Going West founder Murray Gray

Going West founder Murray Gray

 

It all starts with a story

Early in Maurice Gee’s 1992 novel Going West he describes travelling by steam train from Loomis (Henderson) to the central City. In Murray Gray’s Parnell bookshop Under Silkwood, a customer remarked on this evocative writing, and a random remark fuelled a passion to see the establishment of a literary festival complete with a train journey in West Auckland.

A friend in advertising, Bob Harvey, thought it was a great idea. He was planning to run for the Mayoralty in Waitakere City, and if he got in he’d make it happen. True to his word and with the support of the City’s Arts Coordinator Naomi McCleary, and the City’s first Library Manager Adrian Birkbeck, in 1996 the Going West Festival began. It was Auckland’s first literary festival.

Nga Kupu Korero was the first session and the first words spoken were in Maori by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. Peter Simpson, writer, editor, critic, scholar and curator, was then Associate Professor of English at the University of Auckland, and moderated all the sessions.

In the years since that first festival, Going West has grown from strength to strength. A who’s who of New Zealand writers have graced the stage and shared their work. And the festival has always stayed true to its mission to support, celebrate and enable the sharing of writing, performance and cultural commentary from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.