If you are planning any literary pursuits in August, then make sure you check the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF). It returns for another year with 11 fantastic days of interaction with leading writers and thinkers from across Australia and around the globe. Running from 21 to 31 August, this annual event is jam-packed with more than 400 events and topics ranging from news and current affairs and international issues to food, art, music, history and innovation. MWF will also celebrate local luminaries and welcome the world's best writers from Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
Melbourne is one of seven UNESCO Cities of Literature and MWF showcases this. There are just too many activities to list, so I checked in with Lisa Dempster, the Festival Director on some exciting bits to get everyone talking. Here are our 7 reasons to make multiple dates with the Festival this August.
1. A scroll of big name guests
More than 400 authors, thinkers, commentators and creative artists will converge in Melbourne over the 11 days. MWF will open with an address by Helen Garner, one of the country's best writers and multiple prize winner, best known for her non-fiction works like 'Monkey Grip', 'The First Stone', 'The Spare Room' and her latest, 'This House of Grief'. Publisher and philanthropist, Dave Eggers will close MWF with his address on 31 August. Dave is known for his independent publishing house McSweeney's and non-profit youth writing and tutoring centres '826 Valencia' and '826 National'.
Between Helen and Dave, there is a galaxy of literary stars. Big name guests include Meg Wolitzer, author of novel, 'The Interestings', named best book of the year by Time and The Chicago Tribune; Philip Hensher, Booker Prize-shortlisted English novelist; Luke Harding, award-winning foreign correspondent with The Guardian and author of 'The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man'; Gareth Evans, Former Foreign Minister and Attorney General who will unveil the personalities, conflicts and crisis of the Hawke-Keating government; Farah Mohamed, Social entrepreneur and CEO of G(irls)20 and many many more.
This year's Festival will feature everything from large auditorium events to conversations over coffee, panel discussions, forums and even a walking tour. The events are designed to be confronting, controversial or thought provoking. If you're passionate about news and current affairs, Lisa and her team have prepared 'The Agenda' stream. If you are more interested in World War One, 'Words & War' series marks its centenary with leading historians, writers and artists from Australia and abroad. The 'Art, Design & Innovation' group of events discussed how stories are being shared in the digital age. The 'Connect & Explore' events allows you to explore reading on the go whether on tram, on foot and even in pubs and cafes.
Some of the event highlights include the John Button Oration delivered by Fred Chaney AO, former Senator for Western Australia, member of the board of Reconciliation Australia and 2014 Senior Australian of the Year regarding the future for Indigenous reconciliation and the need for translating ideas into effective action. Sir Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize winning author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses, will deliver a keynote address about 'freedom to write' on 28 August. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Former High Court judge and UN Commissioner will deliver the 2014 Alan Missen Oration.
Melbourne's pubs, clubs, theatres and salons will be transformed by MWF as words and storytelling are transferred from the page to the stage. Get ready for an entertaining program of social events featuring songwriters, musicians, cabaret artists and poets. Some highlights include 'Shakespeare's Secret' which adopts a rock'n'roll twist to the sonnets and soliloquies of William Shakespeare; 'Funemployed' by award-winning writer and art-folk humourist Justin Heazlewood will share an entertaining view of the highlights and lowlights of life as an Australian artist; and a rolling revue which celebrates Wales' most famous poet, playwright and author, Dylan Thomas.
You can't separate some of life's pleasures, which includes wine, food, travel and a good book. MWF will bring the world of fine wine, gourmet food and adventurous travel to Melbourne. Some highlights include writers from the cities of Singapore, Jakarta, Shanghai and Beijing who will connect Melbourne to cultural and social intricacies of its Asian neighbours; food experts Alla Wolf-Tasker and Phillippa Grogan chatting about the resurgence of simpler living and eating in an era of heavily manufactured convenience; founder of Lonely Planet Tony Wheeler discusses the pleasures of reading travel books; and a group of intrepid adventurers including the country's most accomplished high-altitude mountaineer Andrew Lock, will share their epic and inspiring travel stories across Indonesia, from Mongolia to Hungary, England to Hong Kong or up Mount Everest.
MWF invites children, youths and families to discover the magic of reading and writing in a family friendly environment over the festival days. Some highlights include creative workshops and a pop-up exhibition at ArtPlay; explore how a picture book is created and create an illustration of your very own; and children aged 3 to 6 years can learn ABCs in a fun way with letters and shapes found in the city of Melbourne. There are also over 70 events and more than 40 authors, illustrators and storytellers involved in MWF's school program for students aged 7 to 16 years.
6. Plenty of FREE events
Photo courtesy of ABC
The Festival will see more than 100 free events for everyone to enjoy. Some highlights include a taping of ABC's The Book Club hosted by Jennifer Byrne with special MWF guests Meg
Wolitzer and Rupert Thompson at the studio in Elsternwick on 22 August; a conversation with Turkish human rights activist and publisher Ragip Zarakolu about the challenging conditions in Turkey to support those working for human rights at The Wheeler Centre on 29 August; and Illustrator Oslo Davis will be sketching browsers and book-swappers inside The Little Library at Level 2 of Melbourne Central on 30 August.
The Optic Kitchen Bar in Federation Square will be serving as the Festival Club. Writers, readers and festival-goers will be gathering daily to chat, eat and drink. There will also be a Morning Read event hosted by Big Issue books editor, Thuy On with a selection of the Festival artists at 10am from 22 to 24 August and 29 to 31 August. You might just get to meet one of your literary idols. The Festival Club is open till late from 8.30am on weekdays, 9.30am on Sautrday and 10.30am on Sunday.
Lisa and her team have put together an exciting program and they look forward to people coming together and sharing their love of reading and ideas. The full 2014 program and details of all guests and events can be found at www.mwf.com.au. Grab your tickets today at the website.