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Everything You Need To Know About The New-Look Melbourne Writers Festival

By Stephen A Russell
20th Aug 2018


In an auspicious year that marks the tenth anniversary of the Victorian capital as a City of Literature, the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) returns with a bold new direction for its 32nd birthday.

Kicking off a nine-day smorgasbord of writing and big ideas stretching from August 24 to September 2, Marieke Hardy waves goodbye to the ABC’s dearly departed The Book Club, stepping into the role of artistic director following the departure of Lisa Dempster.

There’s symmetry here in that Hardy’s Women of Letters co-founder Michaela McGuire took on the stewardship of the Sydney Writers Festival in 2016. Their baby – a salon-style platform for female writers all working to a chosen theme – will pop up at this year’s MWF too.

Broadening the focus considerably, Hardy’s MWF welcomes musicians, theatre-makers and even an Animal Church dedicated to writing about our beloved pets alongside the usual focus on books.  

Grouped under the overarching theme ‘A matter of life and death,’ she promises this year’s form-shaking MWF line-up will examine, “Survival, fluidity, impermanence, joy, grief, loss, love, determination and empathy.”

Major international drawcards include American author, journalist, comic book writer and soon-to-be Marvel movie scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates, potty-mouthed Trainspotting creator Irvine Welsh and American singer-songwriter and The New Pornographers band member Neko Case.

Also jetting in from the states are venerated The New Yorker writers Ronan Farrow, who broke major ground in the ongoing #Metoo debate, and sharp as a tack TV critic Emily Nussbaum.

Closer to home, much-loved comedian, marriage equality champion and Reckoning writer Magda Szubanski will host her own (hopefully far in the future) funeral, as a host of top-secret invitees toast her life and achievements. Basically the exact opposite of a roast.

She’ll also team up with Puberty Blues author Kathy Lette for Girl’s Night In, with fellow comedians Celia Pacquola and Anne Edmonds thoroughly interrogating the hoary old assertion that women aren’t funny.

How To Make Gravy author and beloved musician Paul Kelly embraces the influence of poets on his songwriting, from Emily Dickinson to WB Yeats, and appears in conversation with powerhouse poet and writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, who’s also appearing at a plethora of events.

Black Comedy creator and prolific playwright Nakkiah Lui, one of our brightest young talents, is a must-see, appearing in MWF events tackling racism, mental health, and even imagining of the maiden speech of Australia’s First President.

That Republican ritual sees her joined by the likes of MasterChef host Matt Preston and social media sensation Father Rod Bower, of the ever-controversial Gosford Parish billboard, whose new book Outspoken is coming soon. Speaking of folks who inspire internet furore, Yassmin Abdel-Magied will host a book club on George Orwell’s 1984 and join Homecoming Queens creators Corrie Chen and Michelle Law.

There’s even a literary sing-a-long hosted by The Long and Winding Way to the Top author, journalist and “failed indie rock star” Andrew P Street.

With the main action centred on Federation Square, particularly Deakin Edge and ACMI, the MWF Festival Bar will take over Beer DeLuxe. Local booksellers Readings will set up the official Festival Bookshop in the Atrium. 

The Wheeler Centre and the Athenaeum Theatre once more host the biggest stars, with new venues welcomed into the MWF fold including the heritage-listed oddity Mission to Seafarers, and the Immigration Museum.

MWF also fans out across the city, with writers popping up in local libraries from St Kilda to Moonee Ponds via the State right in the heart of the CBD.

Daring to be different, Hardy’s determined to sprinkle sparkly confetti all over conventional expectations of what a writers’ festival looks like.

To find out more about the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival head to their website mwf.com.au.

Image credit: supplied

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