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2024 Opening Night Event

Campfire Stories

Friday Feburary 16, 2024 • 6 - 9pm
Ellen Melville Centre, 2 Freyberg Place

The 2024 festival weekend opens with a Friday night gala, MC'd by George Fowler. 

The gala will kick off with the announcement of the winners of the Peter Wells Short Fiction Contest. For the 2024 competition, we've asked ​writers to create their own campfire story: "one that excites, mystifies, frightens, inspires: makes us laugh, swoon, rage". The 2024 contest is organised by Michael Giacon and judged by Bad Apple editor Damien Levi and Parallel bookstore co-founder Luna Lee.

Next, a lineup of LGBTQIA+ authors from across Aotearoa will take the stage to read new work they’ve written, again drawing on the prompt of ‘Campfire Stories'. We'll hear new work from Sascha Stronach, Keagan Carr Fransch, Gina Cole, Samuel Te Kani and Anthony Lapwood.


Campfire Stories will be supported by a live NZSL interpreter.

Free to attend, no reservation required.

This event is part of the 2024 Auckland Pride Festival. Find out more here.

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Anthony Lapwood

Photo by Ebony Lamb

He / Him

Ngāti Ranginui Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Whakaue

Anthony Lapwood  is a fiction writer living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington.  His story collection Home Theatre won the Hubert Church Prize for  Fiction at the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and was a finalist  in the Sir Julius Vogel Awards that year.   Anthony’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications, most recently the anthology Hiwa: Contemporary Māori Short Stories.

Damien Levi

Photo by Sylvia Louis-Marie

He / Him

Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi

Damien Levi is an editor, emerging publisher and occasional writer. He is the lead editor for the online takatāpui  LGBTQIA+ journal bad apple, the founder of Āporo Press and co-editor of  the poetry anthology Spoiled Fruit (2023) alongside Amber Esau. He was one of the group programmers for Verb Readers & Writers Festival  2023. Damien's writing can be found in Overcom, Te Pararē, Pūhia and The Spinoff.

George Fowler

He / Him

George Fowler is an rainbow diversity and inclusion consultant and a world-class drag performer based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa. As his alter ego Hugo Grrrl, he won season 1 of House of Drag, making him the first drag king and transgender man globally to ever compete in or win a televised drag competition. He headlined the Austin International Drag Festival in 2019, and was nominated for Wellingtonian of The Year in 2018.

Michael Giacon

Photo by Rachel Lynch

He / Him / They

A poet, songwriter, performer, MC and educator, Michael has lived, studied, worked, written and wondered all his life on the central isthmus of Tāmaki Makaurau. Michael holds an MA in Creative Writing from AUT and won the Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems, with Argento in no man land. He is publishing his first book of poetry in March-April 2024.

Luna Lee

Photo by Becki Moss

They / Them

Luna Lee is the founder, head dreamer and buyer at Parallel. A multidisciplinary artist and creative force, Luna runs the Tāmaki Makaurau-based bookstore, coffee house, and community space where they bring together all things alternate, imagined, and in-between. Luna created Parallel to celebrate the transformative power of speculative fiction, provide a platform for outsider voices, and create a community space that is welcoming, warm and safe.

Sascha Stronach

She / Her

Kāi Tahu

Sascha Stronach (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka Ki Pukiteraki) is an author and poet based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her debut novel The Dawnhounds won the 2020 SJV Award for Best Novel and was subsequently picked up and re-released internationally by Simon & Schuster in 2022. You can find her writing in The Spinoff, The Boston Review, and The Pantograph Punch.

Samuel Te Kani

Photo by Franca Chase

He / Him


Samuel Te Kani is a writer based in Tamaki. He's written for The Spinoff, Vice, Pantograph Punch, Stuff, Art NZ, and various gallery publications. He's also released a collection of short fiction called Please, Call Me Jesus with Dead Bird Publishing, and recently finished a Netflix director's intensive mentored by Dame Jane Campion.

Keagan Carr Fransch

She / Her

Keagan Carr Fransch is an actor, director, writer and dramaturg. She is a graduate of the University of Waikato, Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She recently directed seven methods of killing kylie jenner by Jasmine Lee-Jones, for Silo Theatre (2022), and her plays Dimensions in Black and Mitochondrial Eve were shortlisted for the Adam NZ Play award (2023).

Gina Cole

Photo by Vicky Leopold

She / Her

Gina Cole is a Fijian/Pākehā, queer writer living in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her short story collection Black Ice Matter won Best First Book Fiction 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Her fiction, poetry and essays have been widely anthologized. Her science fiction fantasy novel Na Viro (2022) is a work of Pasifikafuturism. In 2023 she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to literature.

Ellen Melville Centre

2 Freyberg Place, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1000


Ellen Melville Centre is in Freyberg Square, opposite the rainbow staircase in central Auckland. This event will be held on the first floor of the venue, in the Pioneer Women's Hall. The hall is wheelchair friendly, via an elevator, and has an accessible toilet.

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