2021 - Featherston Booktown BOT AGM - The Chair's Overview
SUNDAY 22 AUGUST 2021
Kia ora tātou
Since last year’s AGM, Featherston Booktown has made significant progress - despite a challenging context.
As you know, the 2020 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19. We replaced the Festival when alert levels allowed, with a very successful Words in Winter programme. However, the August events in the programme were cancelled/postponed due to another alert level change.
Despite these challenges, the last quarter of 2020 and the months so far – 2021 contained some real highlights for Featherston Booktown, including:
Chicken and Frog Bookstore, a bookshop selling new books for children, opened in Featherston/Paetūmōkai – the town’s seventh bookshop. We were delighted to welcome Joanna Ludbrook to the Featherston/Paetūmōkai Bookshop community.
On 18 October, Featherston Booktown collaborated with Hedley’s Bookshop to host two Yarns in Barns events in the Anzac Hall: Tom Scott and Ron Mark in conversation about Tom’s book Searching for Charlie; and Jane Tollerton interviewing Ian Trafford about his book Into the Unknown – which is based on his father’s diaries written during World War One. These events attracted enthusiastic and large audiences.
The amazing Country Tea & Cakes team provided a wonderful afternoon tea for over 100 people.
Featherston Booktown’s storage container arrived (thanks to generous funding from The Lion Foundation).
On 14 November, to coincide with the Toast Martinborough weekend, Featherston Booktown hosted Annabel Langbein and David Cohen who entranced a capacity crowd of 225 people in the Anzac Hall as they explored Annabel’s biography My Life in Food. Featherston Booktown also arranged an artisan food producers’ market, featuring 20 South Wairarapa boutique food businesses (organised beautifully by Shara Hudson). The Artisan food producers kindly donated product to three raffles, organised and sold by Featherston Booktown, with proceeds (over $1000) going to the Featherston’s Own Charity shop.
On 21 November, in an interview described by one audience member as “one of the best literary interviews I’ve ever attended”, legendary Kiwi Rock musician, Shayne Carter, talked about his award-winning book, Dead People I Have Known, with poet and music lover, Richard Langston, in the Supper Room at the Anzac Hall complex.
The evening of 21 November saw a memorable evening of Sweet Talk with poets Sam Duckor-Jones, Simon Sweetman, Richard Langston and moderator, Lynne Freeman. This was a sold-out Featherston Booktown event at the Featherston Bowling Club.
On 28 November, Featherston Booktown hosted the launch event of Paul Kewene-Hite’s new book, Survive & Thrive: Entrepreneurship Frameworks That Work, in the Supper Room at the Anzac Hall complex. We were delighted that Alex Beijen, the Mayor of the South Wairarapa District Council, was one of the speakers at the launch.
On 5 December, Featherston Booktown, in partnership with the Featherston/Paetūmōkai booksellers, once again had a popular and eye-catching book-themed float in the Featherston/Paetūmōkai Christmas Parade – which came third in the “best float” competition, winning a ¼ page ad in the Wairarapa Times-Age.
Featherston Booktown’s wonderful patron, Joy Cowley, ran a Children’s Picture Book Workshop in the Anzac Hall on 6 March 2021. Given that the Wellington region was in alert level two at the time, the event could only take a maximum audience of 100 people. We had a capacity sold-out attendance and the funds raised went to Featherston Booktown – thank you very much, dear Joy!
On Wednesday 31 March, we launched the 2021 Featherston Booktown Karukatea programme at Featherston’s Sports Hub, to a sizeable audience of Featherston Booktown Friends, supporters and fans. The programme was received with great excitement and poet Jordan Hamel added a popular added dimension to the evening when he read a selection of his poems.
On May 1 the Royal Hotel and Featherston Booktown honoured Joy Cowley by naming the hotel’s function room after her. Joy cut the ribbon to the room and declared the space officially open – and then the large crowd settled in to enjoy a fascinating conversation between Joy and Joanna Ludbrook, owner of the Chicken and Frog Bookstore in Featherston/Paetūmōkai. Warm thanks to Theo and John at the Royal Hotel for their generous hospitality and their unstinting support of Featherston Booktown.
