By Dipanjali Rao
374 presenters. 300 events, of which nearly a quarter are free. From science to politics, feminism to colonialism, technology to Harry Potter, there’s something for you at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2017. Interact, ask a question and join the conversation. Or if you’d rather, you can just sit back, relax and listen to interesting people tell fascinating stories about what they’re passionate about. It IS the Writers Festival, but it’s not just for writers.
Also, it’s not just for people who read books. If you watch the news, read blogs, graphic novels, poetry or just listen to podcasts, you’ll be in good company. So if you haven’t read a book for years, or don’t consider yourself ‘literary’, don’t worry. Events are centered around ideas and experiences, and some events do simply that: discuss ideas or social issues.
The Festival is in full swing, and there’s still over a hundred events you can pick from. If you’re into nature, start with the session on birds. Did you know some have two vocal boxes, meaning they can sing two songs … AT THE SAME TIME? Incredible, right? Well, there’s a question I’ll definitely be asking! If you spot an excited, intelligent looking, gorgeous Indian woman with glasses at the ‘Birds Art Life Death’ session, come say hi. (Aforementioned description totally relevant for recognition purposes.)
Next, Rape Culture. A panel of fantastic women, including acclaimed poet Meena Kandasamy, discuss this. Fans of Kandasamy will be spoilt for choice: we get to see her speaking about her latest book, ‘When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife’, which chronicles her story of abuse, both at Fed Square and in a Local Library event in Geelong; I’m driving there to with two friends this Friday evening to see her! There’s plenty of more fabulous feminism content – check out Decolonising Feminism and Pop Culture & Feminism on Saturday.
If South Asia interests you, check out Anosh Irani talking about his acclaimed book, The Parcel, detailing the journey of a transgender sex worker in Mumbai. Grab some lunch at the Festival Club and then go see politician and author Shashi Tharoor talk about the impact of colonialism on India, and then top your Saturday off with an explosive performance, Louder Together, with poets and authors. Meena Kandasamy is a trailblazer – she’s featured in both events here again.
If exhibitions are your thing, then the interactive exhibition on art, environment, technology and transport is for you. If you’re serious about Harry Potter, you can also attend Harry Potter trivia, or go to a Harry Potter dress up party. And if parties are your thing, you’ll love the Closing Night Party!
So, if you’ve never been, do something new and come check it out. Get a bunch of friends together and check out an exhibition or attend a talk. You’ll be surprised at how much there is; there’s even a walk by the Yarra river! Plus, there’s a pop up bar at the Festival (non pop-up bars are sooo passe) so you can grab a drink, get some food, and get social. And see firsthand that the festival isn’t just for literary, academic people, but also for people who are simply curious and interested in the world around them. It’s not just about books, authors and writing. It’s ideas over books, issues over authors and conversations over writing. And it is for YOU.