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Featherston Booktown Festival

What is a booktown, you may well ask? Alex Johnson in his book Book Towns: Forty-five Paradises of the Printed Word defines it as “simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries.” The most well-known booktowns are Hay-on-Wye in Wales and Wigtown in Scotland (the location of Shaun Bythell’s... Continue Reading →

Flash Fiction

I’ve been bereft at the sudden closure of the Wellington Central Library last month. I used to go there two or three times a week but now I have to check the opening hours of another branch and get in my car – so I haven’t bothered. I thought I would make a dent in... Continue Reading →

SHE WILL SWIM NIAGARA: Millie Viola

Millie Viola was the stage name used by various female balloonists who appeared with Professor James Price. Their first billing was at the Minnesota State Fair in 1888. Millie made several appearances around Salt Lake City in 1889, until Price (forced to leave town in a hurry) resurfaced in Australia the following year — with... Continue Reading →

Cycloramas

Cycloramas were a popular form of entertainment in the late 19th century until the arrival of the cinema diminished their appeal. They depicted a famous historic event in a huge 360-degree oil painting fixed to the internal wall of a large, purpose-built, circular building. The picture was viewed from a central platform with real objects,... Continue Reading →

Best Books 2018

I read exactly 100 books last year which is probably a record for me. An update of the statistics from my first blog post: Half of the fiction books I read were historical fiction. This year included more New Zealand authors, and more biographies and memoirs. I tried to get back into reading more short... Continue Reading →

Kreitmayer’s Waxworks

Waxworks were a fixture on Melbourne’s Bourke Street from 1857. First established as Madame Lee’s Waxworks and located opposite the Eastern Markets, Ellen Williams took over the business the following year. When she married phrenologist Philemon Sohier in 1859, it became Madame Sohier's Waxwork Exhibition with another branch in Sydney. The Sohiers, however, met an... Continue Reading →

Heritage Week

Old High Court Building Open Day & Exhibition: The Old High Court building is now part of the Supreme Court complex and the ceremonial courtroom was opened to the public for Heritage Week in Wellington. I went along for a look and found the theatrical design of the courtroom with its kauri panelling, large canopy... Continue Reading →

The Fakir of Oolu: Illusionist

Alfred Silvester (1831 – 1886) was a magician who first appeared in London in the 1860s with Pepper’s Ghost, a transparent ghostly illusion created by reflecting an image onto a sheet of glass. A special effect, similar to the holograph, it’s still used today in amusement rides such as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Silvester ran into... Continue Reading →

Bibliomania: Wellington Bookshops

Starting with the annual DCM book fair I’ve been on a bit of a book-buying binge lately, so for dedicated bibliophiles here is a miscellany of new and second-hand bookstores in and around central Wellington. Conveniently, my two favourite bookshops (Unity and Arty Bees) both have a bus stop right outside. Unity Books Unity Books... Continue Reading →

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