Dunedin has a wonderfully vibrant and active literary events calendar and is notorious for its long-standing tradition of public readings and poetry. The City generously presents a wide variety of bookish related programmes; from walking tours, writing workshops and educational seminars, through to preschool storytime sessions, reading programmes, author talks, exhibitions and play readings. With a well-earned reputation for delivering quality literary programmes and speakers to a wide range of audiences, Dunedin brings to life and honours annual national literary celebrations, such as New Zealand Poetry Day, and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Here are a selection of the key events celebrated annually in the City.

See What's On for more events.


January: Robert Burns' Birthday

Dunedin has a familial link to Robert Burns, in the form of his nephew, Dr Thomas Burns - who was one of the City's founding fathers during Scottish settlement. Robert Burns’ birthday, 25 January, is celebrated in Dunedin in a variety of ways. Highlights include a performance by the finalists of the Robert Burn’s Poetry and Robbie Rocks competitions, along with a memorable Burns Supper.

May: Dunedin’s Writers and Readers Festival

A stand alone Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival! Featuring an exciting lineup of high profile international and New Zealand writers, alongside multi-genre events and experiences for young people, this is an event not to be missed! Supported by Creative New Zealand, Dunedin City Council, Otago University Press, the University Book Shop, and the Otago Community Trust, the Festival includes a range of multi genre events, and is an inspiring addition to Dunedin’s literary event calendar.

May: NZ Music Month

Firmly entrenched as part of our cultural landscape, over the course of the last decade the month of May has gone from a period of encouraging radio to play more local tunes, to a 31 day celebration of homegrown talent across the length and breadth of the country. Throughout May each year, Dunedin Public Libraries work in collaboration with dunedinmusic.com to bring a month of live music performances into our library spaces; from weekly Gig Nights to single lunchtime acoustic sessions, to school kapa haka and choir performances. Our local musical lyricists are honoured and encouraged to perform in a free for all environment.

July: Māori Language Week

Māori Language Week, te wiki o te reo Māori, is a government-sponsored initiative to encourage New Zealanders to promote the use of Māori language. Māori, English and New Zealand Sign Language are the official national languages of New Zealand. 

May: Regent 24hr Booksale

The 24 Hour Book Sale is the largest sale of second-hand books in New Zealand, and reputedly the largest in the Southern hemisphere. Buyers come from throughout New Zealand for the sale, which helps raise funds that go directly back into the theatre. The sale runs from 12 noon on a Friday through to 12 noon on a Saturday. A continuous stream of local musicians support the sale, by playing a variety of music to all in attendance, making for one magic combination - books and music!

July: New Zealand Young Writers Festival

As social as it is serious, the NZYWF is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded literary types, through a mix of workshops, discussions, performances and parties.

Whether your literary idols include Eleanor Catton, Nicky Hager, or Hone Kouka, this is a chance to think about writing in all its forms, now and into the future. 

All events are free, so all you need to is get here, thanks to the generous support of Creative New Zealand, the Otago Community Trust, and the Dunedin City Council.

August: National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day is a New Zealand-wide celebration of poetry and runs in conjunction with the New Zealand Post Book Awards. National Poetry Day sees poets - both fledgling and award-winning - take to the streets, cafes, auditoriums and class rooms all over the country to read, rap, dance and sing. There’s something for everyone. National Poetry Day isn’t just for established poets; it’s also for people who simply want to give poetry a go. So if you harbour a desire to perform a piece of your own, this is the day to throw caution to the wind.

October: Otago Festival of the Arts

The Otago Festival of the Arts celebrates the excellent and the extra-ordinary. It envelops Dunedin in a magical whirlwind of captivating music, thought-provoking theatre, magical dance, side-splitting comedy, literature, visual arts and much, much more. This major cultural event presents a stellar array of international and New Zealand performers - along with Otago's finest artists. The Otago Festival promises to be a startling celebration of creative endeavour and is always rich and varied. 

October: ScienceTeller Festival

ScienceTeller is a biennial festival, celebrating storytelling and science dedicated to documentary filmmaking, writing and other creative media. A feast of stories about science are told in original, entertaining and thought-provoking ways, and the festival program combines public screenings, events and workshops with stimulating talks by by internationally renowned and high profile guests. The festival will be held annually.

November: Ignition Kids Book Festival

Fire up your imagination at the only festival in the South Island dedicated exclusively to children's books!
Bring the family to Dunedin City and enjoy three days of stories, magic, crafts, films and fun with some very special guest aurhors and illustrators. 

Presented by Ignition Kids Children's Book Festival, a partnership with University Book Shop Otago and Dunedin Public Libraries.

Dunedin Public Libraries Booksales

The Dunedin Public Libraries is forever refreshing its collections, so Book Sales help create room for the latest books, music and movies on the Library shelves. Shoppers can find a bargain, whether they seek a novel, biography, specialty book, magazine, children’s book, CDs or DVDs. These sales are the Libraries biggest events of the year, attracting thousands of bargain hunters, and visitors are encouraged to bring friends and family for a treasure hunt that is bound to please. Make sure you don’t miss out on the book sale - where you will walk out with an armful of entertainment for little more than loose change.


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