An opportunity to meet the multi-talented Dr Sharad Paul – international thought leader, social entrepreneur, skin cancer specialist, poet and novelist.

Introduced by Sir Malcolm Grant, Chair of NHS England.

Discussion and drinks reception kindly hosted by the New Zealand High Commission (6.30pm – 8.30pm).

Dr Sharad Paul, born in England, raised in rural India, now working in Australia and New Zealand, has an international reputation as a thought leader in skin cancer treatment and patient-centred care. But he doesn’t stop there.  Besides medical texts, he writes poetry to discuss melanoma (De Natura Melanoma), and addresses the evolution and politics of skin through his fiction and non-fiction works (Skin, A Biography; Dermocracy).

A frequent speaker at literary festivals including Auckland and Jaipur, we are lucky to catch him en route to the Dalkey Festival in Ireland where he will speak alongside Malcolm Gladwell, John Banville, Yanis Varoufakis, Bob Geldof and others. His new book, Rxevolution: Going on a Scientific Walkabout for Wellness, will be published by Simon and Schuster later this year.

The recipient of numerous awards and described by TIME magazine as ‘Open Heart Surgeon’, Dr Paul is a senior academic at the universities of both Queensland and Auckland. His Auckland clinic has one of the largest programmes of skin cancer patients worldwide, with over 100,000 consultations and 35,000 operations since 1996. He carries out up to 7000 free skin checks a year. He is also a social entrepreneur, teaching creative writing to children in low decile schools and funding libraries and literacy programmes through his charity, Baci Foundation.

Sir Malcolm Grant, Chair of NHS England, will introduce the discussion.

When: Monday, June 13, 2016 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Where: New Zealand High Commission (Penthouse) – 80 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4TQ

Tickets £10 including wine and refreshments. Purchase tickets via Eventbrite.

Please note you will be required to present ID to gain entry to the High Commission

Join us for a special event in London at Foyles flagship bookshop to celebrate two giants of the Kiwi writing scene and an award-winning young music star.

Witi Ihimaera, already lauded for his novels and short stories, (The Matriarch, Tangi, Pounamu Pounamu,), secured his  international reputation with the hugely successful film adaptation of his novel Whale Rider.  With the recent publication of his childhood memoir Maori Boy, Witi will take us on an enthralling journey through his early years, his ancestors and through Maori history and legend more generally.

Dame Fiona Kidman, truly a grande dame of letters, Fiona arrives fresh from the Belfast Festival and the UK launch of The Infinite Air, her novelisation of the life of pioneering aviator (and fellow recipient of the French Legion of Honour) Jean Batten. The fearless Batten, who counted the first ever solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936 among her many record-breaking solo flying achievements, was also known as “the Garbo of the Skies” for her fashion awareness and reclusive nature.

And to complete the evening, make way for the prodigiously talented Jason Bae. This brilliant young South Korean-born Kiwi pianist – New Zealand’s first Steinway Young Artist –  has won international acclaim, a series of awards and a dedicated following for the virtuosity and flair of his performances.  The evening is hosted by New Zealand’s High Commissioner to London HE The Right Hon Sir Lockwood Smith.

Words, music and wine in one of the UK’s most iconic bookshops – a perfect summer evening.

When: Tuesday 14 June
: The Auditorium at Foyles, Level 6, 107 Charing Cross Road
Tickets: £8 per ticket, including wine.

To purchase tickets via Foyles click here.

This year we are partnering with the Salisbury Festival, now in its 44th year, as it brings a fantastic line-up of New Zealand literature, music, comedy, dance, film and food. New Zealand is a central focus of this year’s events, with acts celebrating Maori culture and exploring the development of European and contemporary Pacific island traditions in the land of the long white cloud.

From Maori a cappella to award-winning circus and mime, via a Middle Earth marathon, a free massed haka and some brilliant books….artists include Corey Baker, Fiona Farrell, Peter Gordon, Witi Ihimaera, Jonathan Lemalu, Ngati Ranana, Trygve Wakenshaw. Festival organisers are working with 25 venues, including Salisbury Arts Centre, Playhouse and City Hall to put on the 16-day event, which runs from 27 May to 11 June.

The festival will launch with the Whakatuwhera opening ceremony at the Cathedral’s west lawn, within a ring of fire and drawing upon the Māori traditions of New Zealand.

And it’s all happening in one of England’s most beautiful cathedral cities(an easy day trip by train or car). Well worth a visit!

Salisbury International Arts Festival runs from Friday 27th May – Saturday 11th June 2016.

See the Festival Website for more information and tickets.


Fresh from their sold-out touring season with the NZ Festival in March 2016, the award- winning Modern Māori Quartet has booked a four city tour in the United Kingdom this June, performing in London, Cardiff, Brighton and Salisbury.

  • London, 3 June
  • Cardiff, 5 June
  • Brighton 6 June
  • Salisbury 9 June

Handsome, hilarious, harmonious, these suave crooners invite you to enjoy a fresh take on the classic Maori showbands of yesteryear.

The self-styled ‘Maori Rat Pack’ will present their signature cabaret show ‘An Evening with the MMQ, at the exceptional London classical music venue St John’s Smith Square on 3 June, followed by the iconic Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff on 5 June, and at premier live entertainment venue Komedia in Brighton on 6 June, before heading on to the Salisbury Playhouse for their Salisbury International Arts Festival showcase on 9 June.

They’ve been playing to sell-out audiences in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Uzbekistan (yes – Uzbekistan!) and this is their first UK tour.

Click to buy tickets from

John Ahern, author of On the Road… With Kids, is winner of Queensland Book of the Year 2015.  Ahern’s illustrated talk at the Australia Centre will mark UK publication of his riotous account of the family’s 30-country gap year.

‘Full of laughs but…amid all the fun and foibles of travel is an honest, heartfelt meditation on the meaning of modern life.’
Sydney Morning Herald

The reception is hosted by the Queensland Agent General, Ken Smith. Attendance at this event is by invitation only. Please register your interest through Lauren-Lee London –

Thursday 19th May, 6pm – 8pm at the Australia Centre, cnr Melbourne Place and Strand, London WC2B 4LG

See for further details. 

The Australia and New Zealand  Festival is delighted that Thomas Keneally will be joining us for a special evening hosted by the Hon Alexander Downer AC at Australia House, to celebrate his illustrious career as one of Australia’s best-loved authors.

Keneally will be in conversation with broadcaster and writer Mark Lawson about his writing which began in 1964 and is still gathering accolades. His latest book, Napoleon’s Last Island, has been hailed by the Guardian as a brilliant reworking of alienation and exile.

This will be the only London engagement for Keneally, who won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark which, adapted for the big screen as Schindler’s List, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

This event will be held on Thursday  2nd June, 7pm – 9pmA reception will follow the event.

Click here to purchase tickets via EventBrite

Palm Island. Just the name conjures a picture. A tropical-holiday-postcard sort of picture, of course. Judging from the photos projected on the screens behind the stage you’d be right as well. It has the palm trees, it has the beaches.

It also has a chilling history. Palm Island was used as a place of punishment from 1918 and Aboriginal people were sent there from all over Australia. ‘The Act’ – a draconian piece of legislation which subjected Palm Islanders to forced labour, poor wages, and multiple human rights violations – was not fully abolished until 1984.

