It’s August, and that part of this City of Literature’s calendar given over to enlightening speakers, fervent debate, and general conviviality known as The Melbourne Writers Festival.
Headquartered at Federation Square, using ACMI,Deakin Edge and the forecourt, this ideas fest kicks off 25 August till Sunday 3 September. This year’s program has a diverse lineup that will have your little grey cells firing well into 2018! It’s the perfect time to write your Christmas/summer reading list. 200 volunteers are about to guide you through it.
Melbourne’s is the premier national literary festival. Each season brings a unique character. This year it’s of polemics, politics and activism. With a Schools program, the MWF blog already underway, and plenty of first-class free sessions, don’t think this event is out of your reach! Live illustrators at work, cult literary stars, mouthy journalists, iconic cultural figures and an opinionated cognoscenti are a few of the cast to have you part of this Melbourne conversation.
An eclectic mix of genres, polities, and people is on offer in 2017:
- American keynote speaker Joyce Carol Oates is the coup of this year. She presents two talks, one on bearing witness as a novelist, her second, on the dark side of womanhood. She is joined in stature by transgender American activist, Janet Mock, flown to our shores to talk visibility and voice. The author of Redefining Realness, she recalls her own life growing up queer and poor, and her work journey into New York’s media scene.
- Topical social issues air, including housing affordability, climate activism, the misuse of metadata, and AI and a workless society. Don’t miss Dutch historian Rutger Brugman’s Utopia For Realists on progressive social reforms now trialling. We also hear about Russia today.
- Human rights activist and lawyer, Julian Burnside, talks injustice. A man who speaks out for refugees, and critiques national laws, this will be a love-in with the guy who sports a mean bowtie. Australian Rusty Young, financier and lawyer, is a catch, with his expose of Bolivian drug smuggling. He now heads a charity assisting child soldiers exit the civil war in Colombia.
- A favourite 2016 addition allows international students to describe their Melbourne, in words or pictures, in My Place In Melbourne, with award attached. There are also fabulous events where migrants, such as Somali-born public speaker Abdi Aden, speak of their journey to citizenship in How I Came To Australia. Behind The Wire features live readings and short films from people held in immigration detention off our shores.
- Enjoy an inbuilt mini-feminist fest covering women writers, revolutionary women, sexism as a mental health crisis, and rape culture. Clementine Ford sets trigger concepts alight (Are Men Ruining Feminism?), heading a list of go-to female commentators with plenty to say.
- International guests also include Canadian-Indian Anosh Irani, whose Bombay-set story of a transgender sex worker, The Parcel, met critical acclaim, and New York’s Elizabeth Kostova, of The Historian, both who’ll get the fiction fans in the audience excited.
- Experience the Festival on the move to hear writers speak at local libraries in the ‘burbs and at other city sites. Big name writers, such as Alice Pung, Hannah Kent, Tom Keneally, and Osamah Sami appear out of the centre as events move to Dandenong, Camberwell, Geelong, Beaumaris, the Monash Gallery, The University of Melbourne, and The Immigration Museum.
- Saving something meaty ‘til last, don’t miss one of the closing sessions with our own beloved bete noire novelist, Christos Tsalkos, as he leads a panel talk revolution with a group of Australasia’s best minds.
- As ever, get down to hear those who sit outside a mainstream discourse question the way things are understood, at the Queer Literary Salon, hosted by Melbourne’s inimitable drag artist, Karen From Finance. Festival Prize events also include The Ned Kelly’s, for crime writing, and the Australian Centre Literary Awards, in partnership with the University of Melbourne.
- With a dedicated Harry Potter Day celebrating its 20-year anniversary, you have a dress up parade, face painting, a trivia comp., a live Fed Square podcast, film screening, and Hogwarts acting lessons for all ages to get their Potter on.
Events fill quickly, so get your warm up going by ‘booking’ asap – online ticketing, as well as in the literary sense!
Sarah W. is a dance-trained culture lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality art that pushes the envelope.
Melbourne Writers Festival runs 25 August – 3 September 2017 across a range of venues and locations. Book tickets here.
Most venues are accessible.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of the Melbourne Writers Festival.
Image credit: The Melbourne Writers Festival.