Over the weekend of 6-9 May, we held the sixth Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, featuring 99 presenters across 55 events, with 27 booksellers – including self-published books and zines. This was our biggest and most successful Festival since Featherston Booktown began in 2015. We included a number of popular innovations while continuing to offer the events which have proved to be audience favourites and which make the Featherston Booktown distinctive - the Fish’n’Chip Supper, funded by Creative New Zealand (Selina Tusitala Marsh was an amazing speaker), On the Couch sessions, Mr Sold’s True Stories Told Live, the Palliser Estate Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea and Late Nite Lit. Our decision to extend our schools programme to include all schools in the Wairarapa was highly successful. The town of Featherston/Paetūmōkai and the wider South Wairarapa region were buzzing that weekend with over 7,000 visitors attending the Festival – our largest visitor number ever. We’ll share a more comprehensive overview of the 2021 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival at the Huihuinga Kaimahi event – which is a “thank you” to all of Featherston Booktown’s volunteers and supporters – on Sunday 12 September in the Kiwi Hall. We’ll also be seeking feedback as to how to take the Festival forward and ensure it is sustainably successful and continues to innovate.
The town of Featherston/Paetūmōkai celebrated Matariki over the weekend of 9-11 July with late night market stalls and speakers on Friday night, plus a bookshop star hunt for the children. This was brilliantly organised by Jennifer Grey of For the Love of Books bookshop in Featherston/Paetūmōkai, in collaboration with many community groups. Featherston Booktown marked Matariki by holding an event in the Kiwi Hall at the Anzac Hall complex, featuring award-winning illustrator, Vasanti Unka, being interviewed by Joanna Ludbrook on Vasanti’s book I Am the Universe. Featherston Booktown also collaborated with Featherston/Paetūmōkai resident and music guru, Warren Maxwell, to hold a concert with Taonga Pūoro musicians, Ariana Tikao and Alistair Fraser, who played their instruments and read poetry. Both events attracted excellent audiences.
Later this month on 28 August (COVID-19 alert levels allowing), Featherston Booktown will be celebrating National Poetry Day with an event at the Featherston Bowling Club at 7:00 pm featuring leading poets Sam Duckor-Jones, Vivienne Plumb, and Tim Grgec. A highlight of the evening will be NZSO cellist, Ken Ichinose, accompanying Sam as he reads a selection of poems from his latest book.
Recently, the Featherston Booktown Board of Trustees held a strategic planning day to review our 2019-2024 strategic plan and ensure that it is still fit-for-purpose. We made adaptations to Featherston Booktown’s Founding Dream document while recommitting the organisation to being a year-round literature development organisation whose largest individual project is a book festival. We also confirmed our core principles:
Retain our local character and core Featherston/Paetūmōkai focus
Play a positive role in the South Wairarapa region and the wider Wairarapa
Contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand
Connect the world to Featherston/Paetūmōkai, the region and Aotearoa New Zealand
As you can see, it’s been an intensely busy year for Featherston Booktown since August 2020 – and my sincere thanks go to the indefatigable Featherston Booktown Trustees who have worked so hard over the last year: Ross Vickery, Kate Mead, Liz Mellish, Noelle McCarthy, Lesley Christian, Mary McCallum, Cheryl Gallaway, Craig Linkhorn and Dave Adams. A special “thank you” to Ross and Kate who are stepping down as Trustees to move to Waihi. Ross and Kate were founding Trustees and Kate was the inaugural Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival Director, organising three highly successful festivals. Ross did great work as Board Secretary. We thank both of them for their commitment, generosity, and significant contribution to the success of Featherston Booktown.
We recognise and thank our Patron, Joy Cowley ONZ DCNZM and our Founding Kaumatua, Lincoln Gould – who continue to offer wise advice and be wonderfully supportive of Featherston Booktown.
A hearty “shout-out” to Mary Biggs, our wonderful Operations Manager, supported so well by Julie Collins – they make the miracle of Featherston Booktown happen. I want to recognise both of them and their sterling work over many uncertain months, due to COVID-19 alert levels.
A heartfelt “thank you” to our many generous volunteers, superbly led by Caroline Peren – Featherston Booktown could not happen without you.
We celebrate and thank our donors, sponsors and supporters. We are deeply grateful for your vision and benefaction. We deeply appreciate the generous support of our major sponsors: Creative New Zealand, The Lion Foundation, the Trust House Foundation, the South Wairarapa District Council, the Macarthy Trust and Palliser Estate Wines.
Finally, we recognise and applaud our seven Featherston Bookshops – thank you for, through your dedication to books and bookselling – and promoting reading, helping make Featherston/Paetūmōkai and the wider South Wairarapa community the Wellington region’s most desirable place to live, work and visit.
Peter Biggs CNZM
Chair: Featherston Booktown Trust