It's 'Outspoken' by name and manner

The organisers of Wanaka's Outspoken festival, Julie Le (left) and Liz Breslin. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
The organisers of Wanaka's Outspoken festival, Julie Le (left) and Liz Breslin. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Make no mistake, Wanaka's newest arts festival, Outspoken, is ''about as far away from reciting poetry as you can get'', its founders insist.

The inaugural non-profit festival of words debuts on January 12 with weekly performances from top New Zealand wordsmiths. It continues through until February 18.

Its organisers, festival development manager Julia Le and performer and artist liaison Liz Breslin, are quick to reject any suggestion of dull poetry recitals in describing the event.

''No. It's more like stand-up stuff, spilling your guts ... more like story-telling in the old tradition of the bards,'' Ms Breslin said.

''Often when you say poetry, people can switch off,'' Ms Le added.

The Outspoken concept came from festival patron and arts lover Luc Bohyn, of Wanaka restaurant Bistro Gentil - one of the featured venues.

''He remembered these brilliant dinner performances he'd been to in Europe ... where you had food and drink and spoken word, and he just said they were magic,'' Ms Breslin said.

Performers coming to venues across Wanaka - and a Cromwell winery - include poet Sam Hunt, former New Zealand National Poetry Slam champion Ali Jacs, rapping hip hop poet Tourettes (also known as Dominic Hoey), South Auckland Poets Collective and the Upper Clutha's own Ms Breslin - who founded the Poetic Justice Wanaka group.

As well as entertaining and engaging the community by bringing the spoken word to life, the festival aimed to inspire others to use their own words creatively, Ms Breslin said.

''That it's all right to play with your words and your feelings and for it to be a celebrated thing.

''Outspoken is about debunking the myth that words are only for bookworms ... storytelling is a wonderful medium for fostering self-confidence, so we are also taking performers to the schools and giving locals an audience with the Wanaka Showcase.''

As well as Mr Bohyn's financial contribution to get the festival off the ground, some community sponsorship has been received and a grant from the Upper Clutha Arts Council will enable local school pupils with a flair for the arts to attend performances.

However, further sponsors were being sought to help make the festival an annual community event, the women said.