Inaugural festival for Labour Weekend


The inaugural Blackball Readers and Writers Festival, to be held at Labour Weekend, will bring established writers to the Coast to read from their work and to have conversations before the audience of Coasters and those from afar. The festival will be modelled on the underground coal mine and will therefore seek work ‘from the underground’ which can be interpreted in many different ways e.g. that which has been forgotten, or that which has become for a time, marginal, or that which has deep roots in the earth or the past. There is also the theme of ‘discussion in the bathhouse’; miners while washing up discussed politics and other matters. There will, for each festival, be book sales of the authors present and other works of relevance. There will be a writing exercise for all participants and the organisers are introducing the topic of important letters in people’s lives, encouraging all participants to bring along one such letter for sharing.

Jean Devanney

For the inaugural Festival, the writer, Jean Devanny (1894-1962) will be ‘recovered’ and her life celebrated by historian and author Carol Dawber and author, film-maker Katherine Gallagher. Jean Devanny born in Golden Bay was a prolific (17 published novels) feminist and socialist writer and political orator. Three of her novels (her work was often set in the mining and timber communities of the West Coast) were published whilst she lived in NZ before moving to Sydney in 1929 where she continued to write and be a passionate advocate for workers’ rights. Jean, controversial and revolutionary was one of the first woman to write significant West Coast fiction. The celebrated Blackball-bred poet, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman will launch his memoir, Now when it rains. Hungarian poet, Panni Pallasti (Eva Brown), born in  Budapest and now resident in Nelson, will discuss her life work. Dunedin novelist, Paddy Richardson will talk about her writing and sidetrack from the crime fiction genre with her recent novel set in Blackball. Continuing to make the underground literal, Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness will be discussed by Neil Silverwood the book’s photographer. To conclude the festival sessions, environmental writer Kennedy Warne will introduce the work of Denniston poet, Leicester Kyle and discuss the relationship between the poetic voice and guardianship of the environment. Kennedy author of two children’s books and NZ Geographic co-founder and writer will have spent Friday talking to local school children.


from left to right: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman  Kathleen Gallagher, Kennedy Warne, Neil Silverwood, Paddy Richardson, Panni Palasti, Carol Dawber, crew and cast, Goodnight Irene.

The festival is organised by the Bathhouse Co-operative, a subsidiary of Te Puawai Co-operative Society, a co-op set up to incubate projects on the Coast ( The members of the co-op are: Catherine Woollett who runs the Shades of Jade shop in Greymouth; Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, London born but Blackball bred and one of NZ’s major poets; and Paul Maunder, a playwright, theatre director, filmmaker and author who lives in Blackball. Support comes from Creative Communities and the Department of Internal Affairs. The Festival could lead to the creation of a boutique publishing house on the Coast. As well, with the establishing of the Paparoa Great Walk, the festival could become part of a wider package.

The guests:

Dates: Saturday October 20, midday to Sunday October 21, 10pm.

Cost: $60 full festival, including lunches and Saturday night dinner (accommodation and Sunday night dinner excluded); $20 for single day; $10 for single session.

Accommodation is available at formerly the Blackball Hilton ($55 b&b); backpacker level is available at Blackball Club Hotel; holiday cottages and Airbnb are also available and campervan and camping sites can be found at the Community House.

Registration: Please register early by emailing or

Full Programme:

  • Saturday October 20th, arrive for lunch at midday (Blackball School).
  • 1pm Carol Dawber and Kathleen Gallagher discuss and read from the work of Jean Devanny (Blackball School).
  • 3pm Afternoon tea followed by a visit to the original mine site with Blackball elder. Hopefully this will provoke some writing.
  • 6pm Dinner at Blackball Working Men’s Club.
  • 7pm Neil Silverwood discusses the book he photographed, Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness, winner of best first non-fiction category at the NZ Book Awards.
  • 8pm Kathleen Gallagher will read from her current work in progress, set on the Coast.
  • 8.30pm Screening of the film by Paul Maunder and Alun Bollinger, Goodnight Irene, filmed this year and adapted from the play by Paul Maunder.
  • Sunday: 10.00am, conversation with Paddy Richardson about her novel, Through the Lonesome Dark, set in pre-WW1 Blackball and then in the trenches of WW1. (Blackball School)
  • 11.30am Jeffrey Paparoa Holman discusses, reads from and launches his memoir, Now when it rains.
  • 1pm lunch
  • 2.00pm Panni Palasti reads from her latest book of poems, A tongue is not for lashing (Nyelvunk Nem Ostoir), and discusses her memoir, Budapest Girl, an immigrant confronts the past.
  • 3.00pm Afternoon tea.
  • 3.30pm Kennedy Warne discusses and reads from the work of Leicester Kyle, who spent the last years of his life living near Denniston.
  • 4.30pm If well enough to attend John Weir, friend and correspondent with James K. Baxter will introduce the letter theme.
  • 6pm Dinner at the Hilton (bookings essential) and open mike, during which letters will be shared, together with any responses to the environment and the festival.

Enquiries: Paul at 037324010 or 0211063669

Catherine at 037680794 or 0275134921

te puawai logo only