Last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival brought the best of the Big Apple, including most of The New Yorker, to town.
This time, it’s Britain’s turn to invade. As part of a British-themed festival, the Melbourne Writer’s Festival will be bookended by London mayor Boris Johnson and British writer Marina Warner.
The team from distinguished literary publication London Review of Books are coming, with their founding editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, regular contributors Andrew O’Hagan, Jacqueline Rose, Colm Toibin and publisher Nicholas Spice.
MWF will also host the final chapter of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference with Scottish writers John Burnside, Kirsty Gunn, Doug Johnstone, Janice Galloway and Liam McIlvanney.
In total, this year’s MWF has over 350 writers of all stripes discussing everything from modern day India to the future of journalism. “Not to mention that many of our festival artists aren't book writers, but bloggers, songwriters, journalists, Tweeters, artists,” says MWF director Lisa Dempster.
This year marks Dempster’s first at the helm, after a three-year stint as the director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival.
Her ambition is to make MWF a festival for more than just bookworms. “This year is all about opening it up to a broader audience and making it more lively and engaging,” says Dempster.
MWF will also feature a host of keynote speakers on big issues, performances, music, art, literary walks and stand-up events. Anne Somers will tackle misogyny in Australian public life, Mark Latham will consider the future of the ALP, Bob Brown will talk about life after politics and Peter Singer will encourage altruism. Seventeen-year-old Gen Z fashion blogger prodigy turned one-woman online publishing empire Tavi Gevinson will be talking about teenage girls in the digital age. New York performance artists The Moth, with their unique style of storytelling, will share the stage with our own Magda Szubanski and Ophira Eisenberg.
For those interested in weightier tomes, the international line-up boasts Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, Jay Griffiths, French writer Laurent Binet, Spanish-Argentinean Andreas Neuman, Israeli Michael Bar-Zohar, the divisive, often-infuriating Tao Lin and many more.
Local writers include Michelle de Kretser, Benjamin Law, Anna Goldsworthy, Alex Miller, Alexis Wright, Nicholas Rothwell, Michael Fullilove and Anna Krien.
The only person missing from the program? “It's no secret that my all-time dream festival guest is Tina Fey,” says Dempster. “I'll keep working on that one!”
The Melbourne Writers Festival runs from August 22 to September 1.