Luminaries writer to headline Nelson festival

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 12:39 10/06/2014

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Literary superstar Eleanor Catton is coming to Nelson to speak at the Page & Blackmore Readers and Writers Festival.

The 28-year-old writer has charmed audiences around the world since she won the Man Booker prize with The Luminaries last year.

Her Nelson date sees her in conversation with publisher, broadcaster and journalist Finlay Macdonald in the 350-seat festival mainstage at Founders Heritage Park on October 18. Organisers are expecting it to sell out quickly.

Catton's most recent events were the Dunedin, Auckland, and Sydney Writers and Readers festivals; she sold out each.

Snaring Catton was a coup for organiser Jacquetta Bell, who starts preparing for the October festival the summer before.

"When I started to think who would I like to have here she just had to be first on the list," Bell said.

"I can't remember when I have had that feeling of sadness that a book was over. I got so involved with that whole world she created around the goldmining era."

She said she put together "a tantalising package" to entice Catton to the region, including putting her and partner, American poet Steven Toussaint, up at Te Puna Wai Lodge and promising a bottle of Neudorf wine would be on the bedside table.

"Our writers have a really nice time in Nelson. They rave about Nelson and the time they have here. We put quite a lot of effort into the whole hospitality side of the festival. We're just really lucky that Nelson's a fantastic place and that the timing must have worked out for her.

"I don't know if Nelson people realise how lucky we are to have a council that backs our arts festival and allows us to put treats like this in front of readers - along of course with our fabulous sponsors Page & Blackmore," she said.

Bell said Readers and Writers Festival audiences could also look forward to two "dynamic" Thinking Brunches, one looking at the future of broadcasting and the other focused on exploring notions of New Zealand identity.

An international crime writer would be visiting - the first time the festival had hosted an author of that genre.

She said another treat would be lunch with Woman's Day columnist Sarah-Kate Lynch, who has recently released new novel Heavenly Hirani's School of Laughing Yoga.

The full Nelson Arts Festival programme launches on August 8 and the festival runs from October 16 to 27.

See nelsonartsfestival.co.nz for more information.

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