Beautiful One Day, a play from Australia’s Ilbijerri Theatre Company, directed by Eamon Flack and script devised with dramaturg David Williams, explores a particularly notorious incident in that history – the 2004 killing of an Aboriginal man in police custody.

It’s a very direct sort of theatre. There are six actors, all very strong and real. They stand in rows, sit on chairs, and for most of the play they don’t acknowledge any conventions of artifice like fourth walls. They tell it like it is.

It’s gripping. And tragic. And sometimes downright hilarious.

It’s more-or-less entirely non-fiction too. A large part of the play’s first section consists of a historical collage of Palm Island under the Act: court reports, a book about the 1957 strike; a saccharine piece of historical film narrative that describes ‘warm, calm, simple people trying hard to live in our society’ (my italics), first-hand accounts of the islanders’ treatment at the hands of white overseers and more are layered together to form the script. Personal stories too. Performer, Rachel Maza, met a man who knew her father fifty years ago when she came to the island in preparation for creating Beautiful One Day. Her ancestor, Reginald Maza, was sent there with his family as punishment for crimes such as ‘inciting other natives to refuse to work in order to get proper wages’. Palm Island has seen a lot of punishment for acts of protest.

One of the most shocking moments was when the list of rules written by a historical superintendent of the island for Aboriginal workers was read. These had the audience gasping in outrage. These controlled love, language and communication. Aboriginal people had to salute the whites and punishment could be forthcoming for waving to one’s wife. It sends a powerful message –human rights abuses were part of official policy. It’s little wonder that the 1957 strike took place.

And then November 19, 2004, saw Palm Island’s most notorious incident in recent history. Cameron Doomadgee was violently killed while in the custody of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.

The account of Doomadgee’s death comes straight from the mouths of the people who were there – both locals and police. You get both sides of the story and the snippets of first-hand accounts are carefully juxtaposed to tell a tale of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

One of the few traditional theatre ‘scenes’ in the play is when the two white actors re-enacted Hurley’s testimony of walking through the events of November 19. These make one thing very clear – Doomadgee’s injuries – including a liver nearly cleaved in two – were too serious to be the result of an accidental fall, which was Hurley’s original claim. And yet the all-white jury at his trial cleared him of even manslaughter.

The strongest, angriest voices came from those speaking of the riot that broke out after Doomagee’s autopsy results were made public. So many questions – ‘can you tell us straight?’; ‘I’m calling your report not good enough’; ‘It was murder’, ‘so many of our young fellas go to prison – why not him?’ Once again the play makes a strong statement on miscommunication – the rioters are scared of the police, the police are harsh because they fear the mob.

It’s only fitting that a piece of theatre that is made up so much of Palm Islander’s voices, should end with footage of some of the people who live there now and who collaborated with Ilbijerri on Beautiful one Day: Aunty Maggie Blackley, Kylie Doomadgee and Harry Reuben answer the question, ‘what can Palm Island be?’. These three ‘ancestors of the Act’, have got a hopeful vision for the island, though it’s darkened by a sense that ‘the Act is still here’. Why, asks once can’t they transfer Palm Island back to the Aboriginal council? But they also speak of the closeness of the community, of knowing who the children belong to by looking at them. Harry Reuben describes walking into the bush and going hunting, a statement of such freedom compared to so much of what we’ve heard before that it is possible to picture a different sort of Palm Island.

This is a play that tells a story that needs to be told. It’s a straight-talking piece of documentary theatre and if you get a chance (It’s next on in Queensland in September – not helpful for Londoners, but you are a widely travelled bunch…) then see it.


Beautiful One Day was performed as part of the Origins Festival of First Nations.

ILBIJERRI is Australia’s leading and longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company.


Katie Haworth is a New Zealand-born editor and writer who lives in London

By Ivor Wells

Australians have been gripped this month by a new ABC documentary series ‘The Killing Season’; a three part story of the infamous leadership coups within the Australian Labor Party (ALP) that played out so dramatically in 2010 and 2013.

The title of the series is the nickname given to the last few weeks of Parliament, in late June before the winter recess, when Australian political assassinations tend to happen. It’s the story of whisperings, hatched plots and the dark arts of power.

Two Prime Ministers – Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – both one-time assassins, both one-time victims, both now out of politics.

Her premiership may have begun and ended like a Shakespearean play, but Julia Gillard’s legacy has a layer of significance that Kevin Rudd’s doesn’t have. Gillard was the first female Prime Minister of a country famed not only for the brutality of its political discourse, but the sexism in some corners of its society too.

Her experiences of holding high office in Australia, now told for the first time in her own words in her memoire My Story, make for a compelling and at times challenging discussion.

At the palatial Institute of Directors (IOD) on Pall Mall in London, the former Australian Prime Minister gave the Inaugural Mackworth Lecture in honour of Lady Margaret Mackworth; successful business leader, feminist activist and campaigner who became the IOD’s first female President in 1926.

The theme of the evening was gender equality and women in leadership.

Yet the “Curious Question of Gender” was the hardest chapter of the book to write, says Gillard. When she became Prime Minister she expected the issue of her gender (both positive and negative reactions to it) to peak in the early days, before gradually subsiding as she got on with the job.

I assumed wrong, she says.

As she began making controversial decisions, her political capital dipping as political capital inevitably dips in politics, the attacks on her became more and more gendered, she explains.

I should have called that out earlier, she says, rather than waiting. That is something I regret.

Today she is mostly known outside of Australia for her ‘misogyny speech’ in Parliament, when she attacked the former Leader of the Opposition (now Prime Minister) Tony Abbott for his comments and behaviour relating to women.

Footage of the speech went viral around the world. The first thing many people say to her today wherever she may be is “Great speech!”

Is she proud to have spoken up on behalf of millions of people for whom the speech resonated? Absolutely, she says.

Is Australia a sexist country?

Look, I’m too much of a patriot to say the problem of sexism and misogyny is uniquely Australian, she says, this a challenge across the world.

It’s easy to get the impression however, that The Speech is also a mild frustration for Gillard. She wants to talk about other things too and The Speech, though sometimes a good starting point, can easily distract from her other priorities.

Promoting education in the new global development agenda is one such priority. She was, after all, a highly regarded Minster of Education; the issue she is perhaps most passionate about. She speaks passionately about the fight for equality of education opportunities for boys and girls across the developing world.

Tragically, on current projections, it will only be the great, great grandchildren of my nine-year-old nephew who will witness universal access to primary and secondary education across sub-Saharan Africa, she says.

Julia Gillard doesn’t speak like someone who will be having a quiet retirement from frontline national politics. Her new role is as ambitious as it is global.

Yet returning to the theme of the lecture and the achievements of women like Lady Margaret Mackworth, Gillard stresses the importance of changing hearts and minds on gender stereotypes. For that we also need the voices of influential men too, she says, this can’t be something solely owned by women.

But long term should we even have to talk about gender the way we still need to? If I have a dream, she says, it’s the thought of one day being at a Labor Party quiz night and the question, “Who was the first female Prime Minister of Australia?” being asked.

