BooksFebruary 12, 2021

The Garden Party: 10 things to look forward to at Wellington’s new festival


A selection of highlights from the upcoming Garden Party Festival, presented by Verb Wellington and The Spinoff. 

What are you doing next weekend? Want to come to a party? If you’re in Wellington February 20-21, consider yourself invited to The Garden Party, a brand new summer festival presented by Verb Wellington and The Spinoff. Held at Wellington Botanic Gardens ki Paekākā, The Garden Party is a two-day event full of interesting talks, delicious food and exciting live performances – full lineup here – and it’s almost entirely free (or by koha).

As part of the team behind the event, we admit we’re a little biased when we say absolutely every event of the festival is worth catching. But if pressed, these are 10 things we’re really looking forward to when the gates open at 10am on Saturday, February 20:

Anna Fifield with Linda Clark

The first event of the festival, and what a way to kick things off. Hastings-raised Anna Fifield has reported from the Middle East, South Korea, Japan, the US and China, where she was Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post. After almost two decades overseas, she returned home to New Zealand last year. She talks to Linda Clark about global politics, her new gig as editor of the Dominion Post, and The Great Successor, her book about Kim Jong Un.

10am Saturday, The Soundshell

Tessa Waters

Our Soundshell MC is the extremely funny and charming Tessa Waters, a multi-award-winning comedian who has played to sell-out crowds across Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Just quietly, we think she’s going to be The Garden Party’s secret weapon.

All day Saturday and Sunday, The Soundshell

Local indie design agency Ocular NZ created the Garden Party branding (with a bit of help from our own Toby Morris on the illustrations!)

Big Fun Family Quiz

Our very own Toby Morris and Toby Manhire host a quiz for the whole family. Expect fun questions for small readers (help from bigger ones very much allowed), and a surprise cameo you won’t want to miss. Come dressed as your favourite book character for spot prizes.

11.30am Sunday (part of the Sunday Family Fun Day, 10am-2pm)

Karl Maughan Walk, Talk & Afternoon Tea

Join one of New Zealand’s greatest painters of gardens on a walk through the Botanic Gardens to the Picnic Cafe for afternoon tea. The conversation with Maughan will be hosted by writer and rongoā practitioner Arihia Latham, and is a ticketed event with very limited places. Not in the mood for a stroll? Maughan is also taking part in a seated event on Saturday morning.

Walk and afternoon tea 2pm Sunday; seated talk 11am Saturday. Book here.

The Garden Party After Party

Keep the festival vibes going into Saturday night with the Garden Party After Party, featuring live music and an eclectic set of awards presented by The Spinoff, Verb Wellington and Eleven. Tickets are $15 or free if you’re a Spinoff Member or Verb Community Member (but be quick: free ticket reservations close at midnight tonight, Friday 12 February).

From 6pm Saturday, The Hunter Lounge at Victoria University of Wellington. Buy or reserve tickets here or buy at the door.  

One half of Paekākāriki Pops, Amy Delahunty, in their ice block truck (Photo: Supplied)


One of the best things about an outdoor festival is the chance to picnic – whether it’s BYO or by bowling up to the food trucks, which at the Garden Party include dumpling and noodle food truck Mao and Co, Wildflower Coffee cart and Paekākāriki Pops real fruit iceblocks. Bring your picnic blankets!

All day Saturday and Sunday

Witi Ihimaera and Elizabeth Knox with Kim Hill

Kim Hill live and in person is always a treat, and this promises to be a great conversation with two of Aotearoa’s biggest literary stars. Elizabeth Knox, co-editor of the new anthology Monsters in the Garden, and Witi Ihimaera, author of Navigating the Stars: Māori Creation Myths, will join Hill to talk about sci fi and fantasy writing in Aotearoa.

1pm Sunday, The Soundshell.

Navigating the Stars by Taki Rua and Witi Ihimaera

In this hugely exciting new performance piece made by Taki Rua Productions with live music and an all star cast, the magical stories in Witi Ihimaera’s Navigating the Stars: Māori Creation Myths come to life. Kicking off Sunday’s programme, this is an unmissable free event for families.

10am Sunday, The Soundshell

Rachel Haydon, godsend (Photo: supplied)

Rachel Haydon and the Nature Activity Book

“Think of the most kid-focused, interesting and innovative parent you know; now picture having that parent silently on hand at all times.” That’s our books editor Catherine Woulfe on Rachel Haydon’s Nature Activity Book, a fantastic resource full of great ways to connect kids to nature. On Sunday Haydon is hosting a drop-in activity hour in The Treehouse visitor centre, and then two nature activity walking tours in the afternoon. All free.

Activity hour 11am Sunday, The Treehouse

Church & AP and Ria Hall

We’re rounding out each day with a chat and a performance from a great musical act. On Saturday, Church & AP will talk with Leonie Hayden and then play a half hour set, then on Sunday it’s Ria Hall’s turn to kōrero with Hayden, before performing a selection of her beautiful songs.

Church & AP, 2.30pm Saturday; Ria Hall, 2.30pm Sunday

The Garden Party is a new summer festival celebrating talks, food and music in Pōneke. Brought to you by The Spinoff and Verb Wellington. February 20-21 2021, entrance free or by koha. More information.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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The Sport OGs, photographed in 1988. Clockwise from left: Nigel Cox, Fergus Barrowman, Damien Wilkins, Elizabeth Knox. (Photo: Supplied)

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