Writer events I'm looking forward to – Cherie Jacobson

20 February 2020

Cherie is the Director of Katherine Mansfield House & Garden in Thorndon. As well as being a heritage professional, Cherie has a background in the arts as a playwright, producer and former Programme Manager and Co-General Manager of BATS Theatre.

Art in the Afterlife (Sun 23 Feb, 11am)

Having to choose one piece of art to take to the afterlife is like the art version of the popular BBC radio show ‘Desert Island Discs’. What is so important to you that you can’t live, or in this case die, without it? I’m fascinated to hear the choices of Matariki Williams, Dame Anne Salmond, Witi Ihimaera and Justin Paton: four people with an intimate knowledge of art and taonga in Aotearoa New Zealand. How did they choose – did they immediately know, or did they have to make some hard trade-offs? Do they have a personal connection to their selected piece or was it just love at first sight? With a world of art to choose from, will they all be pieces from Aotearoa?

Long Litt Woon: The Way Through the Woods (Fri 6 March, 5pm)

I have only just started reading Long Litt Woon’s beautiful book, but like a good mushroom dish, I’m looking forward to savoring it until the last bite. I’m enjoying Long’s gentle humour and I love the name of the foraging group that Long initially began classes with: “the Greater Oslo Fungi and Useful Plants Society.” Surprisingly, there is a Katherine Mansfield quote about mushrooms and love that begins, “If only one could tell true love from false love as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools…” Long had already identified true love, but after the sudden death of her Norwegian husband, she questioned whether she should stay in her adopted country. Long is being interviewed in this session by rongoā Māori practitioner and writer, Arihia Latham, so I’m interested in hearing their different perspectives on connecting to the land, one as tangata whenua, the other as someone who has chosen to live in a natural environment totally different to that of her childhood.

The Joy of Queer Lit Salon (Sat 7 March, 8pm)

I love hearing about other people’s favourite books and the writing that inspires them. A personal favourite from the queer lit canon is Jeanette Winterson, so maybe she’ll get a shout out. Will anyone mention Katherine Mansfield? There’s a stellar line-up of guests, and with Emily Writes and Victor Rodger on board, there’s sure to be some humour.

Writing Women’s Lives (Sunday 8 March, 11am)

I’m particularly interested in this conversation between Jokha Alharthi, Rijula Das and Kiran Dass from the perspective of a playwright whose most recent work was Modern Girls in Bed, written with Alex Lodge and staged at Circa Theatre in 2018. My writing has primarily been collaborative and inspired by the lives of real women, so hearing how these writers approach writing women’s lives, “their relationship to their fictional creations and why we need more stories about women, written by women” is just my cup of tea.

Paula Green’s Poetry Shelf Live (Sunday 8 March, 12.30pm)

The other day we had a group of Year 7 and 8 students visit Katherine Mansfield House & Garden. When I asked what they knew about Mansfield, one of the students said that before the trip their teacher had read ‘The Doll’s House’ to them. I replied that they were lucky, it’s so nice to be read to at any age. With poetry readings, you’re not only getting the gift of being read to, you’re getting a performative element, and the opportunity to hear a poet’s work in their own voice, with the intonation and rhythm they intended. And what a pick of poets! With Paula Green as the curator of this session, it’s sure to be an hour well spent.

Sex, Gender and Politics (Sunday 14 March, 1pm)

A formidable line-up (Ngahuia te Awekotuku, Marilyn Waring and Kristen Ghodsee in conversation with Kathryn Ryan) with a wealth of experience and knowledge discussing the ever-urgent fight for gender equality. Sex, gender and politics play a huge part in our everyday lives, from the smallest interactions to the most life changing. I’m keen to learn from these women where they think the future is headed – it’s election year, remember?

Dear Me: Letters to Menton (Sat 14 March 2.30pm)

In 2016 I visited Menton and found my way to Villa Isola Bella, where Katherine Mansfield spent time writing in the last years of her life. Each year, a New Zealand writer is awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship and spends time writing in a room downstairs at the Villa. When I visited, the door to that room was open but no one seemed to be inside. I craned my neck, peering above the fence, but couldn’t see much of the shadowy interior. I’m looking forward to hearing three writers who inhabited that room share their experiences and reflections, illuminating that shadowy space with their memories and perhaps bringing a taste of the sun, Mediterranean sea air and life in France to a Saturday afternoon in Wellington.

There’s an incredible wealth of literary events coming up during this Festival, thank you to the team at Verb Wellington and the New Zealand Festival of the Arts for bringing together such a great programme!