26 April 2024

Canberra Writers Festival springs into sunnier skies with move to October

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Beejay Silcox says moving the Canberra Writers Festival to spring provides a huge boost for books and ideas. Photo: Supplied.

“It will be blue skies and cherry blossoms, the city at its very best,” says Canberra Writers Festival artistic director Beejay Sillcox of the decision to move this year’s festival from late winter to springtime.

The festival will now be held from Wednesday, 23 October, to Sunday, 27 October, making Canberra the only capital city to host a writers festival in the last quarter of the year.

That’s an important reason for the change, Beejay explains.

“The Australian writers’ festival calendar is clumped together from February to May or otherwise in August. That means there are no other literary conversations between August and December.

“We know much of the national conversation is around books released for Christmas, so changing the date means Canberra will now get the first look at new authors, the most exciting fiction and new ideas.

“We’ll have the conversations the rest of the country has afterwards”.

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Beejay says the change has been welcomed with enormous positivity in the publishing industry, which is champing at the bit for the chance to launch books and writers at a major event that aligns with their release schedule.

“I can’t reveal the program just yet, but I’ve sent 60 invitations out, and almost all the authors have said yes very quickly. These are some of the country’s best and most brilliant speakers and writers.

“Our perennial theme is power, passion and politics. This is the place where we talk about big ideas. We talk about who gets to be heard, what their stories mean, who will be remembered and why – these conversations will rumble on for the rest of the year and they’ll begin here in Canberra,” she says.

There’s an acknowledgment, too, that audience behaviour has changed post-pandemic. Writers Festival attendees are less keen to be inside in large groups during the cold weather and the spring timing gives the festival a chance to shine a light on Canberra’s natural beauty.

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“We can actually hold events outside!” Beejay says, reflecting on festival legend about attempts to do so in the past where snow actually fell.

“Don’t come just for the festival. Come for Canberra’s restaurants, our parks, and our glorious outdoors at the absolute best time of year.

“There will be storytelling everywhere, events in gardens, and under the trees. Make the most of open space and sunshine. Our wonderful national institutions, where the festival is held, will come alive, too.”

Her sentiments are echoed by Canberra Writers Festival board chair Jane O’Dwyer, who sees Canberra as the ultimate embodiment of Australian culture and ideas, with not only the nation’s key cultural institutions and the nation’s finest minds but also more restaurants per capita than anywhere else on mainland Australia, award-winning vineyards and breweries, and spectacular views at every turn.

The festival has also launched a new year-long partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive, exploring book-to-film adaptations with monthly screenings and curated discussions with celebrated authors and filmmakers.

Full program details for the festival week will be released later in the year. To stay up to date, visit the Canberra Writers Festival.

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