Verb Readers & Writers Festival 2021

Magic, mystery and creative ideas are out in force for this year’s festival that celebrates all things books and stories

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3 – 7 Nov 2021


Various locations

The eighth annual Verb Festival, showcasing all things reading and writing, is coming back to Wellington this November with a few special early events hitting the city in October.  

2021 follows the success of festivals past, incorporating far-reaching and utterly engaging worlds of stories, ideas and books. You can expect to encounter creators you love, new works and writers, and many events revolving around poetry, fiction, non-fiction and everything in between. 

This year follows the theme of ‘coven’, including a whole lot of magic, fun and witchy goodness. Celebrating the power of community in both familiar and new ways, the theme ties in bold ideas, ancient knowledge, mystery and ritual.  

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Stacey Teague
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There’s a range of early events through October, including The Travelling Covens – one-time-only events with writers who will travel with festival makers to your home. In intimate explorations of writing, crafting, and reading, the featured writers will share knowledge and skills with you and your coven. October’s events also include a coven-themed walking tour by Bad Bitches of Wellington creator Jessie-Bray Sharpin, and Familiars: An Expedition for Families with artist Catherine Bagnall and writer Jane Sayle

November marks the start of the full festival programme, and below we’ve got our picks for the top five events you don’t want to miss.


Verb Poetry Showcase: A Summoning

Meow, 9 Edward Street, Wellington

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A summoning is the magical action of community – the awareness that what cannot be borne alone might be borne together. - Rebecca Támas

Join a coven of poets for a summoning: where poetry brings us together for transformation, community and the joy of live performance. Featuring Tayi Tibble, Joy Holley, Chris Tse, Emma Shi, Emma Sidnam, Joanna Cho, Ruby Solly, Nathan Joe, Ronia Ibrahim, and Adriana Che Ismail. Hosted by Jordan Hamel.

Tayi Ashley Tibble Verb Festival

Sorrow & Bliss: Meg Mason

National Library of New Zealand, Thorndon, Wellington

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Sorrow & Bliss has been celebrated around the world as a game-changing novel about mental health. The novel follows brilliant, witty and clever Martha as she looks back over her life in order to try to understand the trajectories of her closest relationships, including her struggles with an unspecified mental illness. Meg Mason joins Noelle McCarthy in a conversation about writing to the heart of love and grief.

Most of all, perhaps, this is a novel about the effect we all have on each other, unstable or not, diagnosed or not, especially where love is concerned.  - The Guardian

This is a story that will settle in the hearts and guts of anyone whose life has been touched by the devastation of not knowing exactly what is wrong, but hoping against hope that there is some way to fix it. - The Spinoff

Meg Mason verb festival

Toil & Trouble

Meow, 9 Edward Street, Wellington

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Artist and writer Jo Randerson speaks with three exceptional women about their working lives and the challenges that shaped them. With Anna Fifield, author of the acclaimed book The Great Successor: The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un, former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief, 2018 winner of Stanford University’s Shorenstein Journalism Award for outstanding reporting on Asia issues, and editor of The Dominion Post. Māmari Stephens (Te Rarawa), Māori Chaplain and Anglican Priest, Reader in the Faculty of Law at University of Victoria, former staff at Corrections, blogger and essayist; and Robyn Hunt ONZM, accessibility activist, writer, former Human Rights Commissioner, former journalist and founder of Crip the Lit.

This event will be translated by New Zealand Sign Language interpreters.

Anna Fifield Verb Festival

Doireann Ní Ghríofa

National Library of New Zealand, Thorndon, Wellington

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Claire Mabey speaks to Irish writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa about her astonishingly beautiful, boundary-breaking book that has captured the hearts and minds of readers across the world since its release during lockdown in 2020. At once memoir, scholarship and auto-fiction, A Ghost in the Throat blends the author’s own story together with her efforts to call forth the life of the 18th Century writer Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill.

An Post Irish Book of the Year 2020 - ‘A book like this comes along once every few years and obliterates every clear definition of genre and form. I mean no exaggeration here: A Ghost in the Throat is astounding and utterly fresh.’ - The Irish Independent

Proudly supported by Culture Ireland.

Doireann Ni Ghriofa Verb Festival

Aroha: Hinemoa Elder

National Library of New Zealand, Thorndon, Wellington

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Dr Hinemoa Elder (Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) is author of the best-selling book of whakataukī, Aroha: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet. Dr Elder speaks with Māni Dunlop about how the book’s journey weaves through her other mahi as a psychiatrist, resident of Waiheke Island, and as a Māori Strategic Leader for the Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) for the Ageing Brain.

I predict that anyone who reads this book will experience such joy, comfort and illumination in the pages that they too will find that Aroha will become an extension of their daily life. - NZ Booklovers

Hinemoa Elder Verb Festival

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