Monday, May 14, 2012

AWRF - Bouquets & Brickbats

The AWRF organisation - the whole Festival flowed smoothly. All concerned deserve a huge vote of thanks for a wonderfully stimulating and enjoyable cultural weekend. I loved it.
And I reckon the idea of using appropriate authors in both the schools programme and the main programme was an excellent one with young people coming in significant numbers to some of the main programme events e.g. The Incredible Book Artist Oliver Jeffers. This brought an extra energy and enthusiasm to the Festival which was a joy to behold.

The venue - the versatile Aotea Centre with its variety of spaces and capacity for audiences large and small - and the refurbishment of the main auditorium is looking great.

The many excellent sessions and outstanding speakers from around the world. I have named my favourites below.


I have three brickbats and none of them have anything to do with the AWRF organisation but perhaps they could take up these issues with the appropriate persons?

$12 for a tiny glass of wine at the bar on the ground floor.Outrageous.

Not enough staff at lunchtime between sessions at the otherwise good take-out section of the BOX Cafe and Bar. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that with only half an hour between sessions there is going to be a disproportionate demand for take-out lunch food when sessions finish at 12.30, 1.00pm and 2.00pm. But no, usually only one or two counters open until the lines got so long they then brought in extra staff. Dumb.

Paying The Edge a $3 booking fee for a ticket bought minutes before a session when there is no booking involved. And I paid cash!

Best Sessions:

I could only judge of course from those I attended but An Hour with Sebastian Barry (left) was not only the best I attended at this Festival but is quite possibly the best Festival hour I have spent at any of the 20+ Festivals I have attended in NZ and around the world. His reading from On Canaan's Side will live with me forever.
Other special highlights were NZ Listener Gala Night, The Incredible Book Artist Oliver Jeffers and the final session in which Maurice Gee was honoured.
But actually I didn't attend a dud session, I enjoyed all 16 that I got to.

Best Chairs:
I will name Sean Plunket (right) as best for his most able chairing of the sell-out show An Hour with Dame Stella Rimington.
But others who particularly impressed me were Geoff Walker (with Maurice Gee), Finlay Macdonald with Greg McGee and Sam Elworthy in The Politics of Prizes session. Again there were not any poor chairs at any of the sessions I attended. In the past I have named some who acted as though we were there to hear them rather than the guest but I didn't strike that at all this year.

Please feel free to let me know which were your favourite sessions and/or best chairs as well as sending me any bouquets or brickbats you would like handed out.


Tracey Lawton said...

I too adored Sebastian Barry. I thought Dame Fiona Kidman was a perfect partner for Witi Ihimaera and I felt this encouraged him to address the Trowena Sea issue. As much as I like Kate de Goldi, I felt her questions and theories were so long, Jeffrey Eugenides didn't get to speak as much as I would have liked. I much prefer a quick leading question than long personal held theories!

Anonymous said...

Agree with the catering aspects -wine prices and tight staffing for coffees between sessions.Please not again on Mother's Day -look at your demographic-these ladies are giving up the one day they are spoilt by their kids!Loved the grace of the Maurice Gee session-and the delicacy( and lack of ego,not always the case with other chairs) with which Geoff Walker conducted the session.Sue Lees

Anonymous said...

The three author/chair sessions I attended were less than a triumph. Men Adrift and Broken Britain were frustrating. Is it the format, where no-one seems to get going properly - not wanting to overshadow others perhaps, or not enough time to expand on the subject? I preferred the solo sessions - Brian Boyd, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, Chris Bourke. However, the multi-reader tribute to Hone Tuwhare was great. In hindsight I was sorry to have missed the Jeffers/Horrocks session, loved by all who attended.