Book lovers don’t need to travel to the big city to enjoy the best of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
The “Live and Local” component returns to Wollongong Town Hall this year with the headline events streamed from Walsh Bay direct to Wollongong, plus live sessions and workshops with Illawarra authors next Saturday.
Catherine McKinnon will discuss her second novel Storyland, set on the banks of Lake Illawarra and spanning four centuries.
It takes the reader from the only historical record of Lieutenant Matthew Flinders and George Bass’ first encounter with the Wadi Wadi people to the isolation of early convict settlement and on to a distant, post-apocalyptic future.
McKinnon will also be part of a panel discussion about publishing and the different types available today.
She’ll take to the stage with poet and publisher Ron Pretty, academic and founder of Neo Perennial Press Sarah Nicholson plus founder of About Kids Books publishing house Diane Bates.
Percussionist, social worker and poet Gabe Journey Jones will perform works from her upcoming book Spoken Medicine, her first public collection of poetry.
Jones’ spoken word is a creative intersection of social, political and personal action, the cornerstones of her work.
Of the streamed sessions, brain surgeon Henry Marsh will reflect on his memoir Admissions: A Life In Brain Surgery; feminism, politics and current affairs will be discussed by a panel of five leading women; Hisham Matar will delve into his search for his missing father, kidnapped in Cairo when he was 19; and a panel will chat about one of Australia’s most admired and adept authors, Helen Garner.
Refuge is the theme of this year's festival, a double entendre alluding to the emotional shelter books offer from chaos, and intellectual suspicion and the various threads of political and social inquiry running through contemporary fiction, poetry and historical study.
"I wanted something that would allow our writers to speak about something that was quite serious, that impacted many people and also to have a side that could be celebratory and fun," said new artistic director Michaela McGuire, whose appointment was announced the day after Trump's election.
"The flipside of all the examination of the forces that people are seeking refuge from is the idea of returning to literature as solace. That gives us an opportunity to have some lighter, more playful moments."
The Sydney festival will host 482 writers and facilitators across 400 events at Walsh Bay Pier, Sydney city from May 22 to 28, plus 30 other venues around the country including Alice Springs and Broken Hill.
Patrons can visit morning, afternoon or both sessions at Wollongong Town Hall.
For the full Wollongong program visit www.merrigong.com.au