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Opening Night

  • Waitakere Central, West Auckland’s Civic Building in Henderson. 6 Henderson Valley Road Auckland, Auckland, 0612 New Zealand (map)

Featuring Selina Tusitala Marsh as The Curnow Reader, Rod Oram as the Sir Graeme Douglas Orator and a performance of Small Holes in the Silence, a selection of New Zealand poetry set to music.
$30.00 ($25.00 concession) Bookings at
Includes a light supper and a complimentary glass of wine. Cash bar open at intermission and following performance.

The Curnow Reader - Selina Tusitala Marsh

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Every year, Going West marks the memory of Allen Curnow, a generous friend of the festival, by inviting a noteworthy New Zealand poet to read in his honour. In the context of this year’s themes of change and transition, Curnow’s words resonate more than ever. “Not I, some child, born in a marvellous year / Will learn the trick of standing upright here” speaks of changing times and shifting identities, as powerfully as any contemporary voice.
This year, we are honoured to have poet and scholar Selina Tusitala Marsh as our Curnow Reader. Selina will share poems from across her writing life, including reflections on her recent experience as Commonwealth Poet performing at Westminster before the Queen and readings from her new collection Tightrope.
Selina Tusitala Marsh is a Pasifika Poet-Scholar. Her first collection of poetry, Fast Talking PI (AUP: 2009) won the Jesse McKay Best First Book, her second, Dark Sparring (AUP: 2013) was received with critical acclaim and a third collection of poetry, Tightrope (AUP: 2017) launches August 2017. As Associate Professor English Department University of Auckland, she teaches New Zealand and Pacific Literature, convenes its largest course in Creative Writing, and supervises poets in its Masters of Creative Writing Programme.  She delivered the prestigious annual NZ Book Council lecture 2016, was made Honorary Literary Fellow in the NZ Society of Authors’ annual Waitangi Day Honours 2017, and lives in hope that one day, maybe one day, her sons will write her a poem.

The Sir Graeme Douglas Orator

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The keynote address of our opening night is named in honour of the late Sir Graeme Douglas, a long-time supporter of the Going West Festival, and whose family and estate continue that tradition in 2017. Every year, we invite a writer of note to address the festival theme in whatever way they see fit.
This year, journalist and commentator Rod Oram takes the stage. Drawing on his book Three Cities, Rod explores the changing political, economic and technological times in which we find ourselves. He seeks signs of where our world may be heading, and examines how we must inevitably make fundamental changes in order to survive.

Rod Oram has 40 years’ experience as an international business journalist. He has worked for various publications in Europe and North America, including the Financial Times of London.
A frequent public speaker on business, economics, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, Rod regularly contributes weekly to Nine to Noon on RNZ, and Newstalk ZB.

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For more than a decade, Rod has been helping fast-growing New Zealand companies through his involvement with The ICEHOUSE, the entrepreneurship centre at the University of Auckland’s Business School. In 2010, Rod was the winner in the individual category in the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards and was Columnist of the Year in the consumer category in the national magazine awards for his columns in Good, a consumer sustainability magazine.

In 2007 Penguin published his book on the New Zealand economy, Reinventing Paradise. In 2016 Rod became an adjunct professor at AUT; and Bridget Williams Books published his latest book, Three Cities: Seeking Hope in the Anthropocene.

Small Holes in the Silence - Classic New Zealand poetry set to music

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Bill Manhire, Norman Meehan, Hannah Griffin and Blair Latham

Poet Bill Manhire, composer and pianist Norman Meehan, vocalist Hannah Griffin and saxophonist Blair Latham perform Small Holes in the Silence, a selection of New Zealand poetry set to music. The show includes work from much loved poets Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire, Alistair Campbell and James K Baxter. Performed in West Auckland for the first time, its a literary musical experience not to be missed.
Bill Manhire lives in Wellington, and is a freelance writer with a SuperGold Card. His most recent books are a new poetry collection, Some Things to Place in a Coffin, and a short fiction collection, The Stories of Bill Manhire. The riddles project Tell Me My Name, created with Norman Meehan, is the latest of several song collaborations over the last few years: Buddhist Rain, Making Baby Float, and These Rough Notes.

Norman Meehan trained as a jazz musician in Wellington, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. His most recent album Tell Me My Name (VUP, 2017) features riddles and charms written by poet Bill Manhire. Norman has released eight albums, one of which is the nights eponym Small Holes in the Silence (Rattle, 2015) featuring song settings of poems by some of New Zealand’s finest poets, including Manhire, Hone Tuwhare and James K. Baxter. Norman has published numerous books on jazz, and taught history and critical papers for the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington for almost twenty years.

Hannah Griffin trained as a jazz vocalist in Christchurch and Wellington, where she now lives. She has performed extensively in many contexts in New Zealand and Europe, and recorded albums with composer and multi-instrumentalist Nick van Dijk, with Rosie Langabeer’s large ensemble Zirkus, as well as with Norman Meehan. New Zealand Musician magazine said: “Hannah sings with such elegance and ease that you can’t help but listen to the often tender words … Her phrasing is superb and the balance between lyrics and performance is perfect.”

Blair Latham is a saxophonist, composer and multi-instrumentalist with a deep love of the bass clarinet. Blair began his musical journey towards becoming a unique voice in NZ music in his hometown of Wellington. Fortunate enough to be interested in making sounds by blowing through a piece of metal at a time when such luminaries as Jeff Henderson were fomenting a truly vibrant creative music scene, he took full advantage. A number of years living and working in Mexico and the US have added an appreciation of what music is to people of varied cultures and perceptions of life, something that shows through in his performances and musical organising.

Earlier Event: 8 September
Word Up Finals
Later Event: 9 September
Lost Somewhere In Between