I’d like to be the only person in the room who would know such an obscure fact. A) because I’d win the round, and b) because it might say a lot about how far we’d come.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

Share / Download / Print 

Poetry Poster Project 

Pānui Poetry Posters invited five New Zealand poets to submit poems to feature on a series of uniquely designed posters, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

The posters are free to share, download and print! 

You can read and download the poster featuring Selina Tusitala Marsh  here

You can read and download the poster featuring Alice Miller here

You can read and download the poster featuring Bill Nelson here

You can read and download the poster featuring Joan Fleming here

You can read and download the poster featuring Rachel O’Neill here





Pānui Poetry Posters project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.




By John Lang

From her perch on a chair almost the size of the King’s College Council Room itself, Rosie Fenton, the chair of this intimate discussion, asked writer Tony Birch how best to effectively communicate the enormous problem that is climate change. Especially, she stressed, in light of the powerlessness most people felt about it. Birch had a simple but thoughtful response:

“I would approach it how I approach it with the kids I talk to, that is, by first asking them about the places that they love, whatever guise that may come in.

“Kids love to tell you about the places they love.

“After I get them passionately pondering their places, I go on and ask them how they’d feel if that place changed.”

Most of us can be considered kids when it comes to climate change. Tirelessly complex at every vantage point, from its science to its interpretation to its communication, the difficulties of understanding climate change can make us all feel rather adolescent.

Fenton pressed on. “We’ve got the scientist, the journalist but what about the writer?”

“Sometimes issues have to be communicated in a non-empirical way,” offered Birch.

“To capture people’s attention. That’s where writers come in.

“The scientist has his or her role, the journalist theirs [and] the writer has their own role.”

The power of narrative has always had this wonderful emotional hook. But for issues as “unchanging from day-to-day” as climate change, compared with its more ‘newsworthy’ cousins, this hook’s necessity is elevated.

“The problem with this story is that it’s just so bloody big.”

Like the clichéd but highly relevant metaphor of ‘the boiled frog’ that special guest Wheeler identifies, we are in desperate need of things that wake us up; that spring us out of the lukewarm water before it gets any hotter.

Not only do Wheeler and Birch reassure us that writing can wake us up, they insist on the importance of communicating personal experience, especially when considering such a global and disparate issue. Wheeler (admittedly better known the co-founder of Lonely Planet with his wife Maureen) has got more than a couple of personal travel experiences to his name. A couple will do here: Whether its visiting Bangladesh and witnessing “a country of 150 million a mere metre or two away from being a modern day Waterworld,” or walking from Nepal to China and noticing “the atmosphere change consistency due to pollution,” he has seen it for himself.

Birch went on to entrench Wheeler’s ideas with his reciting of a piece he recently wrote for the Weather Stations project – five writers’ writing collaboration dedicated to climate change. It was about walking down the Yarra River, in Melbourne, with his 16 year-old daughter.

“We need to be provincial. It’s naive to think we can come up with this global narrative around climate change… as I once did.”

By writing something local, as writers, both Birch and Wheeler “have faith that others can take their stories on by themselves in their own locality.”

At about the midway point of the discussion, Birch offered honestly, that as writers, “We all sometimes ask ourselves, does writing really matter?”

Birch unwittingly answered his own rhetorical question 20 minutes later:

“I admit, I’m in a position of privilege. I’m a writer and I have a responsibility to provide hope. We [writers] all do things on our own but it’s a collective action.

“It’s like the pathway alongside the Yarra – you haven’t seen all the other walkers or runners as you’ve gone by, but you know they’ve been there.”

All, it seems, to urgently help the kids overcome the “cognitive dissonance between what we know and what we know we must do.”

John Lang is an Otago law and history graduate. He is the cofounder of Swigit, a soon-to-be released multimedia Wikipedia for helping people understand ‘big’ issues. Visit or email

At one point the session’s chair, Paul Gravett, turned gravely to the audience, a look of warning in his eyes, ‘We’re a bunch of geeks up here on stage’. Did he think we hadn’t noticed? After all, we had come to a literary festival discussion about graphic novels featuring Kiwi cartoonists Dylan Horrocks and Roger Langridge. Comic book geeks was what we had come to see, and, blistering barnacles! (as they say in Tintin) we got what we wanted.

These geeks certainly know what they are talking about. Horrocks and Langridge are indisputably the best-known cartoonists out of New Zealand and between them and Paul Gravett, they know the history too. The audience was treated to an hour and more of yarns about New Zealand comics past and present and it was a sparking discussion.

In the beginning there was Eric Resetar. He was an Auckland schoolboy cartoonist in World War II, and, with Victoria Park humming with Captain-America deprived US GIs, he started a business complete with a New Zealand government paper ration and was the ‘ancestor of the small press’ in NZ comic publishing. With titles like An All Black on Mars, it’s no wonder that he did well.

Small presses and underground publishing are the story of comics in New Zealand and if you forge ahead to the 1980s, well, then there was the photocopier. Don’t laugh if you’re under 30 – this was revolutionary.

Having the means to make cheap paper copies allowed nascent cartoonists like Horrocks and Langridge to start guerrilla publishing. It was the beginning of the mini comic and the birth of Pickle by Horrocks and Art d’Ecco by Langridge. Both were published in Auckland University’s student magazine, Craccum, and self-photocopied editions, but of course these talented young kiwis wanted more and there were no opportunities for comic careers at home and, like so many like them, then and now, they left.

Horrocks spent his OE drawing Pickle and photocopying it in the London Waterstones where he worked and it was eventually picked up by a Canadian publisher. Langridge came to London with a stash of Art d’Ecco minis to show to publishers and Fantagraphics took them on in 1989.

It was from the mini comics that Horrocks’ first graphic novel evolved. Horrocks describes Pickle as being gradually taken over by Hicksville, and this graphic novel would secure Horrocks’ international reputation and push him into mainstream work – initially Batgirl for DC – but his time following the tired superhero mores of Batgirl was not a happy experience. ‘It was almost like I lost my faith in storytelling and art’.

For Langridge, an individual style of storytelling has led to hitting the comic big time. In 1999 he found that work had dried up, and so Fred the Clown was born. ‘Every good thing that had happened to me happened because of Fred the Clown’ and he describes the series as the work he goes back to ‘when I have lost my way’. Wry language, dark humour, slightly disquieting characterisation – it’s rich stuff. If what Langridge says about Fred is true, then that clown has a lot to answer for – a quick peek at the cartoonist’s résumé would even impress people who are not buffs.

Whether working for the mainstream or not, both cartoonists have individual voices and styles emerge in whatever they do, as the quick-fire career highlights slideshow narrated by Gravette revealed. Horrocks draws with elegant, cool lines which sometimes make his work elegiac (look at the series Atlas) while Langridge seems to gravitate towards a subversive vaudeville grotesque, which characterised Fred and which has made him the perfect artist for things like Popeye, Doctor Who, The Muppets and now Snarked, a comic for children based on characters in Alice through the Looking Glass. Langridge comments that his interaction with the mainstream ‘has always been fringe because my style isn’t mainstream’.

We were reminded in this session that it’s not just action heroes in this genre – it’s a narrative art form that individual style and approach define and redefine, and Horrocks and Langridge have barrels of originality between them.

