The Press Christchurch Writers Festival - a stunning success

The programme was impressive with top writers from New Zealand and around the world present, the weather was fine, the people turned up in record numbers, there were no earthquakes, there was a happy atmosphere throughout the entire four day event. And in the end we all went away rather tired but very glad to have been there.
My warm congratulations to the organisers especially Ruth Todd and Morrin Rout who were responsible for putting the programme together.
There were many highlights including the big opening night London's Burning featuring to top contemporary British writers, John Lanchester and Chris Cleave and then later in the Festival they both appeared again in solo gigs and again delighted their audiences. Other stars included Emily Perkins, Kate Grenville, Joanne Harris, John Boyne,Tim Wilson, Nicky Pellegrino, Joe Bennett, Chris Turney, Michael Robotham, Laurence Fearnley,Carl Nixon, Felicity Price, Keri Hulme and a raft of fine New Zealand poets.

I had the great privilege of chairing three events starting with the Thursday night warm up act In So Many Words in which four local techno savvy types - librarians Moata Tamaira, Donna Robertson, writer/art curator Lara Strongman and journalist Will Harvie - discussed how the traditional written word makes its way in the world of tweeting, Facebooking, blogging and digital publishing and in particular how it affected their working and personal lives.

Then on Saturday night I chaired The Great New Zealand Crime Debate which preceded the presentation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.
The debaters - MP Lianne Dalziel, author Michael Robotham, and law academic Ursula Cheer for the affirmative and Special Counsel Jonathan Forsey, author Vanda Symon, and QC Chris McVeigh for the negative - provided a marvellous hour of sheer entertainment as they debated that "the female of the species of the species is more deadly than the male". The affirmative team won the debate (judged by audience acclamation) although the teams had the audience hooting with laughter throughout and the result was of little consequence.

Then perhaps the highlight of the weekend, for me anyway, was the announcement by visiting Australian crime-writer Michael Robotham that the winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel was Neil Cross for The Calling.

My final chairmanship duty was on Sunday afternoon; The Stuff of Life which featured Joanne Harris, Nicky Pellegrino and Felicity Price. These three authors have all  written books that speak of the magic and joy that can be hidden in the difficult mundane stuff of everyday life. They each talked about their own books and "the stuff of life" in them and then about other author's books  that had given them inspiration.
They proved articulate and interesting and it was nice to see the punters lining up at the Festival's UBS Bookshop to buy their books after the event.All three authors had new books out last week - a collection of short stories from Joanne - A Cat, A Hat and a Piece of String, When in Rome from Nicky and In Her Mother's Shoes from Felicity.

A fabulous weekend in a great venue, just a shame about the b...... awful acoustics.

Ngaio Marsh Award 2012 finalists - Vanda Symon, Neil Cross (winner), Ben Sanders, Paul Cleave.