Marlborough Book Festival 'raising the region's profile'

Cloudy Bay hospitality manager Mario Dussurget picnicking in the Brancott Valley with a good book ahead of Marlborough ...

Cloudy Bay hospitality manager Mario Dussurget picnicking in the Brancott Valley with a good book ahead of Marlborough Book Festival.

Marlborough Book Festival's appeal goes far beyond reading or even a simple love of books, one its trustees says.

The intimate festival could become an important economic driver as Marlborough's marketers concentrate on boosting events in the slow winter season.

Ten of New Zealand's best contemporary writers and one photographer will speak at 18 sessions this weekend.

Festival trustee Sonia O'Regan​ says it's largely a Marlborough event but there was a sprinkling of book lovers travelling from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson.

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"It certainly has had some economic impact already – primarily in the profile it gives Marlborough.

"Book festivals are a big thing at the moment, festivals in bigger centres attract huge numbers to hear authors."

National media coverage of the festival spread the word, giving the local festival national appeal, Sonia says.

Nicky Pellegrino​, who spoke at last year's festival, talked on The Panel on National Radio about her day in the Marlborough Sounds on a perfect winter day. 

While Fiona Kidman told the Dominion Post about her winter's weekend in Marlborough, which saw her take flight in a Nanchang CJ6, was a highlight of her year.

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Some authors have a big social media audience, and have been great at posting and tweeting about their time in Marlborough, Sonia says.

"When high-profile people go home waxing lyrical about their time here that benefits the whole community."

The festival's point of difference was its intimacy, Sonia says.

"We think the public like the human touch. In an age of screens and digital communication, hearing from the person who wrote the words can be magic. It can deepen your experience when you read their work in the future.

"Who knows the economic impact of encouraging people to read – we all know reading broadens the minds. Who knows what seeds of ideas, or plans for the future will be planted over the weekend?

Marlborough District Council's regional events strategy coordinator Susie Witehira​ said the festival was at the cornerstone of the winter events calendar.

It filled a quiet time in the season when it was hard to get visitors to travel to Marlborough.

"The calibre of authors is amazing," Susie says.

"It's such a cool offering because of its intimate nature as opposed to being a festival in a city where you are sitting with 300 people. 

"With events at wineries Spy Valley and Cloudy Bay, and the Blenheim Club, it gives visitors a really good feel of the region."

It also complemented other cultural events run by the Millenium Public Art Gallery and the Marlborough District Library, Susie says.

"People don't often think of the arts in Marlborough but we have a huge offering. Blenheim is finding its own cultural niche."

 - The Marlborough Express


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