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Programme of Events

2017 events: Friday12 - Sunday 14 May



We're happy to announce our third Booktown festival - yippee!!! A fabulous programme of events  has come together, thanks to booksellers, writers, craftspeople and our community, to offer you the best experience of Featherston and books you could ever have!

If you'd like to keep up as things unfold, check back here periodically or, for up-to-the-minute info, like and follow us on our Facebook page: featherstonbooktown


  • Booksellers @ Booktown, 10am – 4pm both days

  • Visiting booksellers are located at the ANZAC Hall, 62, Bell St (see map)

  • This year we are delighted to welcome, amongst others:

  • Almo’s Books

  • Arty Bees

  • GT Carter Transport Books

  • The Ferret

  • Hedley’s Books

  • Tinakori Books

  • Writer’s Plot Readers Read

Fish & Chip Supper

Come along and enjoy succulent fish and chips (courtesy of Town & Country). Mix and mingle with booksellers, and then hear the after-dinner speech.  Our speaker is Lloyd Jones, award-winning fiction writer. His first collection of short stories was published in 1991, and he has also written books for children. His bestselling novel Mister Pip won several illustrious prizes and awards including the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award and the 2007 Montana Medal for fiction. It was also shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. He has written numerous novels, and has worked as a journalist and consultant. Jones’ writing is known to subvert the norms of fiction, and his narratives are challenging, original, and in some cases controversial. (Quoted from NZ Book Council)

When: Friday, 6-10.30pm
Where: ANZAC Hall, 62 Bell St
Entry: $40 Tickets available on Eventfinda. To book, click here.

Workshops and displays (both days, 10am – 4pm, unless otherwise noted)


The Printing Museum

This Museum began life 30 years ago with a group of enthusiasts and professional printers, at the time that letterpress printing was coming to an end. Had it not been for their foresight, many of these machines - some listed as items of historical interest - would have been lost. Fast forward, and The Printing Museum has entered a new phase. There is a huge revival of interest in letterpress, particularly in the USA and Britain.  The team’s vision is a combination of working printing museum, book arts centre, community workshop, specialised printery and type foundry that will be an international attraction.  You can witness their machines at work, at Booktown.

When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am–4pm
Where: Featherston School, Lyon St
Entry: Free (koha)


Zines, letter writing, tiny stationery shop

Murtle Chickpea is a bit of a superstar in Featherston, says Booktown.  For this year’s event she combines her love of zines, letter writing, secret postcards and cute stationery under one roof, creating a fun, interactive space for people of all ages.
Write a letter to a loved one, read a zine from France, share a secret in the form of an anonymous postcard or purchase a cactus eraser from the teeny tiny stationery shop.

When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am–4pm
Where: Featherston School, Lyon St
Entry: Free (koha)


Paper-making with Rob Kennedy
Working as a papermaker really appeals to Rob’s sense of adventure and discovery. He began papermaking to generate an income stream from Harakeke (NZ native flax) for conservation projects and quickly learned that turning plant mass into paper, using basic chemistry and simple technology was deeply satisfying, especially when he makes the basis for someone else’s creative self-expression. 
Building on the success of last year’s Booktown event, and the popularity of the drop-in workshops, this time Rob is offering a timetable of both casual drop-in sessions and one hour workshops.

When: Saturday & Sunday: 10am-12pm drop in, 1-2pm workshops, 2pm-3pm drop in
Where: St Teresa’s School, 63 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha) for drop in, $20 for workshops (pls pay as you arrive)

The Magic Little Shed
“It’s long gone 3pm and several flagging schoolkids are meandering their way home along a semi-industrial street in the Wellington suburb of Newtown – a prosaic journey punctuated by a burst of joyful whimsy.  Nestled in a row of five gritty garages is Norac Salad, New Zealand’s only dedicated origami bookshop and studio,” North and South July 2016.

Yup that’s Caron Dallas (Norac Salad is her name backwards).  Caron spends her days in that garage making art using “rescue” books by folding the pages, no cutting involved at all.  No books are harmed in the process. Caron makes books to order including names, numbers or special shapes as well as exhibiting the works along with fellow artist Meg Prebble. These two extraordinary artists met at Booktown 2016 and had an exhibition at the end of 2016, and have another one coming up in a pop-up space in Newtown and are working on having their biggest one yet in Pataka, Porirura.

