Steve Grimwade’s second year as Festival Director sees Melbourne - UNESCO’s City of Literature – embrace and celebrate its standing in the international literary community. And it’s not just about text on the page…
Every year, the Festival reflects – and sometimes pushes the boundaries of – what constitutes writing and storytelling. This year, MWF presents major events in digital publishing, graphic novels and performance with the likes of musician Kim Salmon, Oscar-winning illustrator Shaun Tan, writer forTV’s 30 Rock and The Office Steve Hely, acclaimed chefs Shannon Bennett and Frank Camorra, graphic illustrators Bruce Petty and Ron Tandberg, all participating in a diverse program that is open and accessible to everyone.
International guests include American literary giant Jonathan Franzen and the undisputed ‘Queen of Crime’ Lynda La Plante (UK), along with Ann Patchett (US), Tess Gerritsen (US), and the likes of César Aira (Argentina), Félix J. Palma (Spain), Tishani Doshi (India) and exiled poet Bei Dao (China). Australian guests include Kate Grenville, Kim Scott, Gail Jones, Richard Flanagan, Marion Halligan, Michael Robotham, Nick Earls, Anna Funder and many more.
The 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival opens on Thursday 25 August with a Keynote Event at Melbourne Town Hall. This year offers an unforgettable audience with one of the biggest, most talked-about US authors of the last decade, Jonathan Franzen (Freedom, The Corrections), who will be discussing the struggles involved in writing ‘autobiographical fiction’. The keynote address is preceded by The Age Book of the Year Awards.
The following night, Friday 26 August, witnesses another Keynote Event – the Victorian premiere of a unique concert and ‘sonic-scape’ performed live by the Orkestra of the Underground to the projected illustrations of Academy Award-winning Shaun Tan, as taken from his graphic novel, The Arrival. Tan will introduce the performance via video, and will appear ‘in the flesh’ later in the Festival as part of the In Conversation series.
The Big Ideas Series returns – gathering together our leading public intellectuals, trendsetters and change-makers in a series of thought-provoking presentations. Speakers include noted media critic Jay Rosen (USA) examining the state of journalism globally; The Honourable Michael Kirby (AUS) reflecting on values, purpose and leadership; writer and feminist Sophie Cunningham (AUS); one of Australia's most-cherished novelists and orators, Richard Flanagan; award-winning international political commentator on Arab and Muslim issues, Mona Eltahawy (Egypt/USA); and one of the first female parliamentarians in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya.
With graphic novels taking centre stage, one of the highlights of the program is sure to be Drawn From Life: Stories from the Everyday– a free illustrated newspaper created by some of the best illustrators and graphic novelists, taking a break from social and political commentaries to represent themselves in their own personal stories. This eye-catching free publication will be distributed across selected Melbourne Metro train stations on Friday 26 August. Artists include US cartooning god Jim Woodring, Shaun Tan, Bruce Petty, Judy Horacek, Ron Tandberg, Mandy Ord and more – with Oslo ‘Overheard’ Davis as editor.
Illustrators-in-residence will be creating amazing images before your very eyes at Fed Square’s Atrium (12noon to 3pm each Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Festival). In a glorious marriage of music and image, illustrators Jim Woodring, Pat Grant, Andrew Weldon and Jo Waite render the music of Martin Martini into images projected onto walls in a wondrous concert event – Martin Martini In(k) Concert, at Toff in Town.
Liner Notes rocks the festival with a poetic tribute to a classic album, song by song at Toff in Town. The MTV ’80s pomp of INXS’ album Kick goes under the literary microscope, featuring special guests Angie Hart, Ken Arkind (US), Tim Clare (UK) and Catherine Deveny, with Emilie Zoey Baker, Sean M Whelan, Alicia Sometimes, Justin Heazlewood, Omar Musa and Ben Pobjie, with MC Michael Nolan and a house band.
Lyrical is a special festival event at The Corner Hotel, examining storytelling through song as three celebrated songwriters Simone Felice (US), Kim Salmon (Australia) and Laura Jean (Australia), present their work in an intimate show-and-tell event – in a rare blend of performance and personal insight into the stories behind their songs.
