2023 Festival programme

The third Blackball Readers and Writers Festival will take place on King’s Birthday Weekend, 2023, running from midday Saturday, 3rd June to Sunday evening. This year’s theme is Landscapes, Political and Spiritual. It will take place once again in the beautiful and intimate setting of the local school.

To begin the festival, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman and Michael Steven will ‘recover’ the work of Greymouth bred, Bill Pearson, novelist and cultural critic, who broke new ground in the gestation of NZ writing with his novel Coal Flat, written after a stint teaching in Blackball in the 1940s. His essay, Fretful Sleepers was also a seminal critique of settler puritanism. After a break Paddy Richardson will be interviewed by Paul Maunder about her new WW1 novel. The Green of the Spring which continues the Blackball connections of Through the Lonesome Dark. There will be a half hour available for people to briefly pitch any books they’re offering for sale. After dinner, hosted by Catherine Woollett, Paul Maunder will launch his new book, Solidarity, a Blackball novel, Michael Steven and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman will read a selection of poems pertinent to the festival theme, before Harry Broad introduces the mystery of Blackball communists, Bill and Annie Balderstone. On Sunday morning Jeffrey Paparoa Holman will talk with poet Nic Low (Ngai Tahu) whose book Uprising, walking the Southern Alps of NZ is an invitation to travel one of the world’s most spectacular landscapes in the company of Māori explorers, raiding parties, and gods.’ After morning tea, children’s author, Bill Nagelkerke will talk with teacher, Zella Downing about his recent books, The Ghosts on the Hill and The ghost house which trace  Christchurch’s past and Jane Carswell will discuss with Caroline Selwood her experience as a teacher in China recorded in Under the Huang Jiao Tree and the cultural and spiritual shock which led her to embark on a spiritual journey as a writer. After lunch we focus on the political landscape as Christchurch activist, Leigh Cookson interviews the well known Auckland lawyer, writer and activist, Jane Kelsey who has critically tracked New Zealand’s involvement with neo liberalism since the Rogernomic revolution of the 1980s in a series of influential books and Paddy Richardson talks with Blackball writer and dramatist, Paul Maunder about his recently published memoir and his new book, Solidarity, a Blackball novel, a family saga which spans the last century, from the ‘08 strike to the Spanish Civil War to Isis. To round out the day, Catherine Woollett and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman share time with Sam Duckor-Jones, poet and artist who has recently moved to Greymouth to create and reside in the already famous pink church. The festival will conclude with a dinner hosted by Leigh Cookson, at which people can read a letter of importance in their lives, or simply a resonant letter, part of the festival’s aim to resurrect the art of the letter. A wide range of accommodation is available in Blackball. Once again, the festival will be limited to 50 visitors plus the writers.

Registrations are now open: wkcultur@gmail.com  ; enquiries 0211063669                             

Full festival: $100, including lunches and Saturday dinner. One day: $50. Session: $20


Festival 2020

The Bathhouse Co-op (a subsidiary of Te Puawai Cooperative Society Ltd) presents the second

Blackball Readers and Writers Festival

Queen’s Birthday Weekend, Saturday & Sunday 30-31 May, 2020

This intimate festival, a contribution to the West Coast transition economy, takes the model of the underground coal mine and transposes it to the world of NZ literature.

It takes place once again in the beautiful setting of the local school.

This festival will look at writers as activists, renegades and recluses.


Saturday 30t May, noon, assemble for lunch and powhiri at the Blackball school, following which:

In keeping with the task of resurrecting forgotten writers, Pat White and David Young will discuss the life and work of Peter Hooper, the West Coast writer and poet, teacher and bookshop owner, who lived a lonely yet fruitful life on the West Coast, influencing many aspiring creatives.

After a break, Caroline Selwood will speak with Sandra Arnold, whose work includes two novels, a book on parental bereavement, a short fiction collection and her third recent historical novel, The ash, the well and the Bluebell. To conclude the first session, Pat White will read some of his poems.

For those new to the village, a short guided tour will take place before dinner.

In the evening, starting at 8pm, guests are invited to a performance of Waiting for Greta, the remake of the classic Waiting for Godot, this time set within the climate crisis. Written by Paul Maunder, the hour long production, premiered in 2019, is by local group, Kiwi/Possum Productions.

Sunday morning, starting at 10.00am, Paddy Richardson will talk with Becky Manawatu, whose first novel, Auē, dealing with ‘kids, gangs and curdled masculinity’, has been very well received. At 11.30am, Elspeth Sandys will then speak with David Young about her extensive writing life with a focus on her latest work, A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley, a story that combines family memoir, biography, history and travelogue.

After lunch, at 1.30pm Paul Maunder will talk with Nicky Hager, NZ’s best known investigative Journalist, whose books have uncovered environmental, political and military skulduggery. How did his work begin? What is the role of the journalist-writer, what is the methodology, what are the ethical issues?

At 3pm, the afternoon will conclude  with a panel discussion chaired by Kennedy Warne with two writers discussing their source material and their motivation,. Tim Jones, whose latest novel is a Cli-Fi book, Where we land will be joined by Kathleen Gallagher, whose recent novel Inangahua Gold is inspired by local history and environment. The festival will conclude with a dinner hosted by Paddy Richardson and Elspeth Sandys at which people can read a letter of importance in their lives, as part of the festival’s aim to resurrect the art of the letter.

The books of the festival’s guest authors and related works will be available to purchase throughout the weekend, and other writers are invited to bring books for a local mini market.

Ticket Prices

Full ticket covering both days $80 (inclusive of afternoon teas, Saturday lunch & dinner and Sunday lunch) – Sunday dinner to be paid for individually.

One day tickets $40 (includes lunch and afternoon tea)

Session Tickets $15

Accommodation for those from out of town: Blackball Hilton ($40 per night), Blackball Inn ($45), tiny houses at Blackball salami, AirBnB, and holiday cottages. For those on a low budget, there are 4 spaces available at the Brian Wood cottage and  freedom camping (including tent sites) will be available at the Community House.

Please register your and purchase tickets by emailing wkcultur@gmail.com. There will be a car pooling box.

Authors 2020