Caron will be doing one-on-one sessions throughout the days of Booktown, so if you’d like to learn a little of the “magic” bring an old book or two along and she’ll happily teach you.

When: Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm
Where: St Teresa’s School, 63 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Paper marbling with Meg Prebble
Marbling is the art of creating beautiful patterns and pictures by swirling paint on the surface of liquid and transferring the result to paper. It is a fascinating craft with a long history which winds through the publishing houses of medieval Europe. Meg uses modern materials and old techniques to create her vibrant pieces, and she’s delighted to return to Featherston’s Booktown to demonstrate her techniques and give people a chance to try the art for themselves.

When: Saturday & Sunday,10am-4pm , sessions 30-50mins, or drop in to watch!
Where: St Teresa’s School, 63 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Lois Conner’s photo exhibition
Lois Conner’s photographs are large-scale panoramas that relate to the global landscape. They are characterized by their narrative sweep, a sense of place, and their implicit attention to history and culture. Many of her projects have an arc of decades, including her work in New York, the Navajo Reservation, the American West and in China. 

Conner’s work is currently included in The Poetics of Place exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the exhibition “Downside Up” at the Temple in Beijing, China. Her book “Beijing Contemporary and Imperial” was published in 2013 to coincide with her Cleveland Art Museum exhibition.

When: Saturday & Sunday, 10am-4pm
Where:  The French Quarter, 29 Waite St
Entry: Free (koha)

Bookbinding, practical workshop with Robyn Ramsden
Athena Bookbinding’s Robyn Ramsden’s workshops have proved extremely successful in the last two years.  This year she is offering a tutorial on making a 4th Century (Nag Hammandi) style book. All materials and tools provided. Consumables cost $20 per book. You can keep the instructions so you can make more on your own. Robyn’s been bookbinding as a hobby since 2005 and started making books for sale in 2012. She makes two styles of books, the early medieval Nag Hammandi style and the Incunabula style which are modeled on early printed books. She makes books to order through

When: Sunday, 10am–12.30pm
Where: St Teresa’s School, 63 Bell St
Entry: Max 10 people, book on Eventfinda, or at Loco Coffee & Books, 50 Fitzherbert St. Free, but take $20 to cover materials. 


Presenters:  In order of day/time appearance:

A Road Tour of American Song Titles: From Mendocino to Memphis
Karl du Fresne grew up listening to songs about American towns and cities – some well-known, like New Orleans, Nashville and Detroit; others less so, like Muskogee, Lodi and Saginaw. He often wondered what these places were like, and why they inspired great songwriters – so he went to find out for himself. The result was his book A Road Tour of American Song Titles: From Mendocino to Memphis. Karl is a veteran journalist and former musician, now living in Masterton.

When: Saturday, 10am
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Short story workshop, with Philomena van Rijswijk
Novelist, poet, story-writer, from Tasmania, Philomena’s visiting the Wairarapa as the recipient of the 2017 Masterton District Fellowship, at NZ Pacific Studio, Mt Bruce. Philomena’s novel The World as a Clockface was published by Penguin. She’s published in Best Australian Stories and Best Australian Poetry. Published in Ireland and India, with translations into Hindi, she has held residencies at men’s and women’s prisons. She conducts workshops/classes through adult education, U3A, rest homes, primary schools, Women Tasmania, the Fellowship of Australian Writers and the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre.
"I consider her gift both a real one and a necessary antidote to much that is being written from the concrete heart of our major cities."-- Martin Flanagan, journalist for The Age, who writes on the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia

When: Saturday, 10am-1pm
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St (corner of Martinborough turn off)
Entry: Free (koha), but 12 people max, book in on Eventfinda


Bees, with Bee Dawson
A colourful romp through the history of early bee-keeping in New Zealand.
Early European settlers were often disappointed as exotic plants failed to either fruit or set seed. In 1839 the first European honey bees arrived in Northland’s Hokianga Harbour, carried in two straw skeps by Miss Mary Bumby. Many more followed.
Missionary ‘Bee’ Cotton designed a new hive and wrote a bee-keeping manual in Maori. The bees took off, and so did the crops – except red clover which didn’t thrive until bumble bees were introduced in 1884. From this point the story just buzzes along…

When: Saturday, 11am-12 noon
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)

Antique Book Consultations
Bring along books that have been in your family for yonks, and John Arnold will tell you about them.
John is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.  He’s worked as a bookseller, librarian and academic, and has published widely on Australian publishing and book history including The Fanfrolico Press: Fauns, Satyrs and Fine Books (2009) and, as co-editor, The Bibliography of Australian Literature (4 vols, 2001-08).  A regular speaker at the Clunes Booktown Weekend, he is also the editor of the La Trobe Journal published by the State Library of Victoria. He is currently working on a study on the early career of the New Zealand born lexicographer, Eric Partridge.

