The Whanganui Literary Festival Trust was faced with a tough decision. Should it go ahead with the nationally renowned festival, due to start on September 29, or postpone and hope for another available date?
They chose the latter.
Chairwoman Mary-Ann Ewing and trustee Linda Johnstone say things like the Fringe Festival part of the programme just shifted along to the new dates nicely.
"All except the children's one, they all moved to the same sort of timeframe as on the original plan on the brochure," says Linda.
The festival is now happening from mid-February, with the main festival from February 25-27.
"The children's events will change, but at least they're happening," she says.
Had the festival gone as planned, many of the events would have taken place during school holidays.
A meeting of the trust held last Friday determined that the Fringe Festival opening planned for next Wednesday, Artists Who Write, to be held at Space Gallery, would be moved to February 16, with the rest of the festival. The accompanying art exhibition, Lost For Words, would continue to be held from September 22 to October 16, also at Space Gallery.
"Everything has seamlessly transferred ahead four months," says Mary-Ann.
"Of our nine authors, eight straight off confirmed for February. I think partly because it's so far ahead and they haven't got other commitments, nobody's going overseas at the moment, and they're still excited to be able to come to the festival."
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The trust held a meeting on September 8, because, whatever happened, they needed to let their authors know as soon as possible. "From that meeting we decided on plan A and plan B," says Mary-Ann. It depended on the Government announcement due on Monday, September 13. Plan B was a postponement; plan A was to go ahead, but without some events. "It was going to be a truncated festival if we held it."
At a meeting held straight after the Government announcement, which kept Auckland at Covid-19 alert level 4 and the rest of the country at Level 2, the trust unanimously decided on plan B.
"There were so many imponderables, and I guess the bottom line is it's a festival, and you want to mix and mingle, and the good thing about our festival is that people love the fact they can chat to the author over coffee ... they can get their books signed ... that whole boutique atmosphere," says Mary-Ann. She and the trust felt that would not happen if held when originally planned, even if Whanganui were at Level 1 by then.
With social distancing, masks, many people too cautious to attend – "It would kill the fun factor."
With the festival four months out, New Zealand should be in a better place and Whanganui would be free to hold the gala opening, the fun would return and authors would be free to enjoy the city.
Summer is busy in Whanganui and alongside the Literary Festival will run Pride Week, La Fiesta and Shakespeare in the Park.
"I've talked to Christina Emery, Carla Donson and Karen Craig [organisers of those events] and we've agreed to keep talking to each other. We're all in the loop.
"We're keeping Whanganui and Partners informed - they've been supportive of us.
"It's good that other things are on."
As the brochures have been printed, a sticker on the outside and an insert within will inform festival-goers of the new dates and modified programme.
"Our sponsors have all been fantastic," says Mary-Ann.