The Perth Writers Festival is One of the Most Understated Events on the Cultural Calender
The Perth Writers Festival is one of the most understated events on the cultural calendar. Each year there is a deep conversational and consideration of the way we explore thought. Truly, it is remarkable.
2015's Festival is no different.
Bob Brown's opening address titled "On Optimism" was more a personal exploration of his career as a doctor, activist and politician than what I was anticipating. Replacing Geoffrey Robertson QC was always going to prove to be a tough ask, but the former Senator indulged us with his passions and critical moments in his life. In an almost "oh dad, please don't moment" Brown demonstrated his passion for the environment through a song he wrote. At times it was challenging watching Brown. Even though he was familiar with the experience of public speaking, he didn't seem to live up to expectations. I was more expecting an address focusing on what has sustained him in his broad career. While I was left wanting, what he did bring was undoubtedly interesting.
One of the great opportunities of this Festival is that it allows West Australian writers to show how they come to their stories. It might seem parochial but for many in the audience it seemed to ring true. The Festival seemed to be interested in understanding the way writers view the past. Considering why stories have been told, why powers fall, why we read distressing stories and how people reach excellence. When we view the past we see it in our own distinct view. Shaped by our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Writers Festival's are challenging. I left most of the sessions wondering whether writers were deliberately avoiding self-reflection, or if they were cherry-picking poignant moments in their lives to consider. At days end, festivals like this offer writers a platform to be self-indulgent, and a cunning eye can have fun with that.
Anyway, I digress. Saturday's conversation between Mele-Ane Havea from Dumbo Feather and Adrian Craddock of Smith Journal was a curious addition. I doubt the majority of the audience would have read either magazine, but they did delve into the complexity and relevance of the stories they tell.
At Fighting the Good Fight Michael Mori and Bryan Stevenson discussed how they understand and pursue justice and the law. Flirting with inspiring, the two men maintained passion and presence to connect with the audience. At The Best Of Times... Caitlin Maling commanded the room - which was odd because she was at least half the average age. Her witty insights and colourful reflections might have been preprepared but truly went to the heart of how we construct our views. Look, that's only a small sample of the wide program the Festival has put together. There is a lot worth considering at the Perth Writers Festival. This is the third year I have attended and I fear that the faddish attractions they bring actually detract from the quality of the overall event. Diversifying audiences is a tough gig, I get that, but tokenism won't achieve that. On the other hand, unless the programmers see people of different backgrounds attending they will just keep appealing to the base. For those reading this on Sunday, I would advise the trek to UWA. You'll learn something and have excellent dinner party conversation for months.