An interview with Nicola Strawbridge

Nicola Strawbridge
Nicola Strawbridge

1. Tell me about your background - how did you come to be the joint programme director of Going West? It has been a long and fruitful association. I started out 10 years ago as the coordinator of the literary weekend. So I’ve got a pretty good idea of the nuts and bolts of making the weekend happen. I’d had a few years working in book publishing previously and the festival was the perfect way to continue to be involved with the world of books and ideas. Over the following decade I had a range of roles – including being associate programmer supporting the wonderful Murray Gray. When Murray retired last year Mark and I were invited to step up and here we are.

2. What do you do when you’re not programming a literary festival? I also work helping Aucklanders think more creatively about what we’re doing with our waste. Promoting creative, practical solutions for how we can keep it out of the landfills and see it as a valuable resource. I have primary school aged children, manage a household, and support my partner who runs our sustainability company – we manufacture and sell the miraculous hungry bin.

3. What are the advantages of programming a festival out west? The west is steeped in the arts. Titirangi in particular has always been associated with artists and bohemianism. Loads of well-known musicians, artists and writers have lived out west including Maurice Shadbolt, Colin McCahon, Len Castle and Paula Green. It’s fertile ground for a quirky, boutique festival that celebrates writing and the arts, and this is reflected in our keen supportive audiences.

4. What local book have you read lately that you particularly enjoyed? Can I have more than one? I'm enjoying dipping in and out of Paula Green's latest poetry collection New York Pocket Book. She’s invoking memories of my time in that mad exciting city – and it’s literally pocket-sized – perfect for taking with you on the bus. My nine-year-old and I both loved Donovan Bixley’s Much Ado About Shakespeare. It inspired us to take him to see Romeo & Juliet at the pop-up Globe. And next thing you know he’s playing Shylock in the Merchant of Venice at school. Ahhh, the power of books ….and great illustrations!

5. We are really looking forward to Roger Shepherd. Do you have a favourite Flying Nun band or gig experience? The Flying Nun compilation album In Love With These Times (also the title of Roger's memoir), came out during my first year at Canterbury University. I had it on cassette and wore it out on the tape deck in my hostel bedroom along with The Chills' Submarine Bells. While I can't claim to have had anything as weird as Mark's blood experience at a FN gig, I think I did permanent damage to my ear drums trying to get as close to Shayne Carter as possible while pogoing in the mosh pit in my Doc Marten 8-holes. Doc Martens were closely related to Flying Nun in my teenage mind.

6. We are also looking forward to the Craft Beer session with Te Radar and Jules Van Cruysen. Are you craft beer drinkers? What’s your favourite brew? At our place at the moment it's a toss-up between Epic and Little Creatures (an Aussie craft brewery). Epic beer, along with other delicious local brews from Hallertau, Funk Estate, Liberty Brewing Co and Sawmill Brewery will be part of the tasting at the Crafty Brew session. All these Auckland-based breweries featured in Jules’ book of course.