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Meet First Nations Curator Ellen van Neerven

This year, be enthralled by some of the most exciting writers and artists working today in events brought together by First Nations Curators Tony Birch and Ellen van Neerven. You’ll be transported to the frontiers of fiction and plunged into the depths of this colony’s past with events that probe and play with art, myth, sport and more.

Award-winning writer of Mununjali (Yugambeh language group) and Dutch heritage, Ellen van Neerven unravels the relationships between art and stories, and the pavement and the page at Running Writing. And in a showdown for the ages, they put two of this city’s great loves to the test at the Big Debate: sport and literature.

What inspired your events and the topics you wished to explore?

Wanting to build on the conversation in my latest book, Personal Score, I was inspired to bring sweat and turf to MWF audiences. Last year, MWF’s big debate was a great success. This year, my curated debate Sport vs Literature will be a highly competitive affair between some of this country’s most considered thinkers. I also wanted to hear about the similarities of Running and Writing with Bill Hayes, Tony Birch and Chelsea Watego. Finally, my heart will totally explode seeing my favourite artists Yhonnie Scarce and Dianne Jones speak with my favourite poets Charmaine Papertalk Green and Jeanine Leane in this matriarchal event Art and Stories.

How do you approach curating a series of conversations and selecting panellists?

I thought firstly about events that I would want to go to. Something that would get me out of my pyjamas and slippers and out of the house. Michaela (MWF Artistic Director) and I narrowed down my initial list of ideas to three events. Then we considered who would be a good fit and who could bring the idea of the event to life. It is a huge honour.

What comes to mind when you consider the Festival theme, “I’ve been away for a while…”

I have become even more of a homebody in these last few years. I have spent a lot of time reconsidering my ideas of gatherings and community. For me ‘being away’ and ‘coming back’ can mean so many things and I totally don’t feel linear about it. I have this feeling that I am entering a new era.

What are you most looking forward to at the Festival?

So much. Seeing people I haven’t seen for ages and feeling a sense of lit community. Seeing internationals back at the festival, like Booker winners Bernardine Evaristo and Shehan Karunatilaka. Buying way too many books. Talking about Sam Kerr’s goals and backflip celebration with Uncle Tony Birch at our in-conversation.