Topic: 03. Liz Miller remembers...

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Liz Miller remembers... the early days of Glistening Waters that developed from a dream she held for many years.

Liz Miller remembers…

In 1991 I went to Masterton to help re-establish the work in the children’s library.

I went with a dream lying dormant in my heart.  A dream to make my own city of Invercargill the centre of storytelling for New Zealand.  To establish an International Festival of Storytelling.

One weekend I was riding in the librarian’s car and I mentioned my dream.

Joy Tutty, the librarian, said,  “Well, why don’t you do it here?”

And so began the long and exciting journey to the establishment of the Glistening Waters International Storytelling Festival and also the New Zealand Guild of Storytellers.


The next step was a letter I received from the Masterton Council stating that they would back me if I decided to hold a storytelling festival in Masterton. They didn’t say how they would back me but it was enough for me.


I can’t recall the order of all the steps we took from that moment but we moved fast since we held that first festival in October of 1992.    Less than 2 years from the moment of the commitment.

We established a committee.

An application to the QEII Arts Council brought the funding for me to go to Jonesborough, Tennessee.  This is the venue for the largest storytelling festival in the world and in a very small town.  The two plans were for me to see how a storytelling festival was organized and to meet possible guest tellers for our event.  I did both then went on around USA to meet more.  This was very productive as I met many of the superb storytellers we have since hosted in NZ.

Funding for these tellers came from many sources.  We had sponsors here in NZ and in the USA.  I visited a number of embassies in Wellington and several sponsored tellers from their countries.  Australians came for free as long as we hosted them and gave free registration.

We walked the streets of Masterton for sponsorships and support.  It was forthcoming in many ways.  We found a venue, which was wonderful even if fairly far out of town.  Rathkeale College was so lovely.

We made our plans and the excitement mounted.  I visited the organizer of the Wellington Festival for suggestions and he told me that we would fail unless we had a formal business plan and that, in any case, such festivals always made a loss.   So I was to be warned.

We didn’t have a formal business plan.

We didn’t make a loss.    In fact the profit was about $20,000

We did it our way.

We cared for our tellers, for our audiences and for our workers.   

We involved children, too, with a “children as storytellers” session.

We had an afternoon of Maori storytelling.

We organized tours for some of our tellers so the rest of the country could have this experience though that did not carry on into other years.


Who were our tellers that first year?   The roll call has some remarkable names and every teller gave richly to our people.         So many styles, so many rich listening experiences:

Diane Ferlatte, USA – sponsored by Waewae Tapu;

David Campbell, Scotland – sponsored by British Council;

Dr Margaret Read MacDonald, USA – sponsored by Masterton Lands Trust;

Nan Gregory, Canada – sponsored by Canadian External Affairs;

Heather Cromer, USA – sponsored by various donations;

Paul Middellijn, Netherlands – sponsored by Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Norman Fisher & Victor Bond, Australia – sponsored by Australia/New Zealand Foundation;

John Braden Dashney, USA and Jay O’Callahan  – both sponsored by Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions;

Zoe Robb, Leigh Kibby, Jenni Woodroffe, Bettina Nissen, Nell Bell, Anne Stewart, Meg Philp-Paterson from Australia;

Mona Williams, Bringwonder Derek Gordon, Spinna Gordon Hall, Rangimoana Taylor, Dreamweaver Liz Miller from New Zealand.

We also had a voluntary lawyer who helped us establish the New Zealand Guild of Storytellers that was incorporated the next year and still operates throughout NZ.

All this happened over that one Labour Day weekend.

When it was all over we were so exhausted but so happy.

And we girded our loins to begin again with the next festival in 1994.

We learned some and made improvements and so it went every two years until the recession recently.

My hope is that it will be re-born either in Masterton or somewhere else.

Glistening Waters has a very special place in the hearts of storytellers around the world as a unique to New Zealand event.




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03. Liz Miller remembers... by Janet Hayes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License