Talking about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

In an engrossing event at Christchurch Art Gallery, Reni Eddo-Lodge was in conversation with playwright Victor Rodger. She talked us through her thought-provoking debut book Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. This collection of essays seeks to unpick and challenge white dominant ideology.

Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger
Reni Eddo-Lodge and Victor Rodger

The idea for the book grew out of a 2014 blog post in which Reni, a young British journalist of Nigerian heritage, wrote of her “frustration that discussions of race and racism were being led by those not affected by it,” and that when she tried to talk about these issues was told that there wasn’t actually a problem or accused her of being angry. The irony of marking this line in the sand was that suddenly lots of people wanted to listen to Reni’s point of view – including a full (mostly white) art gallery auditorium.

There are a number of themes in the book. One is history, and Reni is keen for black Britons to write themselves back into history. The British connection to slavery and to Africa is deep. I studied economic and social history 1750-1875 at A-level and slavery and colonialism was barely mentioned. I find this appalling because:

  • a) hello – where was the cotton for the cotton mills coming from?
  • and b) it has taken me until the last week or two to realise this.

It is this kind of oversight that Reni is trying to point out.

Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge

Whiteness isn’t the default. Whiteness isn’t neutral. There are other ways of doing things; there are other points of view. Which is actually quite liberating if you think about.

Reni was assured and matter of fact, and very easy to listen to. Another topic she highlights is feminism. What is the point of feminism that is only for white women and doesn’t have a space for black women and others? Issues don’t happen in isolation, and overlap and intersect all the time.

This truly was a session to make you think about and observe how you experience the world, to make you want to explore further by reading her book, and to shift your point of view.


Listening to Reni Eddo-Lodge

This is a slightly odd blog. I don’t know a huge amount about Reni Eddo-Lodge, and because of the way her session at the upcoming WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View series at the Christchurch Arts Festival is titled, I want to go into it with as open a mind as possible and without too many preconceptions. Additionally, I’m a few places down the holds list for her book so won’t get to see it before I see her.

Reni Eddo-Lodge

However, I can tell you about why I want to listen to her. I vaguely saw the title of her book and WORD session, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, on Twitter and then came across a book review in The Guardian and the concept piqued my interest. I’ve been reading quite a lot about diversity, racism and colonialism and also getting my head around intersectionality, so when I saw that Reni was coming to Christchurch I jumped at the opportunity to listen to her. I want to leave my white privilege at the door and make the most of a chance to gain insight into someone else’s perspective.

In this day and age, listening may be one of our most valuable tools.


Six of the best – Ian Rankin, Anne Enright, and more top writers coming to Christchurch!

WORD Christchurch has joined forces with the Auckland Writers Festival to bring amazing authors to Christchurch in May.

The WORD Autumn Season, which runs from 14 to 17 May, features:

  • Bestselling Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin;
  • Man Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist Anne Enright;
  • Highly-respected British historian and biographer A. N. Wilson, author of The Victorians;
  • Science writer James Gleick exploring the mysteries of time travel;
  • Novelist and Kiwi expat Stella Duffy, who is currently completing Ngaio Marsh’s unfinished novel Money in the Morgue;
  • Canadian storyteller Ivan Coyote, who was the breakout star of last year’s popular WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

WORD Christchurch’s programme director Rachael King says:

The audience for our last festival increased by 50% on the previous festival, showing there is a real appetite for these thought-provoking events in Christchurch. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Auckland Writers Festival to be able to bring such high-calibre speakers to the city.

What should you do now?

  1. Have a good look at the programme of events on the WORD Christchurch website.
  2. Get your tickets now. If you buy tickets by 21 April, you do in the draw to win a 10-session pass to the Auckland Writers Festival, which runs 16 to 21 May.
    Another great option is the Autumn Season Pass – it costs $90 plus $3 booking fee and gets you into all six events. All season pass holders automatically also go in the draw to win books from all six writers, courtesy of UBS.
  3. Get reading these six writers – visit our page WORD Autumn Season and find their books in our collection. Or go to your local bookshop.

See you at the WORD Autumn season!

After WORD – an interview with Rachael King, literary director of WORD Christchurch

Cori L. Sanders did a splendid job coordinating a team of volunteers at the recent WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. Here she interviews WORD’s literary director Rachael King.

Rachael King

Congratulations on the amazing success of the recent WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.  Putting together a literary festival seems a massive undertaking. How long did it take you to plan and execute?

Each festival takes a year to plan, although some foundation work is done in the preceding year as well. This year we had a fantastic and very hard working team led by Executive Director Marianne Hargreaves. My job is to plan what the festival will look like – everyone else makes it happen!

The festival featured 80 events and over 150 writers and speakers.   How did you put the programme together?  Or to reprise the title of one of the festival events: Where do you get your ideas from?  (Did you brainstorm with a committee or were these ideas all your own?)

I do call for input of ideas from our board of trustees, who are all avid readers, and from my Twitter followers who are a clued-up bunch, but mostly the ideas come from reading books, reading coverage of books on the internet, checking upcoming publishing schedules (and publishers sometimes pitch their authors to me), and generally thinking about the issues and themes that the world is concerned with. What moves people? What troubles them? What do they want to know more about?

Outside of my work hours I am constantly thinking about the programme and can get lost for days down the rabbit hole of the internet following ideas. We also work closely with the Melbourne and Brisbane Writers’ Festivals as well as Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, so we send each other ideas.

James Dann and How to start a magazine panel
James Dann, Debbie Stoller, Duncan Greive, and Luke Wood. How to start a magazine panel. Flickr 2016-08-28-IMG_5849

How did you hear about these various authors/speakers, and how did you decide which ones to invite over?

All different ways, but here are some examples. The Canadian writers (Ivan Coyote, Elizabeth Hay and Sheila Watt-Cloutier) came to me through Hal Wake, the director of the Vancouver Writers Festival, which I attended in October last year. I saw that Tim Flannery had a book out on climate change, which was a topic I wanted to cover; his partner Kate Holden came highly recommended to me by another writer.

I found Caitlin Doughty via Twitter, where she was tweeting macabre things that appealed to me, which led me to her website where to my delight I discovered she had recently published a book. Then I saw her speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival last year and that sealed the deal. Ali Cobby Eckermann and Elisa Washuta came through the Christchurch Sister Cities programme – both writers were recommended to me by literary people in Adelaide and Seattle respectively.

Alok Jha was recommended to me by someone who had seen him in person in the UK. John Freeman I met in Auckland last year, then again in Vancouver and New York. He was coming out for the Melbourne Writers Festival so I extended the invitation to Christchurch.

Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty Flickr 2016-08-28-IMG_5873

Did you start with a theme in mind or did the theme emerge later?

You send out hundreds of invitations and hope that some will stick. In this case, the ones that were sticking started revolving around two common themes – the planet and its people. Nearly all the writers who had accepted my invitation write about quite political things, whether it is the environment, gender, human rights, sexual politics, life and death. I decided to declare the Planet & its People as the official theme because I knew it would appeal to people who care about what is happening in the world right now.

The festival ranged over a myriad of topics like climate change, water, feminism, sex, positive death-acceptance, true crime, LGBT issues, poetry, migrants’ voices, war stories, inclusive cities, and political cartoons.  How did you know what topics would appeal to a general audience?  What combination and balance were you looking to achieve?

These are topics that engaged people care about. I was looking for a combination and balance of thought-provoking, challenging, enlightening, uplifting and entertaining.

Do your literary interests span all these different genres, topics, and cultural hot buttons?  Did you read all the books featured?

I wish I could say I read books by all 150 speakers at the festival but alas no, I didn’t have the time! My personal tastes run to literary fiction and personal essays mostly, but I can still appreciate a topic and trust my sources, and I always make sure the speaker is engaging foremost.

You’ll notice I managed to smuggle my musical tastes in there as well, with the Flying Nun celebration night and Hollie Fullbrook from Tiny Ruins, and also included comics, performance poetry, live storytelling, journalism and TV writing, so WORD is no longer just about books.

Hollie Fullbrook "Tiny Ruins" at WORD Christchurch The stars are on fire gala
Hollie Fullbrook “Tiny Ruins” at WORD Christchurch The stars are on fire gala. Flickr 2016-08-26-IMG_5777

Some authors were interviewed on stage; others took to the stage by themselves; and yet others were part of a panel. How did you decide which format would best showcase each author’s talents?

A lot of it was led by the writers themselves. It is a big ask to get someone to prepare an address, so many authors prefer the ‘in conversation’ format. It is good to have a mixture of both, so I always ask which format the writers prefer.

Panels are a good way to make sure an international author has more than one opportunity to be on stage; and with local writers, they are a good way to include as many writers as possible, and to cover some interesting topics beyond ‘tell us about your book’.

How did you decide who would chair each panel or interview each author?

I attend a lot of writers’ festivals and am always paying close attention to the chairs! In many cases a good chair person is as important as the speaker people have come to see. Chairing takes a certain set of skills – confidence to carry the responsibility, but also the confidence to take a back seat and not dominate.

