Auckland Writers Festival 2023 Attracts Over 60,000 Attendees

Auckland Writers Festival 2023 Attracts Over 60,000 Attendees

Over 60,000 attendees of all ages flocked to the 2023 Auckland Writers Festival | Waituhi o Tāmaki, marking a triumphant week for New Zealand’s most beloved annual literary event.

From 16 – 21 May 2023, the Auckland Writers Festival, renowned as the best-attended literary festival per capita in the Southern Hemisphere, saw the return of international literary giants alongside acclaimed authors from across New Zealand. The line-up of 180 writers featured Booker, TS Eliot, Pulitzer and Ockham Prize-winners - as well as New York Times bestselling authors, celebrated journalists, much-loved writers across all genres and exciting new talent.

Festival Chair, Leigh Melville is elated the Festival continues to build itself as the most thrilling cultural event in the Autumn calendar. “Our small, dedicated team produced an outstanding event, with something for everyone included in the programme.  It is rewarding to see the enthusiasm shown by audiences for the rich array of talented writers presented at the Festival.”

There were standing ovations for Eleanor Catton, Ruby Tui, Colson Whitehead, Bernardine Evaristo and Gabrielle Zevin, who also attracted long lines of fans for book-signings. Due to popular demand, an additional session for William Sitwell’s The Sitwells: Behind the Façade was added to the programme. Masterclasses for aspiring authors, were well attended.   

For the first time, the Festival welcomed international First-Nations writers from Canada and Australia who joined our Māori authors – both exciting large crowds and forging closer ties amongst the writers themselves.

Bridget van der Zijpp, Auckland Writers Festival 2023 Artistic Curator, says it was heartening to see the enthusiasm of people returning to one of New Zealand’s most beloved annual festivals.  

 “It was a privilege to have the opportunity to generate such a warmly received event.  There was a definite electric buzz in the atmosphere -- ideas were being shared, writers were making valuable connections with each other, the audiences were very appreciative, books were flying out of the bookshop, and the signing queues were long. Our team are proud to have been part of it, but it was the generosity of the writers and participants sharing such genuine thoughts and stories onstage that made it truly memorable.”

Festival week got off to a bustling start with 6,271 school students and teachers in attendance from all over the North Island. They converged on the Aotea Centre for three days of rousing live events, providing students with tales of inspiration from British, North American, Australian and New Zealand authors.

On Friday evening, more than 1,600 people descended on popular harbourside destination, Britomart, to join in the celebration that is STREETSIDE – a series of free events which included live readings, recitals, musings and comedy.

Over the weekend, the free children’s programme Pukapuka Adventures welcomed young bookworms, encouraging them to have fun with reading and explore their creativity.

Early survey results indicate 40% were first-time attendees and 30% aged 18-34 years.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards was a marquee event at the Festival and  supreme winner, The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction) featured prominently in the Festival’s programming.

The Auckland Women’s Bookshop ran several pop-up stalls around the Aotea Centre during the Festival and reported a 15% increase on the previous year’s book sales.  The top ten best-selling books were:

  1. Axeman's Carnival by Catherine Chidgey
  2. Kāwai: For Such a Time As This by Monty Soutar
  3. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilika
  4. Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
  5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  6. The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams
  7. Oxygen Mask: A Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds
  8. The Book Of Roads And Kingdoms by Richard Fidler
  9. With Art As My Weapon by Soichiro Fukutake
  10. Manifesto: On Never Giving Up by Bernadine Evaristo

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