Newcastle Writers Festival’s founding director Rosemarie Milsom launched the organisation’s eighth program last night, February 20, at the Playhouse.
This year’s festival, which runs from April 3 to 5, features 160 writers. Six international guests are also appearing – five New Zealand writers, including acclaimed poet Hera Lindsay Bird, and US-based Australian geneticist David Sinclair, author of the bestseller, Lifespan: Why we age - and why we don’t have to. Other guests include Behrouz Boochani, Clare Bowditch, Tim Costello, Helen Garner and Archie Roach.
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Milsom said this year’s program was influenced by the catastrophic bushfires that plagued NSW for six months. “I’m not alone in feeling as though we reached a tipping point this summer,” she said. “It’s during times like these that you wonder about the role that literature can play. I feel very strongly that it can have a profound impact on the way we engage with key issues and it can also shape the healing process.”
This year’s festival program explores lessons in leadership, climate change, trust, tribalism, women’s rage, resilience, and the role of artists in a crisis. There will also be poetry, a discussion about the power of the ocean on the creative process, and music from Archie Roach and Clare Bowditch.
A highlight will be a session via Skype with award-winning Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani, now based in New Zealand. Boochani’s autobiography No Friend but the Mountains tells of his journey from Indonesia to Australia by boat, and his subsequent imprisonment on Manus Island by the Australian government. “Archie Roach is our opening night guest and we’ll close the festival two days later with a special event with Behrouz,” said Milsom. “These talented artists have shown incredible resilience throughout their lives and these events are powerful ‘bookends’ for a weekend of big ideas.”
This year’s program includes some of Australia’s most respected fiction and non-fiction writers, including award-winning journalists Kate McClymont, Adele Ferguson, Virginia Trioli and Paddy Manning, award-winning authors Helen Garner, Tony Birch, Lucy Treloar, Charlotte Wood, Favel Parrett, and activist Tim Costello, who will speak about his memoir A Lot with a Little with broadcaster Paul Bevan at a special event at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre on April 4.
The festival includes 90 free and ticketed events and is held in the Civic precinct. The program also features a literary trivia night fundraiser, panel discussions, readings, one-on-one interviews, and book launches.
Tickets are available online via trybooking.com/eventlist/newcastlewritersfestival and in person at MacLean’s Booksellers, 69 Beaumont Street, Hamilton. Free sessions do not require bookings.
For more information visit newcastlewritersfestval.org.au