Souls bared at Yarns in Barns

17:00, May 27 2012
Yarns in Barns
THAT'S THE STORY: David Hedley's festival features 34 diverse guests.

David Hedley is the first to admit he may have underestimated the rigours of staging a literary festival.

The publisher and bookseller helped start Yarns in Barns, the Wairarapa reading festival, back in 2003.

It was initially meant to be an annual event. "We were all full of bravado and thought we could do them every year," he says.

"And then we did one in 2004 and I think we realised the magnitude of what we were trying to do and just the amount of work involved."

Since then it has run every two years, with the sixth and latest festival set to feature 34 authors, journalists, publishers, historians and musicians in 16 book-related events across Wairarapa.

The festival kicked off on Thursday with Blue Smoke author Chris Bourke discussing the history of Kiwi music with journalist Nick Bollinger, and runs until June 3.


"You're listening to really intelligent people in some cases baring their souls and their lives," says Hedley, who owns independent Masterton store Hedley's Books.

"And for me that's pretty inspiring, especially as a lot of them are being interviewed by real professionals."

The name of the festival came from the woolshed setting of some of the events, with others taking place in Masterton and Gladstone vineyards.

Highlights this year include restaurateur Al Brown, Split Enz original member Mike Chunn, Melbourne-based author Helen Brown, and former television news foreign correspondent Tim Wilson.

The Great Yarns in Barns Debate is also popular, with two panels to tackle the issue: "The arts have a sporting chance in New Zealand ... Yeah right".

"There is such a good balance that it's impossible to say that there isn't something of interest for everyone," Hedley says.

The festival had grown "organically" over the years, doubling in size since the first event. "Outside of the main centres, this is now one of the biggest readers and writers festivals in the country."

He says the goal had always been to keep the festival accessible, with prices starting at $5 for many events, and a $60 festival pass to all 16 events.


Yarns in Barns continues tonight with a talk on New Zealand Music Month by Mike Chunn. Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Bruce St, Masterton. Tickets $8. Full festival details from

Contact Seamus Boyer
Wairarapa reporter
Twitter: @SeamusBoyer

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