A hundred and fifty guests from around the world, including more than 80 writers from New Zealand, will be taking part in over 100 events at the 2013 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival — the “biggest line-up yet”. Of those 150 guests, four are writers from the South Island.
This raises several points. Attendance at international writers’ festival enable writers to increase their profile, reach new audiences and make important contacts within the writing/publishing community at large. The benefit for audiences is that they are introduced to new writers, or have the opportunity to meet established writers from locations other than their hometown.
The South Island is struggling to provide festivals for writers. Dunedin does not have a writers’ festival. Christchurch is doing a fantastic job, but faces difficulties post-earthquake. Invercargill, Nelson and Wanaka produce lively — but small —national festivals. Creative New Zealand funding is tight and smaller towns/venues cannot raise money to host events.
This is why festivals such as the international Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, which received $168,000 from Creative New Zealand for 2013/14, are so important in terms of promoting New Zealand literature. It is a great pity audiences in Auckland will be denied the opportunity to hear South Island voices. In fact, it is shameful.