9 May 2014

Dunedin renews 'celebration of writing'

12:02 pm on 9 May 2014

Dunedin is reviving its Writers and Readers Festival eight years after the previous one wound down.

The festival includes Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton and prodigious Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, and will also showcase dozens of local writers.

Alexander McCall Smith.

Alexander McCall Smith. Photo: CHRIS WATT

Eleanor Catton.

Eleanor Catton. Photo: ROBERT CATTO

The event is expected to bolster Dunedin's bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Scottish writing fellow at Otago University, Janice Galloway, said the festival will boost the city's culture.

"It's like the difference between buying a CD and going to the opera," she said.

Lawyer and avid reader Alex Bligh spearheaded the festival's revival and said it had been easy to get support because a public celebration of writing was so clearly lacking in Dunedin.

Local poet Emma Neale said it was "incredibly special" to have the festival resurrected in Dunedin.

"Rekindling has come from readers rather than from writers and it shows you what an appetite there is out there for this kind of collaborative discussion between writers and readers."

Janice Galloway.

Janice Galloway. Photo: JAMES MCNAUGHT

Emma Neale.

Emma Neale. Photo: GRAHAM WARMAN

In a nod to the past, noted playwright Roger Hall is compere of the festival opener on Friday night, back in the city where he started the first New Zealand writers' week in 1989. That became a biennial festival, Wordstruck!, which later merged with the Otago Arts Festival and wound down.

Organisers said many shows for this year's festival were already sold out.