The WORD book festival is back in Christchurch with a royal twist.
In a New Zealand exclusive, organisers will beam in the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, from her home in Windsor.
The duchess - who was previously married to Prince Andrew - will talk about the new romance novel based on her story and that of her ancestor.
The book was reportedly inspired by Ferguson's great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, but also draws parallels from her own experiences.
With an array of events to challenge, excite and entertain the city, the festival will arrive in late August.
Programme co-directors Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) and Rachael King have worked together to create a schedule of more than 80 events featuring over 150 speakers and performers.
Helen Clark will speak about her work as co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, and will also appear alongside former Tampa refugee, Abbas Nazari, as his book looks at 20 years since New Zealand welcomed 150 of its refugees, including Nazari, who was a child at the time.
International writers will appear via a digital link, but it won't be any ordinary Zoom call.
In The Faraway Near, a custom-built venue and bar has been constructed inside Tūranga that brings the speakers to the audience's tables.
Writers featured in the Faraway Near include: Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk; philosopher A. C. Grayling on the paradox of knowledge; Mark O'Connell, the Irish author of Notes From an Apocalypse; exiled Kurdish writer Ava Homa in conversation with Behrouz Boochani; Eliot Higgins, founder of open-source intelligence agency Bellingcat in conversation with Nicky Hager; novelist Hari Kunzru and award-winning Native American writer Tommy Orange.
"Given we're in a pandemic and international writers can't visit, we've relished the challenge of creating intimate digital events," said Low.
"The Faraway Near is a bar where you get to book a table with your friends, with a superb international author seated at your table, life-sized and in real-time.
"We're also looking to cutting-edge global political themes, exploring open-source intelligence agencies and the hunt for QAnon with Eliot Higgins, or the global pandemic response with Helen Clark, or the world of online conspiracy theory and 'red pilling' in the company of New York novelist Hari Kunzru."
This year, the Adventurous Women segment will be back with a new cohort of incredible speakers: Kyle Mewburn, Hinemoa Elder, Anjum Rahman, Emily Writes and Julie Zarifeh, hosted by Miriama Kamo.
"New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where we can still gather in person for a festival. We hope everyone will make the most of that opportunity, knowing the rest of the world is still stuck at home watching festivals on a screen.
"We're excited to have been able to concentrate on local talent, with a dozen events with a Ngāi Tahu focus in the mix."
"The most important element in a festival is a sense of place," said King.
"That is what we are most excited to deliver. You will not find a festival exactly like this one anywhere else in the world. The challenges we have faced have actually turned this into possibly the most exciting WORD festival yet."
For tickets and more information, visit the festival website.