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Leipzig Book Fair reception leaves Kiwis awed

By March 21, 2012No Comments

A tired but elated Kevin Chapman (PANZ President) spoke to PANZ News last night from Berlin. “Leipzig was way ahead of anything we’d expected. New Zealand authors only had to get up on one of the two stages and an audience quickly gathered.”

The author interviews/discussions, with a moderator and a translator, were in two places – one, a small stage on the large exhibition area shared by the Frankfurt Book Fair, a German publisher and the New Zealand contingent. The other was the much larger International Stage, where there were often 30 or 40 people waiting. “But as soon as the talking started, people filled the seats. The German audience is fascinated by New Zealand.”
German photographer Antonia Steeg, who now lives here and whose work will shortly be published by Te Papa Press, showed a video presentation of shots taken on the South Island’s high country stations. According to Kevin, this really pulled the crowds – and must have been a huge push for German tourists to visit here.
“German publishers were very welcoming to us,” said Kevin. He also spoke to the commissioner of the Iceland Guest of Honour programme who he’d met previously at Frankfurt. “I was told by him that feedback he’d heard was that ‘everyone was amazed how much we’d got done so quickly.’ I hope it is true!”
Kevin said the Leipzig presence was a small-version practise in putting together a cultural programme, one that will be hugely expanded for September and October in German cities Cologne, Berlin and Hamburg prior to the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Sopranos Aivale Cole and Madeleine Pierard were stars of the cultural programme along with the New Zealand String Quartet – Pierard sang Kiwi composer Ross Harris’ The Abiding Tides with the quartet in an exotic rococo Leipzig setting. Sarah Ropata’s work in bringing together authors and topics and the cultural programme was outstanding, said Kevin.
The New Zealand contingent – ten authors, six publishers – were also sought-after media interview subjects at Leipzig. It is expected plenty of German media will be coming through New Zealand in the next few months.
Before leaving Leipzig, the New Zealand delegation had an informal dinner for the whole team. Kevin concluded that “the good thing about us New Zealanders is that we just get up and go for it!”
Antonia Steeg called her presentation Living the New Zealand Dream, said Kevin. “I realised that is true – so many Germans dream of living here, an un-crowded land of natural beauty. To them, we are exotic!