Of course Horrocks’ graphic novels examine the genre more eloquently than anything. For a wry take on the formulaic nature of superhero comics look at ‘Chapter Two: Lady Night’ of his new graphic novel, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen (Knockabout £14.99). It’s a satirical examination of fantasy and fulfilment in art and perhaps it best sums up the hour and a half (should have been an hour, but Cartoonist God Kings (read Sam Zabel for reference) do not follow schedules – but if they tell good stories, we don’t care) we spent with Horrocks and Langridge. It even has a chapter inspired by Resetar.

Sam Zabel is full of zeal and love … and cynicism of comics as a genre – and Horrocks and Langridge displayed plenty of all three at the event – but optimism too. And back in New Zealand, maybe three cartoonists earn a living from their work. It’s not many, but it’s a step up from none in the 1980s, and there is even an indie comic press, Pikitea.

So take us to the last page of Sam Zabel and what do we have? A hand, a pen, a blank page. Endless possibility.


For more information go to:


Katie Haworth is a New Zealand-born editor and writer who lives in London




By Patsy Trench

When asked what it was like in the current climate to be an indigenous voice, writer Tony Birch replied: ‘Being an Aboriginal in society is like being a fireman in the bush, rushing from one to the other desperately trying to put out all the fires.’

Birch is also a historian and a teacher, and as a writer with Aboriginal heritage he has at times been expected to represent the entire Aboriginal community. He has even been accused of ‘not being Aboriginal enough’. In his case all he aims to do is represent his community.

The current government is doing terrible things to the Aboriginal people in closing down communities in West Australia, as an example. It is necessary to raise the consciousness of young Aboriginal people, but he has what he terms an ‘open-hand’ policy: ‘If we’re going to have change we have to form alliances. We must go beyond the culture of victimhood and invite people to listen to our stories. Accept good will. Don’t fight negativity.’

Kate Grenville had misgivings, as a non-indigenous writer, about appearing on this panel. She was brought up on an ‘airbrushed’ version of Australian history – there was no mention of guns or massacres. When she came to write The Secret River she needed to know what it would have been like for her convict ancestor ‘taking up land’, but she did not feel she could write with a true indigenous voice. ‘Our lot had taken everything from the Aboriginal people’, she said. ‘So to try to tell the story from their point of view would be the last insult.’

So she left what she termed an ‘indigenous-shaped gap’ in the book; a gap that, in answer to a question from Michael Walling, was wonderfully filled in the stage adaptation at the Sydney Theatre Company by its adaptors, in particular the Aboriginal director/ choreographer Stephen Page.Walling mentioned a sculpture outside Brisbane courthouse called ‘Witnessing the Silence’, which lists all the massacres experienced by the Aboriginal people. When it was vandalised – as all memorials to the Aboriginal people are, apparently – the press took no interest.

This silence is dangerous, said Tony Birch. When he told his students about the atrocities committed against Aboriginal people in the past they were so ashamed they wanted to ’disown their history’. But concealing the past is not the answer, he said. ‘We owe them the dignity to tell their story.’

Grenville’s books were excellent teaching tools, he said. His own daughters had studied them at school. They helped his students open up, they found them ‘confronting but not threatening’.

‘It is the public secret we all know’ but don’t talk about, he said. The suppression of these stories – of any story other than the ‘official’ one – is a sign of an insecure country.

Tony Walling is the director of the forthcoming ‘Origins Festival of First Nations’.

Patsy Trench is a London-based Anglo-Australian writer and teacher of theatre.

By Yasmin Hales

As emphasized by the Chair Tim Radford, the seminal question “Who Owns Culture?” is a highly complex and loaded inquiry and was unpacked with critical scrutiny from three different perspectives: Gaye Sculthorpe, curator of the current exhibition “Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation exhibition at the British Museum”, the Aboriginal writer Melissa Lukashenko and an anthropological perspective from Haidy Geismar at University College London.

Referring to the Indigenous Australian exhibition, Melissa claimed Aboriginal communities that created the cultural artefacts have undisputable ownership. The artefacts should be rightfully returned. “So much has been taken from Aboriginal people… that where there is any doubt about provenance… because of the colonial relationships that have existed and still exist in some ways in Australia today, it’s important to err on the side of Aboriginal ownership.”

Speaking as an Aboriginal writer from an outsiders, non-curatorial perspective, Melissa feels the British Museum is incredibly backward, arguably in contrast to smaller Australian museums which have a stronger policy of repatriation. The British Museums’ attitude is “we’ve got this stuff, we like this stuff and we’ll keep it until we are forced to do something else”

From a curatorial perspective, however, Gaye stressed how the British Museum now has legal ownership of these indigenous objects which are highly protected. “What the British Museum is doing is more than just an exhibition…It has bought attention to the issues of Aboriginal and Torres Straight islanders.”

Previously the museum was burdened by an image from the past but now she argued a dialogue has begun in partnership with the Australian National University and National Museum University of Australia. Consequently, the objects on display contribute towards that shared heritage where the material artefacts can answer back.

Referring to the exhibition Shield from Captain Cook, Melissa argued “why is this treasure of Australian history, not only Aboriginal history…why is it on the other side of the world? To me it’s ridiculous. That’s like the crown jewels being in Bangladesh or the Magna Carta being lodged in Siberia”

As an anthropologist, whose very definition of the discipline is based on the cross cultural study of human behavior, Haidy Geismar argued how the definition of “Who Owns Culture?” is highly polemic question and various from place to place. There is no mutual position, as she argued “the debate quickly moves away from artefacts and more towards conflicting politics, colonial histories and issues of sovereignty which still remain unsolved”.  

The audience further learnt how the British Museum act of repatriation is guided under current UK legislation which dictates how, when and in which way objects can be returned, but regrettably provides limited opportunities to do so. Gail raised an example of the lengthy procedure in a special case of British Museum repatriation of human remains, requested by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre government in 1985/6, but under our current legislation the British Museum couldn’t return them. Finally after conversations at British and Australian government level during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and under the Human Tissue Act 2004, in 2006, 20 years after the initial request the museum repatriated the goods.

In defiant response understandably Melissa reiterated her argument “The thing that concerns me is an attitude that says that the world has a right to Aboriginal objects or in the past Aboriginal human remains, that exceeds the right of Aboriginal people to own their own artefacts, our own languages, our own law stories and essentially the right to represent ourselves”

In an opposing view, the Chair, maybe playing devil’s advocate argued that these material objects now belong to the culture that absorbed them. “The British Museum exists because we went round the world collecting, and in some cases we are all extraordinarily grateful…as the value to the world has been considerable…it’s very different when you get two artefacts that speak to an identity”

Melissa’s shared a further interesting discussion point experienced during her current UK visit to the Pitt Rivers ethnographic museum in Oxford. Having arrived with trepidation she was unaware of how much stolen Aboriginal material was collected, as pre 1900 people were still being shot in the head due to white peoples demand for land and water. So the idea of a free and fair trade between whites and Aboriginals was ludicrous.

“I don’t whether I am going to come across my great-grandmother in one of these cases… I don’t know what I am going to see when I go to a museum…Often the provenance is not clear. How did that shield get there and was it taken from one of my ancestors in a colonial situation?…So it is not a simple thing to walk into a museum”

Haidy and Gail both raised an important point in relation to guardianship and ownership of material culture and the way museums need to be responsible for the histories of colonialism. Today they agreed UK museum attitudes are changing such as the Cambridge museum that clearly worked in partnership, collaboration and respect for local Pacific communities.