Chairing a panel is a kind of mediation as well, where it’s essential that you allow everyone on the panel to get their word across, and be prepared for conflict. Managing audience questions is another skill! I also look for chairs who can go with the flow of conversation rather than rigidly over prepare and stick to their questions no matter what. As far as who to match with whom: instinct.

What guided your decision-making regarding workshop topics and the people who would run them?

I wanted a range of topics, and we certainly had that: fiction, song-writing, the business of publishing, memoir, indigenous storytelling. They arose from looking at who was coming and who had experience teaching. The workshops were all very popular, so we will definitely look at adding more next time – and as Tracy Farr’s fiction workshop and Scott Pack’s How to Perfect Your Submission workshop sold out so quickly, will look at more fiction workshops next time and another about getting published. The Taku Kupu Ki Te Ao workshop had three teachers in addition to the facilitator, and by all accounts they got as much out of it as the students!

What gave you the idea to launch the immensely successful new events like Oratory on the Ōtākaro, and the New Regent Pop-Up Festival?

The Ōtākaro walk was conceived in consultation with Ngāi Tahu who are a great supporter of the festival. We are keen to regularly feature Ngāi Tahu speakers and stories. Look out for more walks at future festivals!

The Pop-Up was inspired by a combination of things – wanting to expand the fringe programme which creates accessible events in interesting spaces; wanting to include as many Christchurch writers in the programme as we could; and my visit to the Lit Crawls in Seattle and San Francisco last year. The organisers are keen for us to become part of the Lit Crawl family but there is already a LitCrawl (note different spelling!) in Wellington and we don’t want to detract from that. But the New Regent Street space was an excellent way to test the waters for this kind of event, and I hope it will become a regular feature of future festivals. It added so much character to the festival.

New Regent Street Pop-up
New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival Flickr 2016-08-25-IMG_5751

Any kinks you want to iron out for next festival or any things you want to redress?

Yes, but I’m keeping those to myself as they kinks mostly happened behind the scenes and we need to maintain the image of a swan gliding across a still lake while its legs work furiously below the surface!

What were the personal highlights of this festival for you?

Oh, so many! I’m not supposed to have favourites, and as I was behind the scenes, I missed much of the festival. But I will say I was pretty proud to have Ivan Coyote and Caitlin Doughty, and the Hear My Voice event and Flying Nun event gave me goosebumps. I thought the Stars are on Fire showcase went perfectly (but I am biased), and hearing Tiny Ruins debut a beautiful new song just about had me in tears!

What are the perks of being the festival’s literary director?

Meeting interesting writers! Championing books, especially New Zealand books. Getting to travel to other festivals and to collaborate with them as well. I get a lot of free books, which is a big bonus of course.

What ideas have already sparked for the next festival?

As it’s two years away, I’ll be reissuing invitations to some people who couldn’t make it this time around. But look out! We have an amazing line-up in the planning for our Autumn Season in May, in partnership with Auckland Writers Festival, and will also have a programme of events within the Christchurch Arts Festival next year.

What do you do when you’re not planning literary festivals?

I should be writing books! But the festival takes up too much of my headspace at the moment, so I’ll say I like walking and reading, spending time with my kids. And I have recently taken up horse-riding after a 25 year gap, so that is my current obsession.

Thank you very much, Rachael, for your time, and congratulations once again on the success of the festival!

The Stars are on fire gala
The Stars are on fire gala. WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. Friday 26 August 2016. Caitlin Doughty, Steve Hely, Hollie Fullbrook, Ivan Coyote, Tusiata Avia, Sir Tipene O’Regan and Stephen Daisley.Flickr 2016-08-26-IMG_5778

Read more of the libraries’ WORD 2016 coverage.

WORD Writers & Readers Festival 2016 – Bringing the BIG names to town!

The biennial book binge that is the WORD Writers & Readers Festival is back for 2016, and the programme launched tonight at The Press building on Gloucester Street is bursting with authorial tastiness.


Christchurch will play host to over 150 writers and speakers over four crazy, crazy days and nights on the 24th to the 28th August. The range of events embraces the standard hour-long author talk, panel debates, poetry readings, book launches, a comedy panel show, Pechakucha night, exhibitions, workshops, storytelling, the Ngaio Marsh Award Ceremony for Best Crime Novel, lectures, family events, a historical walking tour and a fringe festival. Blimey.

