Award-winning author returns home to co-curate Christchurch literary festival

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Nic Low, an award-winning author, has been appointed as programme co-director of the Word Christchurch festival.

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Nic Low, an award-winning author, has been appointed as programme co-director of the Word Christchurch festival.

This year’s Word Christchurch literary festival has appointed seasoned arts organiser and award-winning author Nic Low as co-curator.

Low (Ngāi Tahu) recently returned home after almost two decades in Melbourne to take up the role, which he will share with Rachael King.

Despite a global pandemic, lockdown and travel restrictions, the Word festival sold out its three headline events last year.

Low is certain the 2021 festival will be just as much of a crowd pleaser.

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“Compared to the rest of the world, we’re in the unique position of being able to run a live festival, with all the buzz that comes from sharing stories kanohi ki te kanohi: face-to-face,” he said.

Before the pandemic hit, Low was working on his second book, Uprising – a history of the Southern Alps from a Ngāi Tahu perspective.

His love for the written word was transformed into a love for being involved with writers’ festivals when he attended the National Young Writers Festival in Australia in his early 20s.

“It was full of people all writing, publishing and creating their own work, and there was such a buzz that I had to get involved. I ended up co-directing that festival, and it grew from there.”

Low went on to sit on the Melbourne Writers Festival programming committee, and be a judge for both the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

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Miriam Lancewood speaking at the Adventurous Women event in November 2020 as part of last year’s Word Christchurch festival.

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Miriam Lancewood speaking at the Adventurous Women event in November 2020 as part of last year’s Word Christchurch festival.

He also ran the University of Melbourne’s International Writing Programme at the Asialink institute, created Bookwallah, a roving writers festival which toured India and Australia by train, and was the founder of Crack – an Australian live performance festival.

Low said he planned to use “our best and brightest talent here on the ground” for the Word festival, and provide global context through a combination of live and digital events to include well-known international writers.

“I’m also focussed on te reo Māori, oral storytelling, and events that speak to our southern landscapes. I can’t wait to get stuck into the programming with Rachael and [Executive Director] Marianne [Hargreaves].”

King is just as excited to work alongside Low.

“Australia’s loss is our gain,” she said. “Nic brings a bulging notebook of brilliant ideas, connections and a knowledge of te ao Māori, which will all add a fresh perspective to our ever-evolving festival.”

The Word Christchurch festival takes place from August 25 to 29.

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