29 April 2021
Kia ora koutou Featherston Booktown has had a high profile in the media lately - there’s been a huge amount of interest in the 2021 Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival and its 99 presenters over 55 events, 6-9 May. Today, there have been some conversations on social media about, and media interest in, our decision to hold a Family Literary Quiz event at this year’s Festival - rather than repeat the Harry Potter Quiz event we held in 2019. Some people are calling this an example of “cancel culture”, given J K Rowling’s publicly expressed views on gender. This is incorrect. Here’s how we see it: (1) We didn’t “cancel” the Harry Potter Quiz (HPQ). It was very successful in 2019 - but we were looking at a range of quiz options and innovations for the 2021 Festival. (2) A library stakeholder suggested we were inviting potential problems if we chose to go with the HPQ. We treasure the support of our stakeholders, fans and funders - so, the Board of Trustees decided to seek feedback from a range of stakeholders, including the literary sector, the local Featherston community, Featherston Booktown fans and the LGBTQ community. (3) In doing so, we weren’t driven by a desire to cancel anything, least of all suppress books and writers - but by a strong desire to hold to one of the cornerstone brand values of Featherston Booktown - inclusivity. We are conscious that our audience and fan base are diverse and we want everyone to feel welcome and respected at Featherston Booktown. (4) We received strong and consistent feedback that including the HPQ Quiz in the 2021 programme could cause distress to some of our audience and fan base - particularly in the LGBTQ community. The result was the Trustees took the unanimous view to go with another quiz alternative.
We welcome debate on this issue - and all the issues which we as a society are exploring. This is why we have a panel session at this year’s festival focusing on cancel culture. It is called: Do Artists' Morals Matter? Featherston Booktown doesn’t shy away from having conversations about difficult or controversial topics - and we want to have all voices listened to and for participants in any debate or conversation to feel respected. Peter Biggs CNZM Mobile +64 (0)21 308 828