Tauranga residents will not have to go far from home to hear from some of New Zealand's best performers and writers this Queen's Birthday Weekend.

Escape! festival was officially launched last night with the full line up of shows released.

Among those on offer include actor Michael Hurt's one-man show No Holds Bard. Hurst and fellow Shakespeare fans Mark Houlahan (academic) and Donovan Bixley (author/illustrator) will also hold a session explaining what makes the playwright relevant even today.

Award winning journalist and writer Stephen Braunias will host several sessions including a travel writing workshop, an interview with Paul Mabey QC, a panel on the art of review writing and the state of today's media industry.


Also among the speakers are former New Zealander of the Year and author Dame Anne Salmond; head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland, Dr Siouxsie Wiles; Professor Margaret Wilson from Waikato University's law school, also a former Cabinet minister and award-winning novelist and playwright Greg McGee.

Escape! director Claire Mabey said the festival had been "created with big ideas and brilliant people".

"It's a really great line-up. We're looking forward to the diversity of the festival as a whole. Personally, I'm really excited about Nicky Pellegrino. Also, I'm really excited about Dame Anne Salmond. She's a really important person in New Zealand history."

She said there had already been inquiries about the festival from Aucklanders.

"We know that people come to Tauranga for the weekend and are looking forward to what we have to offer."

The Human Library is an exciting addition to this year's line-up.

The event, hosted by the Wright Family Foundation, will see people become "books" available for "loan".

The goal was to start discussion, to challenge stereotypes, see how the other half lives or bond over your similarities.

Each "book" in the free event will be available from 10am to 2pm at Baycourt on June 4 and 5 to allow people to have one-on-one conversations, to check out the faces behind the stories and get to know them.