Fair warning, this is more an essay than a blog. If your mind bears some similarities to a goldfish, you may find this challenging.
We started out as a band of writers across the lower North Island, all interested in the idea of performing readings of our own work. Our shows would be free and accessible to our communities and include both Māori and pakeha perspectives.
The intention was that each of the writers would organise dates, venues, and marketing in their localities, but we’d collectively weave together our work. Then, one by one, the writers fell away until Rangi Hapi and I remained. Rangi is not a resident of the Wairarapa, and so I took on the logistical mantle of a weekend of our readings throughout the Wai. Logistics are not my forte, but I’m known to persevere and can be determined to carry through with an idea.
And, so, we performed our show (Word Weavers: Kaiwhatu Kōrero) across the Wai this last weekend. I’ve learned a lot.
First. Thank you to friends and acquaintances interested enough in our writing to travel from as far away as Tauranga and Wellington to hear our readings.
At one of the readings, a husband of an old colleague made a mocking, negative reference to my logistical abilities to get things done. It took me by surprise in the moment but, as I am on a recovery journey learning how to live with Complex PTSD, I am now able to call it as I see it.
The comment was a narrative that suited the man and maybe his wife - and had absolutely nothing to do with me. I reject the narrative.
Of the options of fight, flight or freeze, I generally choose flight and so I doubt I will ever see that man again or, by extension, his wife.
I know that when someone has an expectation of me that I will ‘put up’ with being treated unkindly and I don’t choose to live up to that expectation, it can be very disappointing for them.
Second. One audience member said she was only there because a friend asked her to come – she hadn’t seen any marketing and couldn’t find anything about us when she googled.
If you type ‘Word Weavers NZ’ or ‘Kaiwhatu Kōrero’ into your browser, you (like me) might get a list of mentions scrolling up the screen on Eventfinda, Destination Wairarapa, Stuff Events, and the Facebook and Instagram pages of local bookshops and theatres.
Shout-outs must go to Dave and Patsy who own The Dickensian Bookshop in Featherston and John Gilberthorpe who manages Studio 73 in Greytown.
I also marketed to schools, through libraries and district councils, via friends, and my own Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram accounts. Paid ads were placed in local magazines for the two months before the events. I posted flyers on numerous local community noticeboards because our show was free and for the community.
Third. I made direct appeals to two local ‘institutions’ (WaiWord and Featherston Booktown). If they were able to mention us in their monthly e-newsletters, our exposure would be greater. They chose not to.
In the past I’ve worked in the area of arts funding as a manager at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and with Arts Access Aotearoa. A couple of years ago, I played a role in achieving $8 million of additional funding for creative spaces.
The Ministry had to set up a new funding distribution mechanism because Creative NZ (the usual mechanism for arts funding) almost exclusively funds artists that have already had some success. Creative Spaces are not a good ‘fit’ for Creative NZ.
Is something similar going on for Booktown: writers only backed if they are already winners?
I’m a great believer of reciprocity. Until now, I’ve financially contributed to Booktown and earlier this year my name appeared on its brochures as a Friend. They’ve just sent me an email requesting a further donation.
C’est la vie.