Julia Baird, Trent Dalton, Tom Keneally, Nardi Simpson and Simon Winchester among 120 guests.
The Newcastle Writers Festival launched its ninth program on Thursday night, March 3, with a special event at Newcastle City Hall featuring much-loved gardening identity Costa Georgiadis and hosted by Paul West. Founding director Rosemarie Milsom outlined the program via video from her home while isolating as a household contact of a COVID-19 case. “I had hoped to be there to celebrate with you after a challenging couple of years, but we’ve become very good at adapting our plans,” Milsom said.
The festival will hold its first festival since 2019 from April 1 to 3. Some of Australia’s most respected and loved writers will visit Newcastle. There is also a strong contingent of Hunter writers in the program, including Lee Christine and Wendy James. While there is not one overarching theme, Milsom said the opening and closing night events reflect the tone of the program. “Our opening night gala centres on love in all its forms and six writers, including Trent Dalton and Hannah Kent, will speak about its impact,” she said. “On the final evening, Sarah Wilson will discuss her most recent book, This One Wild and Precious Life: A hopeful path forward in a fractured world. I realise there is a lot to despair about, whether it’s the ongoing impact of the pandemic, record-breaking floods, and the war in Ukraine. I don’t want to sugar-coat the hardship or avoid tough conversations, but I also want to celebrate the comfort provided by books and powerful writing.”
This year’s program includes some of Australia’s most respected fiction and nonfiction writers, including journalists Van Badham, Justine Cullen, Kate McClymont, and Amy Remeikis, Aboriginal writers and activists Chelsea Watego and Thomas Mayor, academic and former Griffith Review editor Julianne Schultz, leading feminists Clementine Ford and Wendy McCarthy, best-selling authors Kelli Hutchins, Michael Robotham, and Jane Caro, as well as Tom Keneally, Amani Haydar, Brendan Cowell, Jessie Stephens, Laura Elizabeth Woollett, and international guest Simon Winchester who will be appearing live from the US via video link.
The festival will be held in the Civic precinct and there are 70 free and ticketed events planned, including a fund-raising literary trivia night, a historical walking tour of Stockton, a winery event with popular writer Todd Alexander, as well as panel discussions, readings, one-on-one interviews, and book launches. Session topics include gender politics in parliament, identity, history, the environment, family, and the impact of the pandemic. The festival has also collaborated with the annual Margaret Henry Memorial Lecture, which will be presented as part of the program by disability advocate Graeme Innes.
Eight events will be live streamed. “We appreciate that not everyone is able to attend public events,” said Milsom. “We want our audience to still feel connected.”
As part of the event’s COVID-safe measures, audiences will be encouraged to wear masks and all guest writers, festival staff and volunteers will complete daily rapid antigen tests before arriving at venues.
The program and bookings will be available from 9am on Wednesday, March 9. Find more information here.
To request images or arrange interviews with guest writers and/or director Rosemarie Milsom email email@example.com or phone 0403 041588.