Thus, in relation to the question “Who benefits?” Melissa noted during her observation of British museum audiences visiting the Aboriginal exhibition, is it worth a 6 second baffled observation of our art when people don’t understand it? However, in absence of these objects amongst Aboriginal communities, Haidy argued how the debate was equally about the importance of intangible cultural heritage, intergenerational knowledge and the transmission of tradition from one Aboriginal generation to the next amongst today’s communities.

In addition to complex discussions around Native Land rights, overall this enriching talk provided new insights into the debate of “Who Owns Culture?” that will alter the way indigenous artefacts are perceived and experienced in all ethnographic museum displays globally.

I know I will never view Australian aboriginal culture in the same way again.

Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation is on at the British Museum until August 2015.

Yasmin Hales is an independent lecturer and researcher in Social Anthropology and Indian tribal art and architecture. Visit her blog at

By Ivor Wells

ANZAC Day. Some thoughts on good old ANZAC Day.

Well, throughout this year’s festival I’ve hardly thought about ANZAC Day to be honest. Odd, given the profile of its centenary this year. But it hardly came up until ‘The One Day of the Year’, a discussion on Alan Seymour’s seminal 1958 play about how ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia.

It’s currently being performed in London at the Finborough Theatre; a fantastic, intimate production, true to the text’s naturalism but with some great expressionistic qualities too. And the acting is brilliant. Fiona Press in particular, whose portrayal of ‘the refereeing woman’ in an intergenerational father-son conflict gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on the London stage.

The director and some of the cast joined a panel on the last day of the festival to discuss the play, the wider ANZAC myth and what it means today. After all the other discussions I’d attended it was kind of strange talking about ANZAC.

Maybe it was the sessions I had chosen to go to. Or maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough in them.

Or maybe it was simply the diversity of voices at the festival and all the other stories that speak to the creation of modern Australia and New Zealand.

Because if I’m honest, after three days of talks, debates and performances I went into this session feeling a little flat, like I was shoehorning myself back into the One National Creation Story, the One Coming of Age Story, the One To Rule Us All And In The Darkness Bind Us Story.

It’s how the popular interpretation of the ANZAC story feels to many people these days, whether they feel they can say so or not.

The panel seemed to agree that Seymour’s play – based on a conflict between a proud ANZAC veteran, Alf and his student son, Hughie who has rejected the ANZAC myth – had come full circle. A teenager in 2015, it was suggested, could well play the part of the father Alf – proud, nationalistic, chest-thumping – and an older actor the sceptical student with more questions than clichés.

It was a good point and it got me thinking.

Compared to the late 50’s when the play was written and first performed, the ANZAC legend is back in vogue. Dawn services swell in numbers year on year across Australia. Gallipoli seems inextricably linked to Australian nationalism and it’s a very similar story in New Zealand too.

So why did I feel so, I don’t know, claustrophobic?

Well, it’s complicated I guess.

I’m the grandson of an ANZAC for a start. Auckland Regiment. New Zealand 2nd Expeditionary Force. Bullet to the thigh and a facial injury on the last day of the battle of Messines, 14 June 1917. Bloody lucky to have survived, my granddad.

I’ve visited Messines, just outside of Ypres in Belgium, now twinned with Featherstone in New Zealand where he lied about his age when he enlisted in 1916. Although my granddad was still farming when the Gallipoli landings took place the year before, I’ve walked with other antipodean backpackers on Chunuk Bair and Lone Pine Cemetery in Turkey. I’ve sifted through the pebbles on ANZAC cove.

I was even in Westminster Abbey with the Queen last month to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

So the ANZAC story is one I respect.

But I observe its commemoration with a very wary eye these days. In so many vacuous ways it’s become The One National Story for both countries and a quasi-religious circus of chest-thumping nationalism which many people feel uneasy about.

Is it the same in New Zealand, someone on the panel asked, are there any Kiwis in the audience?

Which is another curious aspect to ANZAC; having lived in both countries I’ve always found it interesting how, by and large, the Aussies overlook the ‘NZ’ in ANZAC and the Kiwis the first ‘A’. Yet both countries guard the legend as jealously and exclusively as they can get away with.

It’s as if, with its now-mythical status, we each have an insurance policy against being forgotten in the sweeping amphitheatre of world history, the great epic poem of war and Empire we once contributed a verse to.

I mean, where we come from – the utter most ends of the earth – who wants to be forgotten?

Ironically, it’s not the remembering, or even the solemn commemorating that makes me wince. It’s all the forgetting that comes with it.

Without ANZAC as our One Creation Story would we not have to come home to the other stories, or the stories of others to be more precise? You know the others I mean, especially if you’re Australian. Or perhaps you don’t.

If the Australia & New Zealand Literature and Arts Festival has left me with anything the last two years, it’s a renewed fascination for those longer, more complicated and, at times, uncomfortable stories from the formation of Australia and New Zealand.

I’m talking about the stories that aren’t 100 years old last month but 175, or 227, or dare I say it upwards of 40,000.

Curious is it not, that on The One Day Of the Year a booming number of young Aussies and Kiwis, draped in flags on beaches far from home, shoehorn their imaginations into that One Story of Nation grown from the soil of a bloody and futile contribution to the eternal story of war.

As their numbers continue to swell you could be forgiven for scratching your head at how the story of Alf and Hughie really did come full circle. As if, like the aging Ulysses back home on quiet old Ithaca, ‘to rest unburnished, not to shine in use’ is unimaginable in a world of war.

Or perhaps it’s not such a curious thing at all.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

Humans have been writing about war for a long time.

Ever since we’ve been writing, actually. Homer was the author of some of the most vivid scenes of battle ever penned, and since Homer was writing from an oral tradition, it’s safe to assume that tales of war have been around since humans started telling stories (or fighting wars – it would be pleasant to think the stories came first).

The tradition continues to this day, and those who heard Ruth Padel and New Zealand’s Poet Laureate, Vincent O’Sullivan, in the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts event, War in Writing, will know that it is a subject that has never lost its power to confront. As the event’s chair, Peter Rose – editor of the Australian Book Review said, war has an ‘irresistible draw’ for writers.

Padel and O’Sullivan both read poetry and Padel an extract from her novel, set in World War II Crete, amidst a rolling discussion on war as a subject. The first poem Padel shared, ‘Peter the Funny One’, was particularly apt for the session, since its subject was an artist’s response to war. A playful take on idealism versus truth, it followed Peter Breughel’s works from peasant frivolity to the art he made after living through the Thirty Years War. Throughout the poem a voice begs Breughel show, ‘the world we live in’, a request that is only satisfied with ‘The Triumph of Death’, a 1560s religious painting that presents an almost documentary scene of carnage.

Padel’s second poem, ‘Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth’ was shortlisted for the 2014 T S Eliot Prize and it rolls together the Judean creation story, modern Israel, the gentle hands of a carpenter carving an Oud and the bloody end of this labour when ‘the soldiers came for his genetic code’. It shows creativity as a healing force amidst carnage:

I took a class in carpentry and put away the bridal rug.

