19 May 2024

Best of the Fest: Auckland Writers Festival

From Culture 101, 2:30 pm on 19 May 2024


The Auckland Writers Festival has set central Tāmaki Makaurau abuzz this week with a strong lineup of leading local and international authors, panel discussions, and events, including the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. 

For more than three days, the festival takes over Aotea Centre and various inner city venues. This year the festival has a brand-new artistic director, Lyndsey Fineran. 

As screen fatigue sets in, book clubs have been making a global resurgence, BookTok has more than 220 billion viewers, and instead of perfume or make-up lines celebrities are recommending books and hosting their own book clubs.

The Auckland Writers Festival has the highest per-capita attendance of any festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The major sessions are ticketed and not always cheap but the festival is proud of having more than a quarter of the events this year free and unticketed, including Friday’s nights wide ranging Streetside Britomart programme.  

From Kōrero Corner and Singapore Lit Salon, to songwriter Troy Kingi challenging the audience to help him write a waiata in 60 minutes - this year’s programme looks diverse and dynamic, but what does our panel think?.

Culture 101 has brought together a panel to discuss the highlights, favourite moments, conversations and analysis of the festival. 

Writer and critic Kiran Dass is the Programme Director for Word Christchurch and this year, is a judge for the 2024 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. For the festival, Dass has hosted the Writing Across Generations panel conversation speaking to three writers about family bonds, the complexity of writing across generations and looking towards the past to understand the future. 

Jenna Wee is a communications and marketing specialist who founded Asians in Aotearoa - a podcast exploring the lives of young Asian creatives. For AWF, Wee hosted a panel conversation with Celeste Ng, best known for Little Fires Everywhere and Our Missing Hearts

Award-winning writer and director Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) has been joined by his 21-year-old daughter, poet and filmmaker, Matariki Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue), as a father-daughter co-curating duo for the festival. 

Michael Bennett’s debut novel, Better the Blood was shortlisted for the Ockham Book Awards and his new novel Return to Blood was published in April. 

Matariki Bennett is a founding member of the poetry collective Ngā Hinepūkōrero and is the 2023 Wellington Regional Poetry Slam Champion. Both spoke to Perlina Lau about working together and the impact of having a Gen-Z curator involved.