Readers & Writers
A Fantastic Festival

Design is storytelling. It’s pictures painted with concepts and emotions that really strike home. As designers, our work is so often informed by a need to present new views of the world and deliver it in a fashion that strikes a chord and fundamentally bases success on emotional connection. The 2010 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival was a rich, engaging event that demonstrated the power a challenging imagination can give.

On opening night saw us transfixed by the painterly storytelling of Colm Tóibín, who gradually revealed the tale of Eilis Lacey’s emigration from Ireland to Brooklyn in the 1950's. Immersed in the story, it felt as if we were alongside Lacey, experiencing every moment.

Words and messages were staged in the most dramatic way by Charlie Dark, who was an adrenalin rush of rhymes, slam poetry and words; stretched, felt and moved in all directions. We marveled as the writer, producer, musician with acclaimed Attaca Blues and sometime poet laureate of Arsenal football club broke all conventions.

Elizabeth Smithers invited us to experience a delicate world from a perspective of wonder. Her writing was an invitation to view her life of quiet characters full of worldly experience. Poetry about transistor radio, gardens, musical scales as characterised by city streets and excerpts from her latest novel that Lola explores themes of fate and escape and exploring worlds that you make.

Watching the young mind of Ben Naparstek at work was an experience in itself. At a very young age, Naparstek has interviewed the glitterati of the literati, revealing his ability to transcend generation. He has an exceptional ability to seek out real motivations of his subjects by reading between the lines, examining the significance of the stain on a shirt, and bringing an open mindedness to technology – using digital resources like email to gain insight.

In her latest novel 'So Much For That', Lionel Shriver confronts themes of sex, death, illness, dreams and the unfathomable costs of health care. In essence the bigger question of the worth of life is challenged through the lens of a life and dreams being skewed by fate. The sheer power of Lionel’s character and directness of her view was something to be reckoned with – punters were observed quaking at the book signing.

Other lights of the festival included Charlie Higson, one time Fast Show writer and performer, creator of Loadsamoney and Stavros from the late eighties and most recently famed for his work as author of the young Bond books. Canadian writer and sociologist Sarah Thornton (pictured) captivated the audience with her non-fiction narratives that explore the cloistered world of the fine arts. Closer to home, artist John Reynolds explored the notion of giving ideas room to breathe and the valuable role art school can play.

It’s a pleasure to get outside of the strict design sphere, as writing relates so much to what we do in terms of new creating new constructs, characterization and taking a view on the status of humanity. It’s people talking to other people.