We started over

with a child’s oud bought on eBay.

Vincent O’Sullivan has recently been working on the lyrics for works by the New Zealand composer Ross Harris. He explained that war is not the subject matter that naturally draws him, and that he is ambivalent about the ‘dress up factor’ of war commemorations (‘don’t put yourself to so much trouble’ reads a line of one of his poems) and the myths that surround them. Were our nations really forged in the crucible of Gallipoli? Maybe not when New Zealanders in the 1970s still referred to Britain as ‘home’. Nonetheless he accepted the commission to write a poem for New Zealand’s unknown soldier, as well as writing the libretto for Harris’s opera, Brass Poppies, a Requiem for the Fallen and Notes from the Front, a song cycle based on the famous mathematician Aitken and the violin he smuggled from front line to front line.

There are, explained O’Sullivan, constraints of writing for music (for instance a slippery sentence of s’s, is very hard on a singer) and, above all, lyrics must reinforce a score not ‘peel away from it’. The Agnus Dei from the requiem, for example, takes simple phrases describing soldiers’ experiences and structures them as a chant with the traditional agnus dei (lamb of god – don’t forget that sacrifice is a strong motif here) refrain.

The simplicity of O’Sullivan’s war writing is its most forceful quality. Picture this: A soldier sees a hare moving through no man’s land. All around is death and the animal moves through a ‘corpse infested’ ditch’. It is an anecdote that becomes the heart of the war experience: it conveys a yearning for home; a yearning for the past; and all around is death, so this visitor from nature is the real invader. And if nature has become the alien, then doesn’t that just illustrate the malevolence of the human-made battle landscape?

One particularly interesting audience question was why Second World War poets were not as famous as those from the First. It wasn’t, explained O’Sullivan, that they didn’t exist. But the First World War poets were writing the most direct confronting poetry since Homer, so they have became famous. The Second World War also did not have the same ‘face-to-face brutality’ of the first.

An hour of deep, reflective poetry, prose and discussion from two much respected writers whose work and observations on writing war were sensitive and, like the Oud in Padel’s poem, lovingly crafted.

Ruth Padel’s latest collection of poetry, Learning to make an Oud in Nazareth was released in 2014. The Opera, Brass Poppies, of which O’Sullivan is the Librettist will be performed at the next New Zealand Arts Festival.



Katie Haworth is a New Zealand-born editor and writer who lives in London


By Emma Sartori

The notion of home is both complex and simple for some. It crosses literal and figurative ideas and draws in many other factors including migration and travel. It was this theme that formed the basis for The Mara Crossing: On Journeys Across the Globe session.

A largely expat/migrant audience joined host and Australian expat Jane Cornwell, poet Ruth Padel and authors Evelyn Conlon and Tara June Winch for a discussion that meandered along at its own pace, never seeking to give a definitive answer, instead offering members the choice for individual definition as ideas posed applied to them.

Is home a physical place? Is it made up of things, of people, of emotions? How do you know when you’re home? What happens to a home when you leave, whether by choice or not? What happens when you return to that home? What are people seeking when they leave a home? Anything? Or are they simply seduced by the unknown?

Maybe “home is travel, the journey,” Padel posed.

Perhaps it is, but throw in factors such as choice and the push/pull factor and the topic is turned on its head. Choice and a sense of home seemingly go hand in hand, but sometimes there is no freedom to make a choice; hands are forced, no matter how subtly, by others around them.

For migrants, “Home and migration are two sides of the same coin because everybody is leaving home but going to try to create a new home.

“There is a push-pull factor. The pull factor is the hope for a better life … but of course there’s a push factor too and it’s execution, famine, economic degradation,” Padel mused.

While an astute audience member later remarked: “With choice, in a greater sense, you can always defer to some kind of structure of decision-making that seems larger than any individual.”

For expats, the longer we’re away from home the more blurred the lines become, for when we physically wander from home, so too does our mind.

“It [home] does become romanticised, blurry, magical, a dreamland,” said Tara June Winch, an Australian now living in France.

We sentimentalise things; life, people and moments, so much so that returning home becomes a struggle because the home as you knew it evolved, quite possibly unintentionally casting you out.

When we return we are strangers essentially, Evelyn Conlon said. “It’s like when somebody dies … once the person is dead then the rest of the community leaves, turns their back and fills in the space in which that person was. So in a way, when a person emigrates and leaves that space is filled in. When they come back in, how do you recreate that space?”

Can we even recreate that space, especially if contact with home while away was minimal or non-existent?

It doesn’t matter, Conlon pointed out, because in this day and age nobody can ever be truly gone from somewhere. And she’s right, technology has made sure of that, social media has made sure of that and the way most of us have allowed all of that into our lives has made sure of that.

So, why do we leave? Why the search for home? Why do we one day feel home is not where we were once taught it was?

Padel sums it up beautifully in the final poem of The Mara Crossing, Time to Fly: “Because you need a place to shed your skin in safety. You go with a thousand questions but you are growing up, growing old, moving on. Say goodbye to the might-have-beens you can’t step into the same river twice.

“You go because hope, need and escape are names for the same god. You go because life is sweet, life is cheap, life is flux and you can’t take it with you. You go because you’re alive, because you’re dying, maybe dead already. You go because you must.”

Emma Sartori is an Australian writer continually beating away inner demons with a pen. Follow her on twitter on @EmzSartori.

Australian and New Zealand writers, artists and performers have descended and departed from London, having attended for the Australia & New Zealand Festival in May. In its second year, the festival’s line-up showcased some of the most exciting voices both countries have to offer.

Festival Director, Jon Slack, described this year’s festival as presenting Australian and New Zealand stories and ideas – which are being exchanged locally, nationally and globally – in London. ‘Books, music and film were the main forms of choice this year and there was an incredible wealth of creativity, and different ways of thinking. The Festival explored Australia and New Zealand’s biggest challenges, covering issues such as national identity, politics, the environment and the economy. Our speakers also explored common ground with the UK and beyond. What makes us different, and what experiences do we share? How can we understand our global neighbours a little better?’

Exclusive lead-up events in May

As well as four days of events from 28–31 May, the Festival featured exclusive events throughout the month. On May 22 the British Museum hosted Melissa Lucashenko in Black, White and Brindle: Aboriginality in an Age of Unreason; and May 25 saw Elemental – a collaboration between poets, musicians, sound and video artists . . . and world-renowned science writer John Gribbin, take place at the Royal Observatory.

The May 28–31 events were then held at Kings College, London, and featured discussion, debate, music, workshops, performance poetry, film, literature and more.

Memory, identity and more

Novelists appearing included Kate Grenville, discussing her new memoir My Mother’s Story; Howard Jacobson, focusing on his new TV series, Brilliant Creatures; novelist and journalist Peter Walker on his acclaimed Some here Among Us; Paul Ewen on The Writer and his (Alter) Ego. Those who wondered what’s next from ANZ literature attended New Stories with Melissa Lucashenko, Tony Birch and Tara June Winch. A.C. Grayling explored the work of Australia’s beloved poet, Gwen Harwood; Vincent O’Sullivan and Gerri Kimber looked at The Life and Legacy of Katherine Mansfield; and performance poets Omar Musa and Selina Tusitala Marsh reflected on identity and writing in Who Do You Think You Are? For a look at the illustrated side of literature, Dylan Horrocks and Roger Langridge discussed The Graphic Novel; and Alternative Worlds in fiction were visited with Elizabeth Knox and Janina Matthewson. The festival closed on 31 May with Steve Toltz in conversation about his latest novel, Quicksand.

