Canberra Writers Festival opens today

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Former PM Kevin Rudd and David Speers

ARMED with its idiosyncratic triple-barrelled theme “Power.Politics.Passion”, the fourth Canberra Writers Festival opens today (August 21) with a host of literary celebs and political writers descending on the nation’s capital.

“This weekend Canberra will host the crème de la crème of writers, thinkers and social and political commentators,” according to director Paul Donohoe, who says: “For our distinctive city, we proudly present a distinctive program, aimed squarely at Canberrans’ interests.”

Illustrating this are some of the more tantalising offerings, like the now-regular favourite, “Good Kenny / Bad Kenny”, by Mark and Chris Kenny, and moderated by Alice Workman, “Insiders, Live at the Canberra Writers Festival”, Katharine Murphy, Niki Savva, Peter van Onselen and Mike Bowers hosted by Fran Kelly, “Viral Outbreak: To Vax or Not to Vax” David Isaacs in conversation with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, “On Patriotism” sees Paul Daley in conversation with Clare Wright and a special event at the National Press Club, “Life after Politics”, sees Kevin Rudd in conversation with David Speers.

“We have a program loaded with authors whose books cover the issues that have dominated the news over the past year,” Donohoe says.

“It’s a line-up with something to satisfy most tastes – storytellers, poets, playwrights, biographers, directors, academics, chefs, farmers, refugees, comedians, actors, historians, scientists, activists, provocateurs, politicians, a priest and a former prime minister.”

This festival will not fade as the weekend progresses.

“Sunday Funday” features four free events at the National Library of Australia, including reading and writing sessions for children.

International festival guests descending on Canberra include British author and global traveller Simon Winchester, Sydney-born Israeli foreign correspondent Irris Makler, culinary journalist Gil Hovav, American cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, German playwright and novelist Sasha Marianna Salzmann and British journalist and social change-maker Katrina Fox.

Proving that they’ve engaged a “who’s who” of Australian journalists, the organisers have used surnames only to introduce the line-up of “Kelly, Murphy, Savva, van Onselen, Alberici, the Kennys, Grattan, Tingle, Lane, Speers, Uhlmann, Jericho, Bongiorno, Middleton and Farr”, although social and political commentators George Megalogenis, David Marr, Don Watson, Jane Caro, Paul Daley, Rebecca Huntley and Peter FitzSimons rate forenames.

Hot favourites with the booksellers in 2019, Tara June Winch, Nicola Moriarty, Sophie Green, Meg Keneally, Kate Forsyth, Penelope Hanley, Virginia Duigan and Charlotte Wood are packing out.

Lest Canberrans fear there is no local input from this city’s thriving literary community, novelists Nigel Featherstone, Karen Viggers, Kathryn Hind and non-fiction whiz kid Patrick Mullins will hold sessions exploring their newest work.

Paul Daley, Andrew Leigh, Marion Halligan, Tracy Hawkins, Marg Wade, and “CityNews” columnist, Nicole Overall will share Canberra’s stories in “Capital Culture”, many of them ghostly in nature and providing proof apparent the nation’s capital has more to its underbelly than political conniving.

Canberra Writers Festival, various venues in Canberra, August 21-25. Bookings can be made right up to the event at

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