It was the first time I’ve been in the reopened Isaac Theatre Royal. My partner said the last thing he saw there was Public Enemy. I don’t know what I had been to – but we were back, and very happy to be at this WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival gala event.
WORD Literary Director Rachael King kicked off proceedings with a sense of the festival’s themes and the good news that ticket sales have already busted all records.
Then it was time for broadcaster Kim Hill to introduce the “marvellous array” of performers. She regretted not being previously advertised host John Campbell, but hey Kim we love you (and your broadcasting live from Christchurch today with WORD guest makes us love you all the more).
First up we had Sir Tipene O’Regan with the oldest of the Polynesian creation stories.
All stories of creation start in the dark.
We learned about the places and landmarks of Te Waipounamu (the South Island) in an informative – and really entertaining – journey. There was an element of pride in our place as coming from the first marriage of the first son. Yes, we are “sanctimoniously senior”.
Caitlin Doughty has done more than 1000 cremations. She got us to put our hands up if we are getting cremated. Around 70% choose that option. In the United States, it’s more like 50%, while Japan has a percentage around 99.99%.
Caitlin took us on a “What to expect when you’re expecting to be cremated”. Not the gold standard simulation that you can experience in China, where you actually go on the crematory ride and feel the imaginary flames but … Audience member Cathy got to be “Cathy the Corpse” and we went along with her ride in her “alternative container”. There is a cone of flame, the temperature goes up to 815 degrees Celsius and that’s applied for around 45 minutes.
The rest of Caitlin’s speech included “flaming skull”, “glowing red bones” and “cremulator”.
Stephen Daisley won big at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His speech had the flummoxed feeling you’d expect when someone has been writing for a long time and finds the reviews (which he read out) a bit staggering.
Tusiata Avia performed two poems from her new collection Fale Aitu | Spirit House.
It was made use of the idea of Aranui – the great path:
I am an Aranui girl.
Her second poem built on the repetition of “my body” and was utterly hypnotic:
My body is not an apology.
It was an powerful and absorbing perfomance.
Steve Hely told a good yarn from his book The Wonder Trail True Stories From Los Angeles to the End of the World. He talks about the landscape of a particularly barren place in Chile, and a 7 hour bus trip with mine workers, and the one woman on the bus puts on a movie – Austenland. Why, why, why? And he amusingly considers why the heck someone might play that particular movie to a bunch of blokes.
Ivan E. Coyote. Oh Ivan. I think everyone fell in love with you. I did, “full on smitten”. We were as taken with them, as they were with the fabulous lineup of “butch femmes” from the Yukon. I confidentally predict a flurry of ticket purchases for the rest of Ivan’s festival appearances.
Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins soothed the savage breast with a new song about a bus trip with someone just out of prison, a song about being under the same cover.
See our photos from the Gala.
More sessions featuring the Gala Guests
Steve Hely is appearing in:
How to be a Writer: Steve Hely, Sat 27 Aug, 3.30pm
The Great NZ Crime Debate, Sat 27 Aug, 7.30pm
The State of America, Sun 28 Aug, 12.30pm
Read books by Steve in our collection.
Ivan E. Coyote is appearing in:
Taku Kupu Ki Te Ao: My Word to the World, Sat 27 Aug, 1-4pm
Hear My Voice, Sat 27 Aug, 5.30pm
The Storyteller: Ivan E. Coyote, Sun 28 Aug, 11am
Read books by Ivan in our collection.
Hollie Fullbrook is appearing in:
Workshop: Songwriting with Hollie Fullbrook, Sat 27 Aug, 9.30am
Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?, Sat 27 Aug, 12.30pm
In Love With These Times, Sat 27 Aug, 7.30pm
Find music by Hollie in our collection.