One of Australia’s smartest sirens, Rockwiz’s Julia Zemiro, hosts the festival’s own late-night talk show, Friday Night Live, inspired by Letterman with a little Jon Stewart thrown in for good measure. In Fed Square’s BMW Edge over the two Fridays of the festival, Zemiro and house band The Bamboos intersperse music performances and stand-up comedy with interviews with festival guests – the ultimate smart, but fun night-out.
Food and writing come together in a perfect union, with a veritable smorgasbord of events celebrating food, culture and culinary identities. Shannon Bennett celebrates his latest publication in a dinner presentation at his new Vue de Monde restaurant on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower. Similarly, owner and chef of MoVida, Frank Camorra, will be holding an event to savour at MoVida Aqui. Enjoy a light tea at Sofitel Salon with Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett, Stasiland’s Anna Funder and Orange-longlisted novelist Eleanor Catton in the Sofitel’s Fitzroy Ballroom. In TV Tales, small-screen insiders Wendy Harmer (The Big Gig), Steve Hely (30 Rock), Michael Veitch (Fast Forward), Alan Carter (Who Do You Think You Are?) and host Tim Ferguson (The Big Gig) offer their best TV anecdotes over dinner at Union Dining.
Melbourne’s unique theatre scene also gets explored as playwrights Angus Cerini and Declan Greene take the city’s current theatrical temperature in the lively panel – New Indie Theatre. Enjoy a Q&A with internationally acclaimed theatre maker Daniel Keene; hear playwrights including Keene, Katz, Cerini, Greene and Robert Reid read their own work in Tashmadada’s Meant to be Spoken; and celebrate forty years of Currency Press publishing Australian plays with Stories in Motion – a performed reading charting the publishers’ remarkable journey across the years.
Straight from Edinburgh Fringe, a double bill performed by two acclaimed UK writer-performer-comedian-poets – Luke Wright’s Cynical Ballads and Tim Clare’s Death Drive – promise to provide a shrewd and funny live literature performance at Toff in Town.
New News 2011 is a conference about the future of journalism connecting readers, listeners and viewers with the people who run their media and produce its content. Professor of Journalism at NYU, Jay Rosen, presents the keynote address as part of a series of events which look at journalism at a time when it is under stress from the rise of the Internet and social media. In a very timely event, Media Leaders Held to Account sees Mark Scott(Managing Director, ABC), Greg Hywood (CEO, Fairfax Media), Sophie Black (Editor, Crikey) and chairperson Maxine McKew answering questions from the public as put forward on www.oursay.org. The person whose question is voted most popular will join the panel onstage.
Designed as an ‘unconference’, Bookcamp explores the future of new book technologies in a one-day, user-generated discussion. International guests Kate Pullinger (UK), Kassia Krozser (US) and Hugh McGuire (Canada) will act as provocateurs to spark conversation and ideas, while participants form groups to discuss, design, debate and create.
Melbourne Writers Festival isn’t just for adults… with a four-day Schools’ Program featuring over 60 guests and 70 sessions, the Festival offers kids from Grade 5 to Year 12 the chance to explore and develop their own love of reading and writing, with the chance to meet the creators of some of their favourite books as well as learn from an immersive experience how a book is made.
The ever popular author walking tours return, showing Melbourne's many faces – bookshops, hidden dragons, finding Melbourne's heart and the A to Z of the city. The annual Regional Tour sees authors Kirsty Murray, Sue Lawson, Chris Morphew and Heath McKenzie hit the road, heading to Kyneton, Geelong, Wangaratta and Frankston; and Geelong hosts two very special events – Lynda La Plante in a keynote event in partnership with Geelong Regional Library Corporation and Geoff Goodfellow (Waltzing with Jack Dancer), in Conversation at Courthouse ARTS.
Many of Melbourne’s most cultural and eclectic spaces will be populated, with Federation Square’s Beer DeLuxe functioning as the Festival Club. ACMI’s The Cube’s daytime program of free events gathers together highlights from across the program and around the world, including book launches, awards ceremonies, interviews and panel discussions, featuring both local and international festival guests. After dark, ACMI The Cube becomes the perfect place to spend a night out, hosting a series of further free events, including the 75th birthday of New Directions Publishing.
Melbourne Writers Festival, 25 August to 4 September 2011
Bookings: www.mwf.com.au or call MWF box office on 9999 1199