When: Saturday, 12 noon-1pm / Sunday 10-11am
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Lift Off! Writing workshop for adults
Multi award-winning writer and editor, Lee Murray, author of the Taine McKenna adventures and the Path of Ra supernatural crime noir series, presents a practical two-hour writing workshop for adults who still like to dream. Touching on world building, plotting, and character development, Lee’s session will focus on science fiction and fantasy, but aspiring writers of all genres are welcome. If you’re thinking about trying your hand at writing, or you already have a work in progress, this workshop is the perfect launch pad.

When: Saturday, 1-3pm
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St (corner of Martinborough turn off)
Entry: $20 Tickets available on Eventfinda, maximum 50 people.

Hong Kong & Wairarapa & more
Explore these two very different environments through the words and images of Madeleine Slavick who will perform her stories and poems to her projected images. Madeleine has authored several books (Fifty Stories, Fifty Images; Delicate Access; Something Beautiful Might Happen) and has exhibited her photographic images internationally and across New Zealand (Aratoi Museum, Victoria University, Wallace Arts Centre). She was awarded the 2015 RAK Mason Fellowship at NZ Pacific Studio and was a Finalist in the 2015 Charles Rooking Carter Awards. She grew up in New England, lived in Hong Kong for 25 years, and now calls the Wairarapa her home.

When: Saturday, 1-2pm
Where: The French Quarter, 29 Waite St
Entry: Free (koha)


Playshop Fairy Tales
PlayShop is a Wellington-based performance company that create spontaneous, thrilling theatre. They create opportunities for people to experience the joy of playful interaction through theatre, storytelling, education, and improvisation. They are risk-takers, open to the potential of every moment, so that the actor and audience share meaningful stories that arise from the present, and stay in memory for time to come. Led by Artistic Director Lori Leigh, PlayShop is characterised by intelligence, energy, solid stagecraft, theatricality, and emotional honesty. They believe the skills and philosophies of performance can be used to create exciting, risky, accessible theatre of all types.
Three of Playshop’s wonderful improvisers are gearing up to play and delight, create and enchant. The stories they will tell, act out (and maybe even sing!) will come from not only their heads and hearts, but also from those sitting right in front of them. These inclusive and interactive tales, created on the spot, derive from fairy tales. Immerse yourself in their made-up worlds; be a part of the story with them, or sit back, enjoy, and get ready to laugh.  During their shows uou will never see the same story twice!

When: Saturday, 2pm, Sunday 11am & 2pm
Where: Country Tea & Cakes, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha, or why not buy a cup of tea or coffee and a cake, to support Booktown, while you enjoy the show?!)

The Morning Sun and Gate of Heavenly Peace
Geremie R. Barmé is an historian, cultural critic, filmmaker, media commentator, translator, editor and web-journal editor who works on Chinese cultural and intellectual history from the early modern period (1600s) to the present. Geremie has written and edited many books and worked on two acclaimed documentary films, which are showcased this weekend. Geremie left formal academic life in late 2015 and is now an independent scholar based in Featherston, Wairarapa. In December 2016, he launched China Heritage (, the online home of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology (, founded with the Sinologist and translator John Minford. His latest book is on the crisis in universities, titled An Educated Man is Not a Pot 君子不器.  Geremie’s two respected documentaries will be introduced over the weekend.

When: Saturday, 2-4pm, Sunday 1-4pm
Where: The French Quarter, 29 Waite St
Entry: Free (koha)


As Much Gold as an Ass Could Carry
Vivienne Plumb’s new selection of past-published ‘greatest hits’ celebrates her written work of over sixteen publications in the three fields of poetry, fiction and drama, and features the drawings of the Auckland artist, Glenn Otto. She has been the recipient of many awards, residencies, and prizes. Her writing has been described as ‘subtle, elusive and stylish’, as having ‘deliciously ironic humour’, and as ‘making swoops from the mundane to the miraculous’. During 2016 she held the University of Auckland/Michael King Centre Writing Fellowship.

