One of the most intellectually enriching events on the Canberra calendar is back—and it’s more fascinating than ever.
The Canberra Writers Festival returns next month to allow literary and politically-minded Australians to get up close and personal with their favourite authors and journalists.
A melting pot of unique ideas and sharp analysis, the festival’s program has been released, revealing the 120+ writers and thinkers that will appear across 16-20 August at more than 60 events, including 12 masterclasses, six literary lunches, two bookish breakfasts, one delectable dinner, and a folk concert. Phew.
With new Artistic Director Beejay Silcox on board, look out for appearances from Elizabeth Chong, Kate Grenville, Lauren Groff, Debra Dank, Evelyn Araluen, Thomas Keneally, Chris Masters, Laura Tingle, Stan Grant, and Megan Davis.
Here are five events to whet your appetite for this literary feast.
The Sparrows of Kabul: Fred Smith In Conversation With Karen Middleton
An urgent and sobering conversation that will educate and illuminate, don’t miss songwriter, diplomat and author of The Dust of Uruzgan, Fred Smith in conversation with Karen Middleton, chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper and author of An Unwinnable War: Australia in Afghanistan and Albanese: Telling it Straight.
A career diplomat, Fred Smith saw first-hand the desperation outside Kabul Airport during the Fall of Kabul as people made a last-minute bid for freedom. In this exclusive Canberra Writers Festival event, Fred will unpack these last days of the Afghan Republic in both conversation and through song.
Saturday 19 August from 6-7.30 pm | Members’ Dining Room, Museum of Australian Democracy | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/sparrows-kabul
The Library of My Life: Stan Grant in Conversation with Emma Macdonald
HerCanberra’s own Emma Macdonald will delve into Stan Grant’s literary legacy at this event that asks: what can you learn about someone from their bookshelves? Join Emma as she asks Stan about the books that shaped him, what he loves to re-read, which books changed his mind—and what’s next for this ground-breaking presenter, journalist and author.
Saturday 19 August from 12–1.30 pm | aMBUSH Gallery, Kambri Cultural Centre | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/library-my-life
Kitchen Royalty: Elizabeth Chong In Conversation With Joanna Savill
A household name, Elizabeth Chong AM has delighted audiences for decades—and now Canberra audiences will be up close and personal with this charismatic cook. At age 92, Elizabeth shows no signs of slowing down, and foodies will be served a slice of history (as well as a delicious meal inspired by Elizabeth’s life in food) in the Gandel Atrium at the National Museum of Australia as they learn secrets first-hand from the legend herself.
Wednesday 16 August from 6.30–10.30 pm | Gandel Atrium, National Museum of Australia | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/kitchen-royalty
Everyone’s favourite political journos are back live and loud at the festival for another edition of Insiders Live. For those looking to experience a slice of Canberra’s press gallery, this is an absolute must-do to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s keenest political minds.
Hosted by David Speers, guests include Sam Maiden (political editor for news.com.au), Amy Remeikis (political reporter for The Guardian), Dan Bourchier (multi-award-winning journalist and no stranger to Canberra screens) and Mike Bowers (possibly the press gallery’s funniest photo journalist) as well as iconic cartoonists Fiona Katauskas and David Pope.
What will they be discussing that week? We’re not sure—but we know it’ll be juicy.
Thursday 17 August from 6-7 pm | National Press Club of Australia | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/insiders-live-1
Bhutan to Blacktown: Om Dhungel In Conversation With Fran Kelly
Settle into brand new Manning Clark Hall at ANU’s Kambri Cultural Centre for a conversation that will enrich your world view. Om Dhungel was born in a remote village Bhutan, known as the land of Gross National Happiness and worked to become a senior civil servant. However, after a ethnic-cleansing campaign against people of Nepali ancestry in the 1980s, Om left Bhutan for Australia, settling in Blacktown. His journey from civil servant to a beloved community leader in Blacktown, western Sydney, will be unpacked in a rich conversation with national treasure and icon of Australian journalism Fran Kelly.
As Om puts it, “I lost my possessions, my salary, my status, my career, my country. And in that fall, I gained everything.”
Sunday 20 August from 12–1 pm | Manning Clark Hall, Kambri Cultural Centre (ANU) | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/bhutan-blacktown
How Men Came to Rule: A National Press Club Address by Angela Saini
How did the patriarchy come to be? This question (among many, many others) will be tackled in juicy historical detail by award-winning British journalist Angela Saini (feature image) in this National Press Club address.
Presented in conjunction with Harper Collins and The Wheeler Centre, Angela will explore the themes of her latest book, The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule, which was a finalist for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, as she “imagines the future we could build if we demolished the myth of male domination” that is described as “radically optimistic”. An address not to miss.
Thursday 17 August from 11.30 am–1.30 pm | National Press Club of Australia | canberrawritersfestival.com.au/event/how-men-came-rule
What: The Canberra Writers Festiva 2023
When: 16-20 August 2023
Where: Various locations around Canberra
Feature image: Angela Saini, courtesy of Canberra Writers Festival. HerCanberra is a proud media partner of the Canberra Writers Festival 2023.