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Chair’s Overview of Featherston Booktown from August 2022 – August 2023


Over the last year, the Featherston Booktown Trustees significantly advanced the strategic trajectory of Featherston Booktown – as set-out in the organisation’s Strategic Plan – towards our ambition to be a year-round literary development organisation seeking to grow thriving communities by inspiring people to read more, write more, cherish the craft of the book, and share stories and ideas. 

JULY 2022


26 August: National Poetry Day. We supported this initiative by sharing videos of seven poets (alumni of Featherston Booktown Festivals) on our Facebook page. Jordan Hamel, Emma Sidnam, Tusiata Avia, Tarns Hood, Simon Sweetman, Sam Duckor-Jones and Witi Ihimaera were our stars.

26 August: Chicken and Frog held their third annual poetry competition for children.


10 & 11 September: Brac & Bow host The Book Addict by Annie Ruth at the Royal Hotel.

30 September: we announced we had won the IOB (International Organization of Booktowns) Global Conference hosting rights. Good media coverage resulted.


8 October: The first Bookshop Hop Day happens to great excitement and financial success for six out of seven Featherston bookshops (all but Loco) and the other six bookshops throughout the Wairarapa. The brainchild of Millie Blackwell of Greytown. The Dickensian Bookshop held poetry readings in store and Messines Bookshop: Military History hosted author, Keith Westwater.

23 October: Featherston Booktown hosted two events in the Kiwi Hall as part of the 2022 Yarns in Barns Festival: Jenny Pattrick (Harbouring) and Cristina Sanders (Mrs Jewel and the Wreck of the General Grant), in conversation with Mary Biggs and Scott Bainbridge (The Fix – True Crime), moderated by Peter Biggs.


5 November: Run in conjunction with the Pūkaha Wairarapa Garden Show, we held the event Rooms: Portraits of Remarkable New Zealand Interiors at Longwood Estate with Jane Usher and Nicola Legat.

12 November: Word Weavers at The Dickensian Bookshop with Angela Yeoman and Rangi Hapi.

19 November: Run in conjunction with Toast Martinborough, we held the annual Property Brokers Artisian Food Fair at the Anzac Hall. There were over 15 local artisan food sellers, followed by an in-conversation event with Nicky Pellegrino (Don’t Sweat It) and Nici Wickes (A Quiet Kitchen). All the stall holders gave product to be raffled and the proceeds of the raffles were donated to the Featherston Food Bank. Local Focus produced a lively video about the event.


4 December: Volunteers and supporters Huihuinga Christmas and Thank you party at the Kiwi Hall. 

10 December: Joy Cowley double book launch (Blind Date and Greedy Cat’s Christmas), in conversation with Mary Biggs at the RSA following the Featherston Christmas parade. Joy is featured on Newshub.

12 December: Board member, Noelle McCarthy’s book Grand was named the best non-fiction book in NZ for 2022 by Steve Braunias. Noelle was also selected as the 2023 Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka International Institute of Modern Letters Writer in Residence and resigned from the Board of Trustees.

15 December: Mr Feather’s Den turns 10!

19 December: we reached out to the Featherston Booktown Facebook community to ask if they would like the Featherston Children’s Playground name to be changed to the Joy Cowley Children’s Playground and 495 people said yes!


6 January: Featherston makes it in the paper as a place to visit when its wet:

15 January: Pop-up Reading Room ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ held in Featherston and throughout the summer break – Featherston Booktown works with the seven bookshops of Featherston.

24 January: Ed Sheeran comes to Featherston and makes Debbie Sinclair’s day at Brac & Bow


2023 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival programme planning underway.

MARCH 2023

28 March: Festival programme printed, circulated, and launched at the Property Brokers Featherston Sports Hub.

Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival tickets on sale at Eventfinda.

APRIL 2023

4 April: Young Readers Programme launch event at Featherston School Hall. Deputy Mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter represented SWDC (South Wairarapa District Council).

14 April: Our first podcast goes live.

23 April: National Youth Choir sings in Featherston

MAY 2023

10 –12 May: The Featherston Booktown Young Readers Programme held 30 events, 20 presenters, estimated 1500 school children experienced an author/poet/illustrator.

12 – 14 May: The Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival took place, the most successful to date. Comprising 9000 visitors, 51 events throughout the weekend (12 of which were sold out before the Festival began) with over 101 presenters. 19 booksellers in the Anzac Hall including seven self-publishers. Eight free events for children (3-13 years); 13 craft of the book events and 30 general events featuring panel discussions, in conversation and lecture style events.

25 May: We receive confirmation that our funding application to the MCH (Ministry for Culture and Heritage) regeneration fund had been successful. The funding grant (the most significant in Featherston Booktown’s history) of over $200,000 will be mainly targeted at ensuring Featherston Booktown’s sustainability, supporting programme innovations and underpinning the hosting of the IOB 2024 global conference in Featherston/Paetumokai. The funding tranches will begin in late August

JUNE 2023

17 June: The Time Travellers’ Ball in Featherston.

JULY 2023

Rural Readers Outreach Pilot Programme (RROPP) work plan underway. Meetings with Kahutara and Pirinoa schools underway. Gavin Bishop, Mary-ann Scott, Philippa Werry confirmed. Two-day event 25-26 October with community event being held evening 25 October.

25 July: A Foragers Life with Helen Lehndorf, in conversation with Mary Biggs at Greytown Town Hall, as part of the Greytown Festival of Christmas.


4 August: IOB Global Conference invites sent.

15 August: Lincoln Gould, the owner of Messines Bookshop: Military History and the founding kaumatua of Featherston Booktown is retiring and has sold his shop to a Featherston local.

23 August: Peter and Mary Biggs attended the Wellington Gold Awards as Featherston Booktown was a finalist in the Vibrant Gold category. Wonderful outcome for Liz Mellish who received the Tribute to a Wellington Icon award for her stellar work throughout her life and career.

25 August: National Poetry Day. Featherston Booktown shared on social media the videos from the 2023 Karukatea Festival Late Nite Lit: Poets Corner. Featuring Sam Duckor-Jones, Frankie Leota, and the Poet Laureate, Chris Tse. We also shared the audio recordings of Debbie Broughton’s and Rachel Buchanan’s poems on our podcast series – they did not want their video shared on social media.


Following another extremely busy and successful year, my sincere thanks go to the Board of Trustees, the Operations Manager and her team, and our generous volunteers – along with our donors, supporters, sponsors, and Friends.

Peter Biggs CNZM

Chair: Featherston Booktown Trust

27 August 2022

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