When: Saturday, 2-3pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Poetry reading, by Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin is a freelance writer, journalist and editor, living in Masterton. She is best known for her work with the new Wairarapa Journal, the online media hub wairarapa, and beforehand as editor of the Wairarapa Midweek.
Erin has enjoyed creative writing since her childhood - winning her first writing award at age eight, for her story "The Magic Gumboots". She has since dabbled in short stories, poetry, and writing for the stage. She began to write poetry more seriously at 19, having been inspired by the poets she studied during her English literature degree, such as Sylvia Plath, Sherman Alexie, Janet Frame and The Beatniks, and musicians such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Her favourite topics to explore include femininity and feminism, sexuality, beauty standards and modern relationships
When not writing, Erin enjoys musical theatre, political comedy shows, appreciating films and arguing about said films with friends, knitting cute things for friends' babies, cooking and eating Italian food, and sampling cider and cheese. 

When: Saturday, 3-4pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


NZ poetry, set to music
Composer and pianist Norman Meehan and vocalist Hannah Griffin have been collaborating for more than 10 years, performing poetry as song. That collaboration has seen them work extensively with New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate Bill Manhire, releasing six CDs of song-settings. “I felt that he [Meehan] had somehow found new cadences and melodies in the words that were as true as anything I felt was there originally. And I love Hannah’s voice”, Bill Manhire. For Booktown this year, the pair are joined by multi-instrumentalist Blair Latham, to perform poems by a number of New Zealand’s many interesting writers: Hone Tuwhare, James K. Baxter, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Eileen Duggan, David Mitchell and a few of Bill’s poems, too.

When: Saturday, 3-4pm
Where: St Andrew’s Union Church, 64 Fox St
Entry: Free (koha)


The Digital Handmade: Adventures in Fine Printing
In a world of digital everything, we tend to forget the rich past lives and loves of books, readers, and makers. This illustrated talk, by Dr Sydney Shep, of Wai-te-ata Press, explores what happens when fine letterpress printing meets 3D printing. Wai-te-ata Press is an innovative book arts studio that harnesses the creative power of hybrid text-nologies. Join Sydney on an adventure into the digital handmade.
Dr Sydney is Reader in Book History and The Printer, Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University of Wellington. She is a trained letterpress printer and bookbinder as well as a digital historian investigating topics in nineteenth-century New Zealand print and book culture.

When: Saturday, 4-5pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


What does location mean? A Conversation between Writers
For non-fiction author John Summers and award-winning poet, Bill Nelson, place is a big part of their writing. John has written travel stories for the Listener and Herald, and his non-fiction collection The Mermaid Boy span locations as exotic as Japan, China and Christchurch. Bill's poetry collection, Memorandum of Understanding, deals in mis-direction, half-truths and outright lies. The places are all real though. Both are also co-editors of online outdoors journal Up Country.
They’ll read from their work and quiz each other on writing about travel, hometowns, big cities and small towns. 

When: Saturday 5-6pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Laucala Bay, with Bee Dawson
When a Pacific war became likely in the late 1930s, New Zealand was given responsibility for air reconnaissance centred around Fiji. As a result, airfields were built at Nadi and Nausori, while a flying-boat station was developed at Laucala Bay, near Suva. This book tells of the RNZAF’s operations in Fiji during the war and the subsequent two decades until the station finally closed in 1967. In war and peace, the drama caused by tragedies and extreme weather events was tempered by the charm of Laucala Bay life: picnics on Nukulau Island, sailing competitions, parties, rugby and romance. Small wonder that this was one of the most popular postings the RNZAF ever offered

When: Sunday, 11am-12 noon
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)

Like Nobody’s Watching, young adult fiction

L.J. Ritchie is a Wellington-based author of young adult fiction. He has a vocational background in education and the arts, and co-hosts local film podcast Never Repeats.
His interest in surveillance culture was sparked during his undergraduate study, and developed further during his teacher training when he observed how various forms of surveillance encouraged conformity in schools.  He completed the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme in 2013, and Like Nobody’s Watching is his debut YA novel.

