The WORD Christchurch festival programme has landed

More than 100 writers, thinkers and performers from New Zealand and around the world will take to the streets, schools and theatres of Ōtautahi Christchurch offering a feast of fresh ideas, music, powerful stories and creative escapes during WORD Christchurch Festival which runs from 27 August to 1 September 2024.

Tickets are on sale now from the WORD Christchurch website with most priced under $25.

The festival, which offers a heady mix of more than 70 free and ticketed events, is thoughtfully curated to appeal to all ages, for all readers, performance and music lovers, and for anyone with a curious mind and a sense of fun.

WORD programme director Kiran Dass hopes people will venture to see writers and performers they may not have come across before, as well as booking to hear their favourites.

“Some of the great pleasures of festival-going are discovering new voices, being inspired by fresh ideas and broadening your horizons on issues by listening to local and global experts. I’m thrilled by the depth and diversity of this year’s line-up that includes well-known novelists, award-winning song writers and local and international thinkers and storytellers.

“Whether it’s a quiz night, an open-air boogie with popular musicians, or getting up close with one of your best-loved authors, WORD truly has something for everyone. To come to WORD is to be galvanised.”

Kiran Dass and Steph Walker

The festival opens with a celebration of Janet Frame, marking her 100th year to the day by charging five writers to share moments of imagination and courage. Much-discussed and internationally acclaimed theatre work The Savage Coloniser Show comes home to ŌtautahiChristchurch, where Tusiata Avia wrote the book the show is based on; weaving together elements of stand-up comedy, waiata and theatre, Isaac Martyn (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa) explores what it means to reclaim Māoritanga from a Pākehā upbringing in his show He Māori?; WORD is also proud to collaborate with Pacific Underground to present a rehearsed reading of Oscar Kightley’s Dawn Raids at Ngā Hau E Wha Marae. The ever-popular Risky Women is back featuring daring wāhine sharing moments when they took a chance in their personal or professional lives; the candid and unedited event Bad Diaries Salon returns with five brave writers sharing writing from their personal diaries; you’ll need to be quick to secure tickets to Cabinet of Curiosities, where writers share their weird and wonderful obsessions; join award-winning multisensory artist Dr Jo Burzynska in conversation with Dr Erin Harrington in Fragrant Texts - a sniffable exploration of all things booky; join in a debate about whether AI is negatively impacting creativity and the written word; and share nibbles and a drink with renowned New Zealand cook, caterer, entrepreneur and cooking school tutor Tina Duncan as she imparts wisdom from a lifetime working with food.

WORD 2024 Bad Diary Salon

Dass says there’s still time for Cantabrians to submit their poems, statements, wishes or super short stories for Ōtautahi is Flash, a takeover happening at The Crossing – with hot takes, short reckons, memories and more, writ large by Cantabrians of all ages writing about their city.

“Anything goes and anyone can enter. All selected pieces will be part of a mighty mural brightening up The Crossing from late August all through spring. Authors of selected entries will receive a prize.”

The exploration of powerful personal stories is a feature of this year’s festival with events including new work by lauded New Zealand born British writer and literary critic Catherine Taylor; trailblazing scholar and activist Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku (Te Arawa, Tūhoe, Ngāpuhi, Waikato); former Waitaha Canterbury local body politician Dame Anna Crighton; multi-award-winning Ōtautahi Christchurch-raised poet Grace Yee; Hong Kong-born UK Queer poet Mary Jean Chan; and Wellington writer and curator Megan Dunn.

There’s plenty of fun for tamariki and rangatahi, too. Books come alive in Rolleston for a free family day at Te Ara Ātea featuring Steve Mushin, Melanie Dixon, Michaela Keeble and Tokerau Brown, Raymond McGrath, and Cubbin Theatre. There’s a free Storywalk through the Margaret Mahy playground; and don’t miss Word the Front Line where Ōtautahi’s finest high school poets battle it out for the slam champion crown. Head to the Edmonds Band Rotunda by the Ōtākaro Avon River on a Saturday afternoon for Rangatahi Boogie featuring stories and song from Anika Moa (Ngāpuhi, Te Aupōuri) and Such’n’Such, aka Greg Malcolm and Jenny Ward.

Music always features strongly at WORD which this year offers 2024 Tate Music Prize winner Vera Ellen; a dazzling performance exclusively in the Kāi Tahu dialect from Lyttelton-based vocalist Kommi; and a celebration of Moana-nui-a-kiwa connections with poets Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui, Ngāti Porou), Isla Huia (Te Āti Haunui a-Pāpārangi, Uenuku), andFaith Wilson accompanied by the infectious grooves of Judah Band in Confluence. There’s Voices of Ōtākaro, a special chamber presentation that celebrates the power of verse set to melody with vocalists and musicians from the University of Canterbury and Christchurch Symphony.

Two of this year’s most talked about writers Talia Marshall (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne ō Wairau, Ngāti Takihiku) (Whaea Blue) and Saraid de Silva (Amma) appear in events throughout the festival talking about their new books, as do best-selling and critically acclaimed writers Tina Makereti (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi-Matakore, Pākehā) (The Mires) and Steve Braunias (The Survivors: True Stories of Death and Desperation) and Airana Ngarewa (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāruahine), author of the runaway best seller The Bone Tree.

WORD celebrates the idea of ‘better together’ in a range of powerhouse pairings. This year’sProgrammers at Large Tayi Tibble and Jordan Tricklebank (Ngāti Maniapoto) bring thoughtful flair to the programme. Tibble appears in the programme alongside US first nations poet Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe (Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian) for a discussion about the kinship they experienced touring together and publishing as Indigenous women in the world; Louise and Gareth Ward, who met at police school and now own beloved Havelock North bookshop Wardini Books, discuss their colourful lives and delightful cosy crime novel Bookshop Detectives; award-winning creatives, collaborators and friends, Robyn Malcolm and Emily Perkins discuss what it takes to portray real women on our pages, stages and screens; passionate conservationist and Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki and artist Lily Duval come together to share conversations about some of our most curious creatures along with their book Critters of Aotearoa; and well known authors Claire Mabey(The Raven’s Eye Runaways) and Rachael King (The Grimmelings) join forces to spark young imaginations with their newly minted middle grade books.

WORD 2024 Tayi Tibble Jordan Tricklebank and Magdalena Lorenzo

Popular RNZ Afternoon’s presenter Jesse Mulligan hosts a Reading Party; irreverent Radio Hauraki Breakfast DJ and author of the self help guide A Life Less Punishing Matt Heathhosts a Dad’s Day Brunch; and you can stretch your legs whilst learning more about the city’s natural world on one of three author-led walks.

And if all this leaves you with big burning questions, head along to Australian scientist and communicator Dr Jen Martin’s session where she’ll use peer reviewed evidence to answer some of our weirdest conundrums.

WORD Festival executive director Steph Walker says she is proud to present a world-class festival right here in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

“Over many years, WORD has developed a unique festival that shares books, stories, performance and community-minded events with our city. With over 20 percent of our programme being free to attend, WORD is for everyone, and we can’t wait to welcome you!”

For the full WORD programme go to: