HomeAFPPower Politics Passion: the Canberra Writers Festival ventures beyond the literary

Power Politics Passion: the Canberra Writers Festival ventures beyond the literary

The 2019 Canberra Writers Festival embraced this three-word theme to its full extent over a stimulating four days.

Each year, the Festival reads between the lines of the literary, bringing artists, politicians, academics, scientists together with an eager crowd. The iconic Canberra locations – spanning from Old Parliament House to the Australian National University – added to the thematic richness. It is something special to be sitting in the plush chairs of the former House of Representatives, imagining the millions of words that have sunk into the plush carpets.

The politics of memory consistently crept into conversations. Professor Elizabeth Loftus, American psychologist, opened to the audience the ways in which memory can contort when fed misinformation. False memories can be planted in a person’s mind and this comes with huge consequences when witnesses enter a courtroom. In contrast, Irris Makler and Helen Lewis discussed individual stories which echoed the memories of the Second World War. Helen Lewis’s book The Dead Still Cry Out is a biography of her father, a combat photographer and cameraman, and Irris Makler’s Just Add Love combines the recipes and stories of Holocaust survivors.

The memories of early parenthood were a cause for laughs at ‘Girls’ Night In’ – the comedic finale event. Jane Caro and Emma Alberici, in particular, drew the curtain to reveal the backstage to their literary and political lives. Alberici’s antics of a long-term move to Europe with three children under three, and Caro’s attempts at a six-year old’s science homework elicited laughs all round. It was a high note on which to end the successful festival.

The festival was celebrating its fourth year and it certainly pulled in the crowds. On the final night, the Deputy Chair of the festival, Jane O’Dwyer, noted that over the four days there had been 77 events, 34 of which were sold out, and around 10 6000 patrons had walked through the doors. As the festival continues to grow, it can only expect to be even bigger and better for 2020.

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