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National treasures headline Featherston Booktown


Richard Taylor and Joy Cowley to inspire

Two of New Zealand’s leading figures in the arts will headline next month’s Featherston Booktown in the Wairarapa, a three-day celebration of books, writers and literature.

Richard Taylor, a co-founder of the Weta companies in Wellington and co-owner of Weta Workshop and Pukeko Pictures, is the guest speaker at Booktown’s opening event on Friday, May 20th while children’s writer Joy Cowley will give readings and hold a special writers workshop over the weekend.

Featherston Booktown Director of Operations Kate Mead says having two of New Zealand’s “National Treasures” at the event is a major coup.

“We are absolutely delighted that both Richard Taylor and Joy Cowley will be speaking at Featherston Booktown. They are both pioneers in their respective fields and have provided inspiration to thousands all over the world. There’s no doubt they will inspire all those that attend Booktown next month … and leave a lasting legacy,” says Kate.

Richard has over 27 years’ experience as the design and effects supervisor at Weta Workshop and has been awarded five Oscars, four BAFTAs and numerous other achievements for Weta Workshop's success on such films as Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Hobbit, Avatar and Elysium to name a few. He will be the guest speaker at The Fish and Chip Supper being held at Featherston’s ANZAC Hall on May 20th. The evening will feature a fun, sit-down Fish and Chip dinner and live music.

Joy Cowley, the award winning writer who has penned books for children's early reading programmes, picture books, adult novels as well as a memoir will give two readings at the Royal Hotel on May 21st and lead a three-hour Creative Writing Workshop for Adults at the Senior Citizens’ Hall on May 22nd. Her words will also be put to music created by composer Gareth Farr, during Scary Music at the Senior Citizens’ Hall. This will be performed by the New Zealand String Quartet.

“Joy now lives in Featherston and continues to write the most astonishing works,” says Kate. “She was recently described by American media as the ‘Elvis Presley’ of children’s books so to have her involvement at this level is incredible.”

The two-headliners will complement a full programme of events being held in the South Wairarapa township, an hour’s drive or train ride from Wellington. Over the weekend there will be booksellers and dealers from New Zealand and Australia selling second-hand and antiquarian books with stalls in the ANZAC Hall and along the streets of Featherston. A highlight of this is expected to be two Vintage Book Consultations, where people can bring in their old books to the Kiwi Hall and have them valued by an expert.

There is also a full programme aimed at children and young adults including three one-hour improvised theatre workshops for children based on their favourite literature; poetry readings and book readings by a who’s who of authors such as Kate De Goldi. In addition there will be talks that highlight Featherston’s heritage and strong ties with the railway, and a large focus on local writers with many discussing their works and giving readings.

This will be the second time Featherston Booktown has been held. The inaugural event was in 2015 after a team of motivated local residents brought the global concept of Booktown to the region. The team now includes Chair Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ; Peter Biggs, chair of the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency; Mary Biggs, owner of the business Lavender’s Green and The Country Cooking School; photographer Pete Monk; Shelley Hancox (Rathkeale College) and Paul Broughton (C'est Cheese).

“Most Booktowns have developed in villages of historic interest or of scenic beauty, with the most well-known one being Hay-on-Wye in the beautiful Welsh Borders which each May brings together writers, poets, comedians and novelists together from around the world to debate and share stories and inspire visitors,” says Kate. “Former US President Bill Clinton famously declared Hay’s Festival as “the Woodstock of the mind”. We hope in time, that Featherston’s Booktown can do the same.”


For more information please contact:

Kate Mead

Featherston Booktown

Director of Operations

0275 13 14 18

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