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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Auckland Writers Festival 2021

Seven days of ideas, readings, debates, stand-up poetry, literary theatre, children’s writers and free public events. 
By Stephen Heard
May 10, 2021
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By Stephen Heard
May 10, 2021
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The Auckland Writers Festival (Waituhi o Tāmaki) is recognised as one of the best literature celebrations in the world, with seven days of ideas, readings, debates, stand-up poetry, literary theatre, children's writers and free public events. For its 20th outing, more than 200 of the planet's best writers have been booked to bring a world of stories and ideas to the city from 11 to 16 May.

While this year's lineup is largely a celebration of New Zealand writing and writers, the Festival has secured over 20 internationals and a major theatre work direct from the UK. A handful of digital sessions featuring international writers and major award-winners will be delivered direct for the live Festival audience. The events include Nobel Laureate and former Booker Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro, and artist, activist, architect, curator and filmmaker Ai Weiwei — both of whom will stream live on the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre screen in the Aotea Centre and will be interviewed by an on-stage facilitator.

The Festival also welcomes a lineup of international writers in-person, including award-winning writer Neil Gaiman, French style influencer Garance Doré, rare book dealer and author Rick Gekoski, forensic pathologist and columnist Judy Melinek, and Australian novelist Carrie Tiffany.

Direct from seasons in London and New York comes new theatre production Blindness. The work is a sound installation and immersive theatre experience delivered via headphones in a physically-distanced room, with multiple performances per day. From Aotearoa, Hāpai Production's Witi's Wāhine, based on wāhine Māori characters from Witi Ihimaera stories, will also have its Auckland debut after two successful seasons on the east coast.

In 2021 there are over 100 hosted events covering everything from cancel culture to songwriting, science and the future of Aotearoa. Elsewhere, there's intimate lunches, illustrated readings and walking tours exploring Auckland's best architectural buildings.

The Festival's popular workshop series is back, too, featuring both online sessions featuring both online sessions and in-person masterclasses with the likes of Kevin Barry (Short Fiction), Mary Karr (The Art of Memoir), Yiyun Li (Storytelling Geometry), Michael Robotham (Compelling Characters in crime writing), David Eggleton (The Bare Essentials in poetry), Rebecca MacFie (True Stories), and Carrie Tiffany (Collage for Writers).

The Festival's public days will open with the hugely popular Festival Gala. This year, eight writers will take to the stage to tell a true, no-script-no-prop personal story using 'Stranger Than Fiction' as their prompt. The Festival will close with esteemed Kiwi writers — Fiona Kidman, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Vincent O'Sullvban, CK Stead, Brian Turner and Albert Wendt — uniting on stage with Michele A'Court.

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