Perth Festival Writers Week 2018


Change is as good as a rest, or so they say. One thing’s for sure 2017 festival director Katherine Dorrington definitely deserved a break. Having delivered 12 terrific festivals the baton has now been handed on to a new face, well new to curating the festival that is. 2018 curator Will Yeoman is an extremely well known face in WA writing circles, not least of which as the Literary Editor at The West Australian.  Last week he finally got to unveil  his baby and what we can expect this year. Here are a few highlights.

Will Yeoman at Perth Festival Writers Week launch at UWA  © The Ponder Room

Yeoman and his team have definitely not taken the easy option of resting on the success of previous years. Right from the outset they’ve made several big changes, including:

  • As the name suggests this year the festival will be spread over a week, rather than crammed into one marathon weekend;
  • In another bold move some 80% of the proceedings will occur at the UWA Club, a stunning building nestled within the heart of the leafy limestone campus;
  • Anyone who’s been to previous years will be well acquainted with the large tents, their petulant air conditioners and variable acoustics. Well they’ve gone. In their place the sessions will be help in theaters, dining halls, even intimate breakout rooms within the Club;
  • Having said this a few events will be taking place in other parts of Perth, such as Fremantle and Northbridge;
  • According to Yeoman this year the focus will be on story telling and literature rather than ideas;
  • There will also be a greater emphasis on author readings, with the promise that most sessions will start with a short reading;
  • One of the elements that has always set the PWF apart from those in other states is the number of free events. Thankfully these have remained as it means the festival is open to all, not just those who can pay. Make sure you check the program as you may have to register to attend some free events;
  • The hugely popular Family Weekend has been extended beyond one day. Among other things there will be a family lounge, poetry land and plenty of old fashioned story telling;
  • Naturally there’ll be the opportunity to purchase books, just don’t head to the undercroft as the book store has moved.

Yeoman was keen to highlight a couple of specific events including:

  • Can Art Change The World? with Wendy Martin, Jude Kelly (UK), Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran);
  • Miles Ahead. Breakfast with three female winners of the Miles Franklin Award;
  • This Book Changed My Life with Gareth Evans;
  • Writing The Land with Di Morrison.

He then took a seat to be on the receiving end of an interview about how he developed the program. Unfortunately I had to leave at that stage to claim my seat next door in the atmospheric outdoor Somerville Auditorium. As I sat waiting for the movie, The Square, to start I pondered:

  1. It’s extremely pleasing to see the number of local authors included in the 2018 program. My heart swells for those I know who’ve been working so hard to get their time in the sun;
  2. While the tents could be hot and sometimes the hum of the fan made it difficult to hear, they did add a certain atmosphere to the weekend. Walking between tents also meant I met my daily steps quota rather than sitting all day long. The walk also provided an opportunity to run into friends. It will be interesting to see how this change plays out;
  3. More author readings is another interesting move as these can often be hit and miss. In the past I have decided not to buy a novel because of a difficult reading. I can imagine several introverted authors spending the next few weeks either getting voice training, learning how to calm stage fright or just panicking;
  4. I may be missing something but I can’t seem to see any writing courses in the program. In the past writers could brush up their skills, learn new techniques and compare experiences with local or visiting speakers. Over the past decade I’ve often found these invaluable, from short story, magazine and crime writing courses to a wonderfully intimate session learning from the likes of Leunig, a day I will always treasure. It’s a shame if these opportunities have been lost.
  5. Perth Festival head Wendy Marshall reminded us that there are roughly 22 sleeps (even less now) until the curtains open. Guess I’d better start carb loading if I’m going to be match fit, particularly for the crime walk through Northbridge. First up though I’ll be spending several hours perusing the program and juggling all the sessions I want to see. Good luck everyone. May the best planners win.

All the best to the Will Yeoman and his team. Congratulations on an interesting program. It’s a massive undertaking that’s always well received by the Perth community, readers and writers alike.

For more information go to Perth Festival Writer Week. Get your tickets soon as some sessions have already sold out.


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