When: Sunday, 11am-12 noon
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St (corner of Martinborough turn off)
Entry: Free (koha)

The Walking Stick Tree

Trish Harris has worked with words over the last thirty years – writing, editing, creating and tutoring. She has a Bachelor of Applied Arts (Creative Writing) from Whitireia New Zealand.
Among other places, her writing has been published in SPORT, New Zealand Listener, the School Journals and broadcast on Radio New Zealand.
The Walking Stick Tree is a memoir about growing up with acute arthritis – about pain and loss, creativity, and knitting body and soul together.

When: Sunday, 12 noon-1pm
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St (corner of Martinborough turn off)
Entry: Free (koha)

Plotting and Pleiosaurs, writing workshop for children
Multi award winning writer and editor, Lee Murray, the author of children’s titles Battle of the Birds, Misplaced, Conclave 7, and Mika, presents a lively fun-filled hour entitled Plotting and Pleiosaurs, a practical workshop for aspiring young fantasy writers. Bring your imaginations! This event is aimed at young people ages 9 and above.

When: Sunday, 12 noon-1pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)


Rob Hack & Adrienne Jansen
Rob Hack’s been an insurance salesman, greenkeeper , builder, personal trainer, gym owner, factory hand, gardener, shop assistant etc and currently works as a handyman, to buy second-hand poetry books, and petrol so he can visit his grandchildren each week.

He lives in Paekakariki, and has performed his poems in Kapiti and Wellington for 15 years. He hosts a poetry show on Paekakariki FM radio called Not at the Table: poetry and stuff. The poems in Everything is Here, his first collection, are set in Niue, Rarotonga, Paris, Sydney and New Zealand
Adrienne Jansen is widely known for writing alongside migrants to record their stories, in fiction and non-fiction. But her writing roots are in poetry. In her third collection of poems, Keel and Drift, she returns to those roots, drawing on her life by the sea, her family and friends, her work at Te Papa, odd moments of pleasure, and all the other debris of life that writers sift through. She teaches on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme and lives in Titahi Bay, north of Wellington.

When: Sunday, 1-2pm
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St
Entry: Free (koha)


Joy Cowley Writing Workshop, for adults writing for young people
Planning a book for young readers, the freedom of ‘telling’ a planned story in writing and editing techniques, “cutting & polishing the diamond” with one of New Zealand's respected, and loved, writers.

When: Sunday, 1-4pm
Where: Kiwi Hall, ANZAC Hall complex, 62 Bell St
Entry: $20 Tickets available on Eventfinda, maximum 70 people


NZ Railways and World War I, presented by Graeme Carter
World War I was a railway war.  They proved invaluable in moving troops, armaments and supplies during the dark days between 1914 and 1918. In New Zealand, N Z Railways was the country’s largest commercial organisation and 40% of the workforce (7,500 men and women) were called up for overseas service. Many men operated light railways on the battlefields.
Graeme Carter, a book seller who has a stall in the ANZAC Hall over the weekend, will present a fascinating account of railways at war, both overseas and in New Zealand, and the men who worked them.

When: Sunday 2-3pm
Where: The Royal Hotel, 22 Revans St (corner of Martinborough turn off)
Entry: Free (koha)


Activities at, and organized by, Featherston Library

(which is also Featherston Booktown HQ)

Literary Treasure Trails, categories: 3-7yrs, 7-14yrs, adult
When: All weekend
Where: Pick up your clue sheets from Country Tea & Cakes in the ANZAC Hall, 62 Bell St
Entry: Free (koha)

Superhero craft session and dress-up competition
When: Saturday 3-4pm
Where: Featherston Library, 70-72 Fitzherbert St
Entry: Free (koha)

Kids’ Literary Quiz (with a category for parents!)
When: Saturday, 4.30-5.30pm
Where: Featherston Library 70-72 Fitzherbert St
Entry: Free (koha)

The Madhatters Tea Party in Narnia

Expect fur coats and potions, fan fiction, mushrooms, cake, tea and probably far too much fun. 

For children of all ages.  Suitable for those 8 years & older, but 5-8 year olds can be accompanied by a ticketed adult

When: Sunday, 4.30pm till 6ish

Where: Onwards & Upwards (opposite Mobil)

Entry: $15 tickets, on sale at Onwards & Upwards or through Justine 02041052830

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