Literary Director Rachael King has put together a programme with themes that cover the full torrid schmozzle of humanity: life and death, gender, sexuality, indigenous rights, migration, the climate and yes, even the F-word …feminism.

image_proxySome stand-out events include:

No Sex Please, We’re Teenagers
Young Adult novelists David Levithan, Ted Dawe and sex-therapist Frances Young discuss with chair Mandy Hager the role of sex in literature. What are the risks and rewards?

Tim Flannery, Mai Chen, Bronwyn Hayward and Shelia Watt-Cloutier chaired by Kim Hill paint a picture of earth in 2050 with reference to climate, diversity, indigenous rights and citizenship. Utopia or dystopia?

Busted: Feminism & Pop Culture
Debbie Stoller is the co-founder and editor of BUST magazine and authored the Stitch n Bitch craft series. She talks craftiness and feminism.

Oratory on the Ōtākaro (Avon River)
Join Joseph Hullen for a 40 minute tour and discover the rich shared Māori and European history of the river Avon.

The programme is positively bulging with energising, stimulating and inspiring book-ish events, so unleash the Christchurch culture vultures!

Quick questions with Margaret Wilson

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyMargaret Wilson is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August to speak on The Struggle for Sovererignty. This event is part of the Shifting Points of View – WORD Christchurch at the Christchurch Arts Festival.  Margaret is Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Waikato, and she has been an MP and Speaker of Parliament. She will be in conversation with Dr Bronwyn Hayward, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury.

This session is timely and relevant:

In the era of public choice and free markets, and when widespread public protest against global treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is having little effect, does the New Zealand state still have the best interests of its individual citizens at heart? Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Thanks to Margaret for answering our quick questions.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I’m looking forward to meeting people in Christchurch who share my values.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are essential for a democratic community – they provide pleasure, knowledge and well being for a community. (My sister is a librarian!)

What would be your “desert island book”?

I would take the bible and the Koran to try understand why religion is so important to so many people.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

If I had the time and money I would tour the world watching cricket.

Margaret Mahy, superheroes, theremin, and Hicksville: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch kicks off tomorrow Wednesday 27 August with the Rising Voices Youth Poetry Regional Slam and Shigeru Ban: Cardboard Cathedral. Here are some Festival picks that show off the range of what’s on – get  your tickets now:

For Margaret Mahy fans

Elizabeth KnoxStart your Sunday with a trip, of the imaginary sort. The inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture is a  celebration of our Cantabrian Queen of the imagination, and this lecture is set to become a Festival staple.

The first lecture ‘An Unreal House Filled with Real Storms’ is appropriately by the brilliant Elizabeth Knox and is introduced by children’s author and literary activist Kate de Goldi.

If you are a Mahy fan, there is also a look back at The Changeover, 30 years on.

What’s happening in Māori literature?

Te Karanga Me Te Wero: Contemporary Māori Writing in Aotearoa brings together writers Hinemoana Baker, Tina Makereti, and Huia publisher Brian Morris, in conversation with Paul Diamond. They will tackle this topic by exploring what we mean when we talk about Māori writing, who is doing it and the challenges faced by Māori writers.

For comic lovers

If you are fan of comics and graphic novels, here are a couple of sessions to warm your cockles.

Capes and tightsCapes & Tights: Superhero Comics

If you are a fan of comics and graphic novels, get along to this session on Sunday, 31 August 4pm at The Physics Room – philosopher Damon Young; film-maker and cartoonist Jonathan King; Young Adult author Karen Healey join local comics hero (and former Batgirl writer) Dylan Horrocks for a free-ranging panel discussion looking at Hollywood, sexism, ideology, and more.

Journey to Hicksville

I reckon the graphic novel Hicksville is up there in the pantheon of New Zealand books. In this session, Dylan Horrocks talks with  film-maker and cartoonist Jonathan King about his latest books Incomplete Works, and the forthcoming Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen (check it out online)

Woah! Theremin!

Cover of The life and loves of Lena GauntI am going to get to this on Sunday morning. A rare chance to hear that wonderful and weird instrument the theremin in action.

Tracy Farr’s novel The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, tells the story of a theremin player Lena. Radio New Zealand’s Lynn Freeman chairs the session, and John Chrisstoffels gives a theremin demo, and tells a bit more about it.

John is also in the intriguing new band Les Baxters (word from another band member is “the band is tres literary cos there are 2 librarians in it…”

Coral Atkinson and Kate Fraser: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival is a mere few weeks away – it kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests, here’s what they have to say.

