ALEXANDER BISLEY peeks beneath the covers of the Christchurch Writers Festival, from September 4.

NOT ONLY is Auckland inspiringly challenging Wellington’s Writers’ Festival, now Christchurch is having a go, too. The big draw is legendary war correspondent Robert Fisk (who will also appear at an Amnesty International event in Wellington). I interviewed this appealing tsunami of a man, synonymous with writing and fighting savvy, during his first visit to Wellington in 2006. “I think film has an unstoppable power to convince if it’s properly made. When I was at school I wanted to be a film critic,” he enthused.

“Fuck yeah, it’s great. I mean, it’s hard work, it’s real hard. I wouldn’t wish journalism on anyone really. It’s the last thing I want my daughter to do,” Festivalista Steve Braunias, a hoot at the Auckland Festival, told Tom Fitzsimons in a compelling interview. “Poetry reminds us that it’s enough to be alive, we’re all rich,” Fellow Festivalista Glenn Colquhoun offers another perspective on writing.

Another Christchurch platter highlight is charismatic chef Richard Till, who wants readers to see themselves and ordinary life, full of its extraordinary quirks and twists, in his writing. “The ordinary is the substance of the lives of all of us and it is undervalued. I hope to increase its perceived value. I believe strongly that we are innately generous. That reciprocity is the driving force of society.”

Till, most well known for his acclaimed TV show Kiwi Kitchen, is the Sunday-Star Times “Man About the Land” food columnist. “I have great hunger for opportunity.”

Till, also a technical director/theatre designer at the University of Canterbury, is often involved in raising dosh for various community projects. “I usually try to turn the event away from a fatuous cooking demonstration towards being a community event… I enjoy the cooking at least as much as, if not more than, the eating.”

He is known for the community dinners he organises, inspired by the fulsome dinner for Queen Victoria’s son Alfred in Christchurch in 1864. All the labour, ingredients and equipment were donated by members of the community and guests gave a gold coin. 2000 people of the then total population of 9000 were served a meal. “I loved the idea of the power of harnessing the collective abilities of the community. Many small acts co-ordinated.”

Till aims to beat the 1864 dinner in terms of the proportion of the Christchurch community involved: that means a dinner for 70,000. “I’ve plenty of years left in me yet and am building a few people around me with the knowledge base to assist in the logistical planning. Every one I do is another step towards it, offering lessons about how people work together. Hope is trust. Trust in providence and the goodness of people.”