Feast for the senses

The majestic Victorian chapel at Kings College was at the heart of the festival’s performance programme. The Morning Coffee Sessions (I and II) began each day with a feast of music and spoken word; while Australian contemporary music found its voice in Collaboration in Contemporary Music and the Nellie Bell Showcase. Those looking for a classical treat enjoyed Sings Harry, Bill and Mick: A Celebration of Douglas Lilburn and Denis Glover. In Art Meets Science, science and performance were intertwined as two artists and one scientific collaborator presented and discussed their cross-disciplinary collaboration. South Country (I & II) provided rich evenings of performance poetry, while Duncan Sarkies and Joe Blossom brought performance to fiction in the spoke- word show of Sarkies’ novel, The Demolition of the Century. And in an event with an X-Factor twist, Literary Death Match saw writers read their own work, and be appraised by three all-star judges. Selina Tusitala Marsh took out the prize after a closely fought Literary Death Match finale.

Society and thought

Australian and New Zealand society and thought – both contemporary and historical, was a vital focus for any Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts. Radicalisation and National Identity, The Asian Century, Who Owns Culture and Alan Duff and Melissa Lucashenko in Breaking the Cycle – all events that explored issues and changes to Australian and New Zealand society today. Robyn Archer, Geraldine Doogue, and Diane Lees reflected on their career paths and lessons learned in Inspiring Women Reflect; and inspiring women from a different era was also examined in Awakening: Four Lives in the Arts.

Forged by war

First World War history – in particular the social shifts and new alliances that the Great War forged in Europe and Australasia – was examined by James Belich and Christopher Clark in War Stories: Uncertain Allies; and Vincent O’Sullivan and Ruth Padel delved into the dark world of War in Writing. Former artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company, Wayne Harrison, and the London cast of The One Day of the Year, discussed Alan Seymour’s newly revised 1958 play and the cultural debate that raged at the time it was written.

Journeys and landscape

Journeys and landscape are a lynchpin of Australian and New Zealand identity and took centre stage in a number of events including Mike Allsop’s Extreme Adventures. Pat Lowe discussed Girl From the Sandy Desert – A glimpse of artist Jukuna Mona Chuguna’s life as a desert child, before European settlement changed the Walmajarri people’s lives forever; and Lowe and Jesse Blackadder returned to the desert in Dramatic Beaty: Writing from the Kimberley Region for ChildrenThe Indigenous Voice featured Kate Grenville and Tony Birch explored the role of indigenous writing and culture in the national agenda and on the world stage.

In The Mara Crossing panelists followed journeys of immigrations – the search for ‘home’. Tony Birch and Rose Fenton considered our global changing environment, and how we can examine the narrative of climate change through the prism of literature and storytelling in Writing the Environment.

As well as live performers and artists, the festival’s film programme celebrated some of the best of Australasian cinema – from the first silent feature-length film, to modern classics and award-winning contemporary cinema.





By Emma Sartori

As the book publishing industry has evolved with the modern world, so too has the necessary relationships within it.

Relationships like the one between an author and publisher; an author and his character; a reader and an author; and between an author and himself. Begging the question, what does it take to be an author in the 21st century?

New Zealand author Paul Ewen took that concept and ran with it in his first novel, How to be a Public Author? Protagonist Francis Plug was seven years in the making, brought to life by Ewen who would take his alter ego along to literary events.

It’s book festivals and the role they play that become a central discussion point for Ewen, publisher and host Eloise Miller and journalist Alex Carr in The Writer and His Alter Ego session.

Promoting a book these days is almost an elaborate game of Chinese whispers. While traditional media still plays a huge part in developing readership, publishers, Miller admits, have realised the power word of mouth can have. The reach can be far but it may not necessarily be wide enough, forcing authors to step out from behind their characters and words to give their book that extra push.

“The expectation of what you do as an author has changed,” Miller said. “You don’t just write a book and wait at home while the reviews come in. You get into this kind of stream and river of interviews and events and readings and you’re really expected to put yourself out there.”

At war with that, though, is the enduring notion that authors are reclusive beings. And while Ewen doesn’t fit that bill at all, he does have an endearing awkwardness evened out by a sharp sense of humour the audience is given flashes of throughout the session.

“The night of the Booker Prize shortlist last year, Francis Plug went along and he tried to get into the backstage because he thought he should be on the shortlist. But they wouldn’t let him in, so he took a photo, which got circulated afterward, of his book at Foyles, they have a Booker shortlist shelf, so he took a photo of his book there and he went back and said, ‘Look here it is!’ But they still wouldn’t let him in,” he said with a wry smile.

“He is eccentric,” Miller said. “Francis Plug is the ultimate outsider.”

Ewen agreed: “He’s said he wants to be this author but he can see what’s coming and that’s the whole point of writing this book for himself, he’s learning tips and going around to all these Booker prize winners because they’re at the coalface of public author-ness and he’s trying to work out if he can do it himself.”

The demand for author visibility has increased along with the proliferation of literary festivals, which in turn offer the chance to read a writer up close. Despite the performance aspect of the job not being his cup of tea, author events do have their place, Ewen believes.

“For my case, I’m obviously keen to do it because I’ve got the backing of a small publisher who doesn’t have the big marketing budgets that the big publishers have got, so I also want to help do my bit. I’m not on social media either; I’m not a fan of that, so I feel like I’ve got to do my part to push the book.”

“[Big festivals] present you with the opportunity to get close up to writers and I suppose that’s why they’ve been so successful,” Carr agreed.

Publicity isn’t the only thing Ewen is getting out of the events though (he’s been to five in two weeks); he’s gathering material for his follow-up book. So have we caught the eye of Francis Plug?

“These events are what go in my book, funnily enough. This is all good material for me,” Ewen said.

“I can’t escape this character … You’re always looking for his take.”

Emma Sartori is an Australian writer continually beating away inner demons with a pen. Follow her on twitter on @EmzSartori.

Former foreign editor Peter Walker and foreign correspondent Christina Lamb joined journalist Brian Walker for a wide-ranging discussion on politics, war and love in Some Here Among Us.

Walker is here to discuss his novel, Some Here Among Us – a cross-generational meditation on youth and promise and loss in the face of two of the most controversial wars in modern history. In fact, he jokes, if Tolstoy hadn’t got there first, he might have called his book ‘War and Love’.

“Love is at the foreground, but war is always in the background,” says Walker. The story follows a group of friends over 40 years as they flee New Zealand to Washington, before returning again via various war zones and shifting politics.

With a long history of reporting from conflict areas, Walker has the gravitas and knowledge to bring this background layer to life. When asked how autobiographical his novel is, Walker says “memory is used in fiction just as it autobiography”. However, he notes that whilst autobiographical memory must be tied to the facts, otherwise it’s a lie, “fictional memory must be liberated from the facts, otherwise it’s not fiction”.