Cover of Passing ThroughCoral Atkinson

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

The festival offers such a smorgasbord of literary delights it is very difficult to single any one out. However, having recently written my novel Passing Through, which deals with the impact of the First World War on a group of Christchurch people, I am particularly keen to go to How  We Remember: Recalling and Retelling the First World War with Harry Ricketts, Paul Diamond and Anna Rogers.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries and think it essential we do all we can to retain them — and keep them free for users. I so agree with Neil Gaiman’s saying, ‘Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.’

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I can’t bear the smell of banana and orange peelings. It reminds me of being on duty during wet lunch hours, in the years when I was a
secondary school teacher.

Novelist and short fiction writer Coral Atkinson will be appearing at the session Beyond the Veil: Historical Ghost Stories Sunday 31 August, 4pm

Search our catalogue for books by Coral.

Kate Fraser

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I am looking forward to my morning tea session with Nicky Pellegrino and Ruth Reichl and my brunch session with Simon Gault. Away from food I hope to get to the sessions with Shigeru Ban and Noviolet Bulawayo.

What do I think about libraries?

My friends from the cares of the day since I was given the key to the Kurow library and came and went as I liked and read a great number of unsuitable books. I was 11.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

As a student in Dunedin way back then I had a gig at a ‘nightclub’ The Dancing Lobster. It was above a pool parlour and was kind of theatre-restaurant. I was the floor show. A modern (for 1959) dance act. I have always forgotten to include nightclub dancer on my CV.

The Press’s food editor Kate Fraser will be appearing at Delicious with Ruth Reichl and Nicky Pellegrino, Friday, 29 August 10am and Brunch with Simon Gault: Sunday 31 August, 9.30am


Read more Festival guest picks and WORD Christchurch posts.

Lauraine Jacobs and Rachel Morton: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival is a mere few weeks away – it kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests, here’s what they have to say.

Cover of Everlasting FeastLauraine Jacobs

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I am thrilled to see that The Stars Are  Out tonight is being held in the Transitional Cathedral and cannot wait to attend this event and see the new building. Such a line-up of stars and lovely John Campbell anchoring the evening promises to be a highlight of my year. And of course, I am truly excited to be hosting Ruth Reichl on stage as she is for me, the leading light in the food writing world.

What do you think about libraries?

I have fond memories of catching the bus by myself aged 9 years to the Grafton Library in Auckland as my mother was busy with my baby sister and I was constantly needing to change my books. Any voracious reader like me loves libraries as there is a world of opportunity on every shelf.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I think most people would be surprised to learn I play a respectable game of golf and also swim in the ocean from Labour weekend to Queens Birthday every year. I don’t think about food absolutely all the time!

Lauraine Jacobs food and wine writer extraordinaire appears in The Best Possible Taste: Saturday 30 August, 12.30pm
Search our catalogue for books by Lauraine

 Rachel Morton

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

Aunty and the Star People: Documenting Lives.

What do you think about libraries?

I was in the local library almost everyday as a kid and it was a complete sanctuary.  They are massively important to your early appreciation for literature and learning.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I won an award at Primary School for writing a poem about going to my Grandfather’s funeral.  It still is one of the things I am most proud of.

Rachel Morton RDU 98.5 FM Station Manager and music champion appears in Lyrical Writing: Sunday 31 August, 11.30am

Read more Festival guest picks and WORD Christchurch posts.

Joe Bennett and Anna Rogers: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival is a mere few weeks away – it kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests, here’s what they have to say. Keep an eye out for more opinions from festival guests on the blog.

Joe Bennett

Cover of Fish like a drinkWhat (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I’m attending Meg Wolitzer’s workshop. I’ve taught several writing workshops but have never attended one. Am hoping to find out how it ought to be done.

What do you think about libraries?

The free public library is the marker of civil society.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

As a teenager I wanted only to be a professional cricketer.

Joe Bennett – popular columnist and author – appears in:
The Great New Zealand Crime Debate & Ngaio Marsh Award Saturday 30 August, 8pm

Cover of The Shaky IslesAnna Rogers

What (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I’m most looking forward to the general buzz and excitement of having so many wonderful writers in Christchurch. If I had to single out a couple of people I’m especially keen to hear, they would be the American novelist Meg Wolitzer and the Zimbabwean writer, NoViolet Bulawayo, who was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries. They feel like home. I like to buy books when I can, but borrowing them is a big part of my life too. And librarians are the most extraordinarily knowledgeable and helpful people.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

Even though I earn my living as a book editor and writer, I am a very inaccurate typist.

Fiction and non-fiction book editor Anna Rogers will be appearing in:
A Novel Relationship: Friday 29 August, 4pm
How We Remember: Recalling and Retelling the First World War: Saturday 30 August, 3.30pm

Search our catalogue for books by Anna.