Hold on! We’re coming! A dummies’ guide to a great weekend

Word Fest Christchurch 2018
Annie at Word Fest Christchurch
Great Debate - Word Fest Christchurch 2018
Our two favourite out-and-aboutsters Steve Braunias and Annie Ackerman compare notes


Annie and Steve are both legendary jafas. So when TBI heard they were both heading off to Word Christchurch, we thought we’d better reach out and learn just what the hell’s going on.


I’m really hoping to catch up with someone who isn’t at the WORD festival at all, but is one of the main reasons I said yes to Rachael’s invitation. Whenever I’m in Christchurch, I visit Mary Fomison at her home in Linwood. Mary is considerably old I suppose you could say, over 90 now, and I first heard about her when her daughter came to a book signing I gave and said her mum read my books during the earthquakes because it kept her mind off the terror of it. I thought that was pretty amazing so I got her address, and we began corresponding. I’ve visited her since then and adore her company. One time she pointed to a painting on the wall, and said, “My son did that.” I said, “It looks familiar.” She said, “Poor old Tony…”

Diana Wichtel being chaired by Philip Matthews is the thing I most want to see at WORD by like a country mile. One of the great thrills of my professional life was to work alongside Diana and Philip at the Listener, and see at close hand the workings of their brilliant and extremely intelligent minds. This is the sort of thing that festivals provide – an insight into the thinking of great writers.

There’s some kind of session about art or something that has novelist Brannavan Gnanalingam and poet Tayi Tibble in it – they’re both really clever, I’d happily listen to them talk about anything.


I always fly south for this festival. I don’t know whether it's the closeness of the venues, the joy of meeting old mates or the delight of a stunningly designed program; but I just somehow find myself muttering to anyone who will listen that it’s got its own magic going on. Plenty to do over three days or so, but here's a look at my Saturday night.

Who could resist a session billed as “horrifying and hilarious stories of embarrassment”. The blurb recommends buying a stiff drink before the sesh, so I will try to comply. Mortification also comes with the warning that the language may not be for the faint of heart or easily offended: gloves off!  That pesky Steve Braunias made himself scarce at Auckland Writers Festival this year, so this promises to be my dose of satire, snickering and snorting.  

I may have to run back to the bar.

‘Cause I love an argument, a bit of cheek and nonsense, I will go the for that great institution that is the Great Word Debate on Saturday night. It’s always irreverent and a mini riot of sorts.  This year they have Tom Scott, Paula Morris, David Slack, Michele A’Court, AJ Finn and Denise Mina slugging it out.  Expect there will be a bit of sleight of hand by the unpredictable Joe Bennett who plays God at the event

I may not run to the bar!

Then I’ll head for The Sex and Death Salon to see Victor Rodger interrogate a selection of festival guests about taboo subjects. Methinks there will be a reason that it’s on late. I predict there will be a number of people who will have been in the bar, but totally on form.

See you there!

As a matter of certified fact, TBI loves Christchurch, especially when Word's on. Not only will almost our entire office be at Word Christchurch, running August 29 - September 2; but also, one third of our core team lives there. So too does this week’s guest editor on the Lowdown, Emma Johnson; and our regular guest writer Emanuella de Ruiter.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

29 Aug 2018

The Big Idea Editor

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