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WORD 2023 loaded with Canterbury scholars and authors

19 July 2023

The University of Canterbury’s socio-cultural contribution to our vibrant city is evident in the depth and breadth of talent and expertise involved in WORD 2023.

The annual festival of ideas, histories, poetry, and song is set to captivate and immerse Ōtautahi, 23-27 August, in various enthralling forms including books, spoken word, performance, and music.

The University of Canterbury is a proud principal partner of the WORD Christchurch 2023, festival of stories and kupu and will host the free Inspiring Minds Secondary Schools Day on its Ilam campus.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

This incredible line-up includes writer Gabriel Krauze (UK), rangatira of New Zealand literature Witi Ihimaera (Te Whānau a Kai), UC mathematical biology and mathematical epidemiology expert Professor Michael Plank, award-winning poet Khadro Mohamed, climate change activist and UC researcher MahMah Timoteo, writer and former Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador for children and young people Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa), YA author Jane Higgins, and writer and teacher Melanie Dixon.

With events for all interests and ages, the popular festival features many UC scholars and writers, alongside local and international literary stars appearing in person in innovative ways.

Author, singer and tāonga pūoro musician Ariana Tikao (Kāi Tahu) – UC’s current Ursula Bethell writer in residence 2023 – will be part of the opening event Tīmataka, as well as Summoning Whakapapa.

UC graduate and 2010 writer in residence Tusiata Avia talks about Risk! at the gala and about her award-winning poetry in Tusiata Speaks, with John Campbell, while fellow UC alumna, Ethique founder Brianne West and Miriama Kamo (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mutunga), discuss Risky Women.

Climate Fiction and Climate Futures features UC experts MahMah Timoteo, Professor Bronwyn Hayward and Erik Kennedy discussing the role of writers in the face of climate change.

To celebrate the publication of their memoir, One of Them, current UC Young New Zealander of the Year, 23-year-old Shaneel Lal will discuss their extraordinary life so far, in conversation with UC academic Dr Mahdis Azarmandi. 

Leading Māori history scholar, translator, writer, editor, and 2023 UC honorary Doctor of Arts recipient Ross Calman (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu) will feature in panel discussions Lost and Found in Translation and Writing on the Margins.

As well as discussing the fine art of reviewing in Aotearoa in Criticism in the Small Pond, UC Arts academic Dr Erin Harrington will host the popular tiny lecture series, Cabinet of Curiosities. Her fellow UC Arts senior lecturer Vana Manasiadis is leading a poetry workshop held on National Poetry Day: The Poetic Turn.

In The Quiet Hero, the valiant life of UC graduate and former staff member, genetic scientist Dr Andrew Bagshaw, whose selfless volunteer work to help war-torn Ukrainians cost him his life, will be discussed by his parents, former UC Council member Dame Dr Sue Bagshaw and Dr Phil Bagshaw.

To mark 150 years of the University of Canterbury, a richly illustrated history of the institution is being published. The panel discussion, Turning Points, promises a fascinating insight into the process of writing A New History: The University of Canterbury 1873–2023, which is more critical and honest than the laudatory volume one might expect. The book’s editor, UC historian Dr Chris Jones, will be in discussion with principal author Dr John Wilson, as well as other contributors including the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey and Pou Whakarae Professor Te Maire Tau (Ngāi Tahu), plus Christchurch history writer and Canterbury University Press (CUP) author Margaret Lovell-Smith.

Many other UC scholars, writers and alumni are appearing in the 2023 WORD festival including notable ‘local hero’ alumni Ngāi Tahu leader Adjunct Professor Tā Tipene O’Regan, master’s graduate and 2006 writer in residence Carl Nixon, Guyon Espiner, Amy Head (WIR 2020), Nathan Joe (WIR 2020), Juanita Hepi, Fiona Farrell (WIR 1992), Frankie McMillan, Byron C Clark, Catherine Chidgey (WIR 2003), Victor Rodger (WIR 2009), and Karen Healey (WIR 2017).

  • Launched in 1997, WORD Christchurch is a world-class festival of literature, politics, culture, and ideas – all things that resonate with the University of Canterbury. UC staff, alumni and students have supported all WORD Christchurch festivals and iterations over the years, speaking about books and ideas, interviewing other authors, chairing panel discussions, hosting events and attending sessions. In 2021, the University and WORD Christchurch formalised this relationship with a partnership agreement.

For tickets and more information, visit the festival website.

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