Q&A: Pukapuka Adventures at Auckland Writers Festival

The 2024 Auckland Writers Festival is coming up in a week with events taking place from 14 – 19 May. We asked the children’s events programmer Gabrielle Vincent about what’s going on for kids at the festival, and especially about Pukapuka Adventures.

What is the difference between the Schools Programme and Pukapuka Adventures?

Pukapuka Adventures is a free weekend of family content suited for a wide range of ages, from babies through to intermediate-aged children. It has a variety of performances and activities all inspired by recently released children’s books. The kaupapa behind Pukapuka Adventures is for families to delight in children’s literature, share magical moments together, and ignite imaginations.    

The Schools Programme runs over three days and focuses on a slightly older age group, with sessions for upper primary through to secondary. Around 6,000 students attend the school sessions and they will hear from authors who will speak about their books and journey into writing. We also have workshops available for intermediate and secondary school students. 

Having a children’s programme within this festival means young people start to feel comfortable in arts spaces, and we are growing the future generation of arts and literature lovers.

Why do you think children’s programming is important at book festivals?

It is critical for so many reasons:

  • Having a children’s programme within this festival means young people start to feel comfortable in arts spaces, and we are growing the future generation of arts and literature lovers. 
  • At Auckland Writers Festival, we want to create as many different access points for children to connect with books, and the family programme aims to bring books to life and help children make special memories with their families. 
  • Another great thing about a children’s programme is that children can actually meet the authors, which is magical in itself, and learn about the different processes of writing. This will hopefully spur on a desire to continue reading and writing. It is a reminder that authors are real people, and that this is a possible career for children. 
  • As all the staff and readers at The Sapling know, books are so necessary for all humans and all ages—for learning, escapism, emotional connection and regulation, expanding imaginations, and so much more. We want all children to have the opportunity to access the world of books. 
[Image description: Photo looking up Auckland’s Queen Street with ASB on the left and the Civic on the right, with the Pipi and Pou cover title and the title characters imposed on top of the photo.]

How did you decide who or what to include in this year’s children’s events?

This was a hard task as so many incredible books were pitched by publishers. I wanted to make sure each session felt unique and that through our programming, we were engaging with a broad range of children and their interests. 

What is the benefit of having international guests?

Our Schools Programme always features a few international authors, and this year we have three writers travelling from different parts of the world. These authors provide different perspectives and offer context on our experience in Aotearoa.

The Pukapuka Adventures programme features all Aotearoa-based writers and illustrators. 

What is new to the children’s and family programming at AWF this year?

We are building on what was created in previous years and have expanded the programme. The Pukapuka Adventures sessions are even more interactive, and we will have extra crafting and making activities available. This year we have two ticketed events—The Bookish Family Quiz and Stinky Poo, Stinky Poo: A Staged Reading of Badjelly the Witch. We are also delivering an app-based experience by Tim Tipene and developers PickPath, called Pipi and Pou and the Forgotten Stream: A Walking Adventure. This is completely new territory for us, which is super exciting.

Cover of Badjelly the Witch

What are some highlights of the Pukapuka Adventures events?

Pipi and Pou and the Forgotten Stream: A Walking Adventure will be a particularly special event. Audiences are invited to join Tim Tipene’s acclaimed superheroes Pipi and Pou on a mission from Aotea Centre, tracking the Waihorotiu stream down Queen Street. Horotiu, the taniwha, lives deep underground and he is unhappy, as the stream in his care has been forgotten. 

The app will direct families on the journey as a new Pipi and Pou story will unfold, and there are interactive elements along the walk. This app-based journey is free and requires no bookings—all you need to do is download the PickPath app, follow the instructions on our website and bring the kids for an awesome, unique and educational adventure! It is available on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 May from 10 am – 4 pm.

The Illustrator Showdown in Pukapuka Adventures will also be a lot of fun. The audience will decide what they want Giselle Clarkson and Toby Morris to draw and each will sketch a whole creature and world on stage against a ticking clock.  


[Image description: On the left a cartoon self-portrait of Giselle Clarkson and on the right a cartoon self-portrait of Toby Morris]

What will the children’s hub on Level 5 of the Aotea Centre be like? Will there be spaces or accommodations for neurodivergent children (or adults!) and those with sensory or other needs?

Down one end of Level 5 we will have a stage where all the performances and readings take place. Back from that will be activity tables where children (and adults) can make their own zine, bookmarks, work out a knotty problem with Selina Tusitala Marsh’s Mophead Cards, and more. Separate from these areas is a place for calm, where we have four ‘reading caves’, which are sensory blackout tents sponsored by Sensory Sam. In each of these tents are weighted blankets, weighted toys, and torches, so kids can snuggle up with a book and escape the festival buzz if they need to. 

Gabrielle Vincent

Gabrielle Vincent (she/her) isa curator and producer of live performance from Tāmaki Makaurau. Gabrielle was the Programming Director for Basement Theatre from 2015 – 2019, and she still feels inspired by the determination and creativity of all the independent artists she got to work alongside within this role. After her time at Basement Theatre, Gabrielle became a māmā and then was welcomed back to the arts as Senior Producer of Tempo Dance Festival. From 2020 – to January 2023, she was the Artistic Director of the Tauranga Arts Festival, where she had the privilege of programming multidisciplinary arts experiences for Tauranga Moana. In 2022, Gabrielle curated Tauranga Festival’sEscape, where she programmed discussions with writers, panel talks, public and schools programme workshops, and numerous family-focussed performances and activities. Gabrielle's curation practice is focused on family and community-centred projects that authentically connect with audiences.