An interview with Mark Easterbrook

MarkE 1. Tell me about your background - how did you come to be the joint programme director of Going West?

I’ve been on the Going West Trust for a couple of years. I’d never been involved in something like Going West. When I was asked, I saw it as a chance to give a bit of time and love to something with an arts and community focus. When we began discussing how we might carry on Going West without founder Murray Gray, who was hanging up his programmer’s boots after 20 years, I volunteered in a moment of possible madness - on the condition that someone do it with me. Nicola Strawbridge had worked on the programme with Murray in the past, and we agreed to tackle it together for 2016.

2. What do you do when you’re not programming a literary festival?

I’m a writer and creative director in the advertising and design world. I recently left my full time job for life as a freelancer, which has been both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I have two sons, aged 7 and 12, and a wonderful wife. I’m also on the Trust of the Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School.

3. What are the big challenges of programming a festival out west?

Balancing out what you want to programme with what you can. There are a couple of sessions that I really wanted to make happen but couldn’t. Luckily, equally wonderful things appeared to fill the void. Also, realising you can’t fit everything. There are some fantastic writers and books that we just couldn’t squeeze in.

4. What local book have you read lately that you particularly enjoyed?

Everything that’s in the festival lineup, of course, but also Gregory O’Brien’s See What I Can See. It’s aimed at young people but helps anyone learn to better appreciate photography as an art form.

5. We are really looking forward to Roger Shepherd. Do you have a favourite Flying Nun band or gig experience?

I moved to Auckland as a fairly naive farm boy in 1993. That year, I saw Straitjacket Fits live at The Powerstation. The gig was amazing but even more mind-blowing was the people watching. I watched a man slice his own hand open with a beer can and let the girls he was with play with his blood. A defining moment in my growing awareness of a bigger, weirder world.

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?

I am a big fan of craft beer. Panhead Supercharger and Garage Project Garagista are high on my list, but the crown goes to Renaissance Brewing Company’s Stonecutter Scotch Ale. A waiter once told me it would change my life. He was right. The perfect accompaniment to a good book, with some vintage Flying Nun on the stereo.