What’s A Booktown?

What’s a Booktown all about? To begin with, they are an international phenomenon, celebrating books, writers and authors right through to how the stories you read get to be on a printed page. It’s all about stories and storytellers, human books and paper books, ink and paper and having the opportunity to attend an array of workshops/playshops with artists, poets, writers, authors and musicians.

It was a perfect hold your hand around a freshly brewed cup of coffee type of morning. I found myself walking toward the scaffolding of a work-in-progress Royal Hotel renovation as the venue of my first workshop at the Featherston Booktown.

Philomena van Rijswijk’s workshop Singing Up Place had us creating micro-stories around our first sense of place, discovering personal songlines, remembering trees, shamanic journeying and exploring the back of places.  Rijswijk lives in Tasmania Australia and is currently on a fellowship at NZ Pacific Studio Artists’ Residency Centre in Mount Bruce, NZ, a sanctuary for artists from around the world to hone their craft.

Madeleine Slavick’s Hong Kong & Wairarapa & more presentation was to walk with her through prose and visuals of her twenty-five years in Hong Kong. Poignant images coupled with powerful words can often bring head and heart to the same place where they can meet and appreciate each other.     

And what a treat to hear NZ Poetry set to music in an exquisite tiny church. A trio of composer and pianist Norman Meehan, vocalist  Hannah Griffin and musician Blair Latham (who can create an amazing didge sound on his sax), performed sublime poetry as song for the book-town congregation.

This is the third year of the Featherston Booktown and these events only continue to happen with generous donors, sponsors, partners and many volunteers. The 11th Clunes Booktown in Victoria Australia was on last weekend and it’ll be a must for next year. Annual Book Town events revitalise small country towns and regional areas all over the world in ways that are bringing vibrancy to new life to areas that were once slowly dying and decaying. As the Festival Director of Featherston Booktown,  Kate Mead says “there’s a buzz in town and it’s not just about books. Featherston is moving ahead with new commercial developments, community activities, projects and new residents”.

May Booktowns continue to flourish and grow. My first Booktown was terrific and I’ll be back for more.

Photo credit: K.Bell. Spirit, the beautiful rag doll cat, belongs to Len and Sandee in Masterton NZ. He just happened to amble along and take a seat. May 2017

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