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The first Featherston Booktown Festival will make the thriving South Wairarapa town “the bookend of the Wairarapa – and the Wellington region”, says Operations Director, Kate Mead.

Featherston is the first New Zealand town to become a member of the International Organisation of Booktowns and the first-ever Featherston Booktown Festival will be made up of a series of book and literary events shaped around the town over the weekend of 16-18 October.

“We’ve got some of New Zealand’s most renowned writers coming to the Booktown Festival,” says Kate Mead.

“They include Owen Marshall, Kate de Goldi [Kate: Can you please fill in more details here?]

“As well, given that we are commemorating the centenary of World War One, the WW1 theme will be strong. There are panel discussions on the subject with eminent writers and historians, including Dr Chris Pugsley, Professor Glyn Harper, Neil Frances and Jane Tolerton.

“There will also be performances of Forgotten Kiwi Songs of 1914-18.”

Kate Mead says that booksellers from around the country are travelling to Featherston for the Booktown Festival.

“We’re very excited that Professor John Arnold is attending from Melbourne to value private antiquarian books at Rare & Antique Bookshows.”

Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers New Zealand and Chair of the Featherston Booktown Trust describes a Booktown as “a small rural town, close to major cities, in which antiquarian bookshops are concentrated. Most have developed in villages of historic interest and or scenic beauty. Their residents set up events around books – selling them, writing, reading, printing, making and publishing them.

“The first Booktown was Hay-on-Wye – which was set up in 1961. Now, Booktowns are around the world, from Europe to Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Australia. The International Organisation of Booktowns binds the network of towns together.”

Lincoln Gould adds: “The Hay-on-Wye Booktown Festival in the UK and the Clunes Booktown Festival in Victoria, Australia, have become internationally famous and attract tens of thousands of book-loving visitors every year. Our ambition is that the Featherston Booktown Festival will be similarly renowned and popular.”

Pete Monk, a member of the Featherston Booktown Trust and Chair of Toast Martinborough describes Featherston as “a sleeping giant of creative expression in the Wairarapa."

“Most of us on the Trust have moved in to Featherston over the past twenty years. Something, not necessarily the same thing, drew us in. There are people here of immense creative ability and repute – writers, artists, musicians, artisans – all who want to see the town develop.”

Peter Biggs, who is also a member of the Featherston Booktown Trust and Chair of The New Zealand Book Council, says: “The Booktown movement is a shining example of the new way of thinking about culture and economic growth. It used to be that economic growth drove culture. Now, if you look around at the world’s most vibrant places, arts and culture are integral to sparking economic growth. If you can’t create jobs in the old way, when communities are socially struggling and even divided – that’s the time you should be investing in culture because you are then investing in tolerance, in diversity, in creativity and imagination. Arts and creativity are as much essential infrastructure as roads, drains and trains.”

“Featherston is long overdue to deliver on its potential,” says Pete Monk. “In the international context, the concept of Booktown has transformed communities. Our town is perfectly placed, ready and willing.”

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