A Literary Journey to Remember at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival

The arts world brims with literary festivals, big and small. They stir a bubbling pot of writers, agents, publishers and readers, seasoning to taste.

Mostly free sessions, many of them live-streamed on the internet and screened in libraries afterward, give audiences an opportunity to meet and question authors. Exuberant writers often bounce on stage, shake hands and thank the audience for coming.

Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas is a highly respected Australian author, playwright and screenwriter. His books, including Loaded and Dead Europe, have been widely adapted for film and television. His work is influenced by a range of intellectual traditions, especially the Left. He identifies with the Left and has spoken out against tolerance, prejudice and fear. He is a Richmond FC supporter.

The Adelaide Writers’ Festival is an annual literary fair that takes place in March in Adelaide, Australia. It hosts domestic and international writers who hold panels and readings on a wide variety of topics. The festival is free and takes place in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens. Its director, Louise Adler, has recently come under fire for inviting two Palestinian authors to speak on controversial subjects. The director says that writers’ festivals must engage with complex issues and that they should not be’safe spaces’.

The event was a success despite the controversy, and the festival’s website states that it “aims to bring the best of contemporary writing to a broad audience. It is a unique opportunity to meet and be inspired by authors from around the world.” The event will continue to feature a range of writers, including those whose books have been banned in other countries. The festival will also livestream the sessions on the East Stage to schools, libraries and retirement villages across South Australia.

Charlotte Wood

With five novels and a non-fiction work on food under her belt, Charlotte Wood is no stranger to accolades. She has won awards and been shortlisted for many more. Her latest novel, The Natural Way of Things, offers a harrowing look at misogyny in Australia.

This year’s Adelaide Writers’ Festival takes place in March and includes Australian writers who appear in person and international authors via real-time digital livestream. Some sessions are held in the shady Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden and others are presented at venues across the city.

The festival director Louise Adler has vowed not to be dissuaded from creating space for courageous discussions of literature and opposing views despite calls to sack her over the presence of two authors whose appearances have stirred up controversy. Three Ukrainian writers and a major financial sponsor have pulled out in protest over comments made by Susan Abulhawa and Mohammed El-Kurd, who have criticised Ukraine’s war on Russia and called Israel a ‘genocidal nation’.

In this episode of Talking with Painters, Charlotte interviews Jude Rae, a leading Australian artist, about her approach to the still life genre. They talk about the spectrum of ‘description’ and abstraction, the search for ‘density’ in a painting and the tensions involved for artists in pleasing their audiences. They also discuss the way in which writing and art are intertwined for both writers and viewers.

Pip Williams

Having spent her life writing, Pip Williams has written three first chapters of Puberty Blues-type novels and had poems published in Dolly magazine by the age of 15. She was dyslexic but found that writing allowed her to slow down and tune in to a lower frequency.

Her debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words kept her busy, and the book is now an international bestseller. She was invited back to Adelaide Writers’ Festival with her new book The Bookbinder of Jericho, which is a sequel that brings together her talents for historical research and storytelling.

She was joined by the book’s editor Martin Hughes, who spoke about his work with her and congratulated her on her latest success. They embraced (despite COVID) and then went their separate ways, with Williams visiting bookshops to spruik her latest offering.

While the festival is renowned for spectacle and big ideas, there are quieter moments where you can pause, slow down, and pay gentle attention. And these are often the most memorable of all. The East Stage sessions will be livestreamed to schools, libraries, community centres and retirement villages around South Australia thanks to the Office for Ageing Well. These are free to attend for those who cannot travel to the festival. To register, click here.

Peter Goers

After six seasons of Fringe and five shows a week on radio, you would think Peter Goers might have run out of gags and yarns. Yet when he took to the stage for his Adelaide Writers’ Festival session Joyful Strains, the Sydney-based writer was in fine form. He began with a few hilarious anecdotes about Judi Dench, Peter O’Toole and Trevor Howard, then sidestepped into flashbacks of his time living in Istanbul in the ’90s. There were also a few sadder tales of loneliness in old age, and a melancholy consideration of the impact last year’s COVID-19 restrictions had on his elderly friends.

Held each March, Writers’ Festival is a large daytime literary festival that’s free to attend and takes place in the shady Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden north of Adelaide CBD. It features local and international writers in a series of talks, readings and “Meet the Author” sessions.

This year, the program explores questions of humanity, with twice Man Booker-shortlisted Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma addressing the ‘trauma’ of growing up illiterate and female in a male-dominated society; Karachi-based journalist Sanam Maher considering the death of Pakistani celebrity Qandeel Baloch; and constitutional lawyer and academic Megan Davis exploring ways to recognise Indigenous knowledge as Australian law. The sessions will be broadcast live to schools, libraries and retirement villages across the state.