Perth Festival 2020: Tips for Perth Literature and Ideas

Two years ago the Perth Writers Festival reformatted into the Perth Writers Week under a new director. All change requires time to settle in particularly after the program made been managed by the same people for many years. However some changes continued to draw criticism when repeated the following year. This year sees the rebirth of the event under another new director, hence it is with bated breath that we wait for the 2020 reincarnation. I was fortunate to get a sneak peak at the preview. Here’s a little of what I learnt.

image copyright The Ponder Room

Name change

First thing you’ll notice is the name change. The Perth Writers Festival (PWF) has become the Perth Festival Literature and Ideas. There was much consternation in previous years about how the PWF had morphed into the Perth Readers Festival focusing on book-clubs and the purchasing of books. The name change is intriguing. It will be interesting to see what it means, especially for writers as it all starts with their stories.

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It was a delight to watch curator Sisonke Msimang outline some of the key guests who will be appearing. Equally delightful was finding out we will be hearing from more than the usual suspects. I was particularly interested in the group of emerging writers on the program.

image copyright The Ponder Room

Msimang noted the content focuses on the most pressing issues we face today, which have been summarized into four areas – Land, Money, Power, Sex. She added that the program “represents our best effort to host conversations inspired by a publicly-minded spirit of love”.

A couple of specific events of interest are:

  • A Bus, a Book and a Bite, a mobile book club with food related to the book;
  • Brain Food. Breakfasts, high tea and lunch with authors;
  • Slow reads in the Tropical Grove, where authors read their works;
  • Family Day. Where you can hear Julia Donaldson, author of Gruffalo amongst others;
  • Young Adult Writer sessions with authors of young adult writing;
  • Neil Gaiman author of Sandman, American Gods and Norse Mythology;
  • Stories at the Heartbreak Hotel;
  • Lit Crawl Perth.
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There’s one specific session for writers, The Business of Being A Writer, which is good, however this means there is still room for another organisation to start up a Perth Writers Festival.

Session Times

Session times have been extended to an hour to allow the discussions to go deeper, or I could say add actually occur. In recent years, on some occasions tight time frames have inhibited any discussion at all. It will be interesting to see how the works. Will the depth of discussion outweigh the breadth of topics (or authors) we consider? Or will sessions get bogged down or taken over by the loudest voice. I guess this means the session moderators will become even more important.

The paper program

The program format has also changed. With fewer sessions the program is simpler and has dedicated more pages to guest biographies.


The venue is the same, focusing on the UWA Club, the Octagon Theatre, Winthrop Hall Undercroft and Patricia Crawford Court. Here’s hoping the longer sessions will mean easier queuing, especially in the UWA Club.

Most of all I’d like to say a big thank you to the organisers for listening to the audience and making what appear to be appropriate refinements. Wishing them all the best for the weeks ahead. I look forward to seeing how the changes play out. As my mother would say when we incessantly asked what’s for dinner each night … “wait and see”.

For more information go to Perth Festival. 21 to 23 February 2020.

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