May. Author Keri Hulme will travel from her West Coast home to take part in the event.
As part of the selection process for deciding on the 2014 Great Kiwi Classic, hundreds of New Zealanders from around the country engaged in Facebook conversations about their favourite New Zealand books.

Ms O’Brien says titles championed were diverse in genre, age and target audience.

“We received nominations for out-of-print books, children’s books, just-published books, funny, sad and sci-fi books, fat books, slim books; books of all persuasions. The enthusiasm with which New Zealanders engaged with the conversation was infectious and a wonderful reminder of just how much great New Zealand writing there is.”

Another of New Zealand’s literary heroines, Eleanor Catton, talks with broadcaster John Campbell about writing, storytelling and what success means, in the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre on Saturday 17 May at 5.30pm.

Renown for his gritty depiction of the underworld in his novel Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh’s visit coincides with his new work, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. There is a meeting of Middle Eastern minds with Egyptian journalist Yasmine El Rashidi, Iraqi-born popular scientist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili and religious scholar Iranian-American Reza Aslan. With a career spanning more than 40 years, Australian Living Treasure Michael Leunig is one of the world’s most popular political and cultural cartoonists. Everyone’s favourite Scottish philosopher, Alexander McCall Smith is a generous and entertaining speaker. The prolific writer and former professor of medical law has written hundreds of books for adults and children with his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series selling more than 20 million copies worldwide. Huw Lewis-Jones takes us to Everest in 1953 using the original photographs from the expedition; Jeremy Scahill looks at America’s covert operations; Frank Dikotter reveals the horrors of mid-twentieth century China; and literary prize-winners Adam Johnson, Eimear McBride and A.M. Homes introduce us to their stunningly crafted fictional worlds.

Few can talk about North Korea – arguably the most secretive nation on earth – better than defector, Jang Jin-sung. The former high-ranking propaganda official for the late Kim Jong-il reveals the nation’s innermost secrets in his newly published memoir Dear Leader.

Hugely entertaining Danish/British writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer, Sandi Toksvig currently presents The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 and 1001 Things You Should Know on Channel 4. She has written more than 20 fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults. Ms O’Brien says that Sandi Toksvig is a must-see.

“Sandi brings the house down. She has that rare combination of effortless humour and fierce intellect; you’ll weep with laughter during the session and leave feeling completely inspired.”

Local contemporary fiction writers are out in force this year with Nicky Pellegrino toasting Italy at Toto restaurant at noon on Friday 16 May; Jenny Pattrick, Owen Marshall and Fiona Kidman talking over tea and cake at The Langham on Saturday 17 May at 2.30pm; and the ever-sassy Sarah-Kate Lynch entertaining with broadcaster Petra Bagust on Sunday 18th at 2.30pm. Duncan Sarkies and musician Sean O’Brien entertain in an hour of music and storytelling celebrating Sarkies’ new novel The Demolition of The Century.

Artists and writers become even better friends at the 2014 Auckland Writers Festival. Lauded Kiwi sculptor Greer Twiss celebrates his just-published monograph on Sunday 18 May at 11.45am at the Auckland Art Gallery; central Australian artist and writer Rod Moss shares his fascinating world with us, including his close friendships with the Aboriginal families at Whitegate, an Arrernte camp on the outskirts of Alice Springs; and New Zealand artists Cliff Whiting, John Reynolds and Yvonne Todd drop in for intriguing conversations.

Special events snapshot

The Festival’s Gala Night theme is True Stories Told Live: Truth and Lies. Eight writers deliver a seven-minute true story, propless and scriptless. Broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld keeps Nigerian storyteller Inua Ellams, Yasmine El Rashidi, kiwi photographer Marti Friedlander, Canadian Lawrence Hill, A.M. Homes, Sarah-Kate Lynch, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh in line. Thursday 15 May from 7.00pm in the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre.

Children are creatively catered for with the festival’s first free Family Day on Sunday 18 May. Presenters for the 30-minute events include comic duo The UK’s Etherington Brothers, illustrator Paul Beavis, Jamaican/English storyteller Jan Blake, poet Paula Green and Storylines Much-Loved Award winner Jenny Hessell.

The Festival Debate returns following its hugely popular launch in 2013. Arguing that Privacy is an Outdated Concept will be Jim Al-Khalili, Dutch historian Frank Dikotter, kiwi privacy expert Bob Stevens and Sandi Toksvig, chaired by journalist Guyon Espiner.

Celebrated musician, Tim Finn performs White Cloud – a potent mix of story and song developed with playwright Ken Duncam and filmmaker Sue Healey on Saturday May 17th at 8.30pm in the Limelight Room.

In the same venue you can sit back, relax and listen to Robert Schumann’s Fantasie in C major while Scottish writer Janice Galloway reads from Clara, her enthralling novel depicting the troubled musical genius’ wife.

The Auckland Writers Festival’s 2014 Honoured Writer is Patricia Grace. Celebrate her powerful, gentle and eloquent lifetime of writing with her at 5.30pm on Sunday 18 May in the ASB Theatre. Under 18s enjoy free entry.

Be one of only 30 people to take a Midnight Run through Auckland city with storyteller extraordinaire Inua Ellams. Hugely successful in Barcelona, Milan, Florence and London, participants eat, play games, write poems and generally ham-up large on tour, pre-planned by Ellams and his creative team. Friday May 16 from 6pm. Starting point to be confirmed.

English actor/playwright Rebecca Vaughan brings 13 Jane Austen heroines to life in a solo show that will have you heading to the bookstore for a copy of Emma. Austen’s Women plays twice on Saturday 17 May – 11.15 and 2.45pm at the Herald Theatre.

Enjoy lunch at The Langham while listening to British adventurer and writer Huw Lewis- Jones tell tales of risking life and limb in some of the most far-flung places on earth; most recently the Arctic and Antarctica. Thursday 15 May at noon.

Sir Ray Avery delivers this year’s Michael King Memorial Lecture on Sunday 18 May. Titled The Power of Us, the speech marks the 10th anniversary of the great kiwi historian’s death and explores what defines New Zealanders in 2014, 100 years on from the Great War.

Passionate writers rant from their soap-boxes in a new, free Festival series Speakers’ Corner. Hear Geoff Simmons claim we’re eating ourselves stupid, as well as Tracey Barnett on New Zealand’s attitude to refugees, Rebecca Macfie on our culture of corporate negligence and Marie Leadbeater on why our nuclear energy stance is good for the country and the world.

The full programme is now available online at or from the Auckland Writers Festival office at / 09 376 8074.

The Auckland Writers Festival warmly thanks our Gold Sponsors: New Zealand Listener and The University of Auckland; major funders ASB Community Trust, Creative New Zealand, The Lion Foundation and Auckland Council; and all our Silver, Bronze and Supporting Partners.

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


20 March TICKETS ON SALE from 9.00am

14, 15 May Auckland Writers Festival schools’ programme Aotea Centre. Tickets available via schools only.

14 May University of Auckland Festival Debate: Privacy is an Outdated Concept. ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, 8.00-9.30pm

15 May NZ Listener Gala Night: True Stories Told Live: Truth and Lies. ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, 7.00-8.30pm

15-18 May Public Festival programme. Aotea Centre, Auckland Art Gallery and catered event venues

18 May FREE Family Day Programme. Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre.

For further information, interview opportunities, author and book images please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR, 09 445 7525, 021 721 424,

Auckland Writers Festival @AklWritersFest #awf14

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