Interview with Paddy Austin

This interview took place as part of our 2008 coverage of The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. Read our 2010 coverage.

Paddy Austin is chair of the Christchurch Book Festival Trust. We asked her a few questions about what she is looking forward to about the festival and her memories of libraries and books that have shaped her reading.

Kate AtkinsonPaddy says she is a fan of Kate Atkinson so is looking forward to hearing her. “Also Kate Mosse, whose session I’m chairing (although I’m a bit nervous about that!) and of course Robert Fisk will be fascinating to hear.”

We asked her if there was a particular festival event that she thinks will surprise and delight people if they go along. “I hear that On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her young lover will be the best Powerpoint presentation you’ve ever heard”

We asked “which books went into the building of you?”.

Paddy said “My earliest memories are Christopher Robin and nursery rhymes – they taught me the beauty of words. And then, the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Billabong series were all favourites for a country kid. More recently, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Janet Frame, Antonia Fraser – gosh, they’re all women! And of course many, many more, and not all women!”

Paddy’s first memory of the library was a bit traumatic but she overcame that and is an active library customer.

I should really hate libraries, because my first memory of our home town library was being caught short as a four year old and humiliatingly wetting my pants! But libraries are like treasure troves to me – full of surprises…
I remember spending hours going down fascinating alleyways with the Bloomsbury set when I was supposed to be doing specific research on Virginia Woolf for an essay, going to the Christchurch Public Library and browsing the stacks and finding unexpected delights. And of course, now – the electronic databases and ordering service make the library use so easy. But I still like to go in and browse, and inhale the smell of much-read books.

September 2008