For Walker, the reverberations of war are always around us – like a woman beating a dusty carpet with a broom, its effects will ricochet and bounce towards us no matter where we live.

And from fiction to fact – Christina Lamb, with over 20 years of reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan under her belt, is a walking tome of facts, figures and insights into a politically charged and highly complex environment.

Lamb says her most recent book, Farewell Kabul, is about “how we don’t seem to be able to end wars anymore”. Having first reported from Afghanistan in 1989 Lamb has seen the shifting vagaries of global politics played out in this embattled country in all its forms. From the USSR invasion, to the rise of the Mujahedeen to the US hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Lamb incisively asks the most important question – has it all been worth it?

She tells the story of the NATO headquarters in Kabul, where a tradition has developed of each Commander planting a new tree at the end of his tenure.

“There are 17 trees”, she says. Too many, she thinks, for the relatively short period of NATO involvement, revealing a lack of continuity in leadership that would have been crucial to establishing stability.

It is a somber discussion ultimately, on the futility of conflict and the tendency of Western governments to throw money at a problem and hope it goes away with little thought of the longer term consequences for those bearing out the realities of their decisions.

Maybe after all, fact and fiction are in this instance the same thing – as Lamb notes in the end what she mainly covered was the ordinary stories of Afghans living their lives amongst the fighting and rubble.

The foreground of love, against the backdrop of war.

Alex Ivett is a full-time lawyer and part-time writer who sometimes wishes those two could switch. Check out her work at or follow her on twitter @ozlondonlife.

By Anna Bowden

Introduced as writers of ‘love and land’, New Zealand writer Alan Duff and Australian writer Melissa Lucashenko’s discussion around breaking the cycle developed to cover major themes of violence, masculinity, community and connecting people through books.

Duff, author of the rage-ridden Once Were Warriors, speaks about the profound effects of being loveless and how they are shown through his character, Jake: “My work is about the state of lovelessness and the mayhem that comes out of that.”

He speaks about the film adaptation of his first novel like it was far more recent than 25 years ago, recalling the reaction to its hard-hitting themes of domestic violence.  “I remember the people saying ‘so what’s all the fuss about Alan Duff’, I went from zero to hero overnight. They said ‘this is how too many of us live”.

“I never wanted to point the finger at Jake, I wanted to hold a mirror up. The Jakes of this world are full of self-loathing.”

Lucashenko and Duff share their experience of prisons – Duff on the wrong side of the bars – and agree that most people in prisons have been abused in their lives, and for men masculinity remains an issue.

Duff describes his own battles with masculinity, even amid writing Once Were Warriors, of hiding his typewriter and shutting down music when ‘the boys’ came by for rugby: “I wasn’t prepared to come out of the closet with my love of classical music.”

However, the writers’ views differ on redemption and the place of cultural tradition in steering young men, in particular, on the right path. While Lucashenko speaks boldly of the importance of the egalitarian constructs of Aboriginal culture and keeping traditions alive, Duff holds a staunch view that “we forget” the parts of our culture we don’t want to return to and we must look to the future.

Duff began a literacy programme more than 20 years ago which gives books to disadvantaged kids. Since then, 13 million books have been given away, and there are currently 100,000 children on the programme.

Anna Bowden is a New Zealander living in London. Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram@annabowden.

By Ivor Wells

‘Australia and New Zealand to square off in death match!’

What comes to mind?

I’d tend to go with 90,000 people singing their hearts out to Jimmy Barnes at the MCG, or a sinking yacht, or underarm bowling, or tears of relief at Eden Park. I might think of the Bledisloe Cup with its distinctly Kiwi accent these days, or the Cricket World Cup grinning back at it from across the pond.

I’d tend not to think of answering questions about Nabakov and his butterflies, Mansfield’s cheeky tipples, Carey’s two-time Booker win or Joanna Lumley’s opinion of The Bone People.

But that’s how it rolls if the Oz-NZ showdown is a Literary Death Match: the wicket a microphone, the goal posts a 7-8 minute time slot, the muddy ball either slam poetry or polished prose.

Forget sucking on an orange peel at half time, mate. Tuck into a madeleine Prousty!

And so it came to pass that four writers from both sides of the Tasman did square off in the atmospheric chapel at King’s College:

Never before, and probably never again, will I laugh so hard at a literary character – Paul Ewan’s half-pissed alter-ego – making light chit chat with Margaret Atwood from inside a cage.

In a brilliant series of poems Selina Tusitala Marsh single handedly subverted the white colonial male gaze of Gaugin with such magnetic panache I eventually had to avert my own.

Duncan Sarkies’ short story about an attempted escape from an old person’s home during a performance of Annie was as surreal and unnerving as it was deeply moving.

And with eloquence and clarity, rapper and slam poet Omar Musa did to the cult of ANZAC Day what Public Enemy did to 911.

They were all presided over by MC and Literary Death Match founder, Adrian Todd Zuniga, an American dressed in a three piece suit that was so tweed T.S. Eliot would have been like, ‘Dude.’

Let’s not forget the judges too:

Novelist and theatremaker, Stella Duffy’s south London/south Waikato credentials were perfectly suited to defending both the fiction of Janet Frame and Brixton’s chicken shops.

Aussie comedian Sarah Kendall’s limitless knowledge of film allowed her to compare every performance to well-known Australian actors. In particular, her comments on Al Pacino in the Godfather I really should have written down.

And Tim Fitzhigham is just plain mad. This is a bloke who rowed a paper boat down the Thames, a bathtub across the English Channel and broke the world record for the longest washing line. Come to think of it, I couldn’t think of anyone more suited to the occasion. He performed admirably, even if he was speaking Klingon half the time.

I have no idea what happened next.

Something about judges conferring, people leaving the stage and volunteers being called up to form words using large cards with letters on them.

It was a game of several halves. We laughed. We had a good old laugh, we really did.

But basically Selina won and everyone was happy because everyone’s a winner, right?

No high tackles. No sin bins. Nice one, Down Under.

Yet the cherry was really placed atop the pavlova just after we’d all stopped clapping, when the house lights went up and the DJ put some music on. It was a tune I hadn’t heard in years, but it was so familiar we all seemed to do a double take.

I felt a nostalgic lump rising in my throat.

Oh look, this is awkward.

It’s not as if I like the song. I just, you know, wasn’t expecting to hear it.

And the death match was finally over, and we were all mates again, and it was kind of lovely.

Do I really have to name the song?

Look, let’s just say that wherever we are in the world, everyone needs good Neighbours.


Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

By Emma Sartori

If there’s one thing that became abundantly clear throughout the Kate Grenville In Conversation session, it’s that she comes from a line of remarkable women.

Her grandmother’s life in the harsh, late 1800s is the stuff stories spring from, while her mother, Nance, survived a time of tumultuous change in the 20th century and passed those stories down to her children.

In a departure from her usual fiction, Grenville delved further into the stories her mother told her and the end result is the memoir, One Life: My Mother’s Story.

Nance was, by all accounts, a woman marked by rejection and desolation who bore a striking resilience and determination to break the common thread of unhappiness weaving its way through her family, all amid a change in the fabric of society as women of her generation were offered more freedom and opportunities than ever before.

“My mother was born in 1912 and lived for 90 years, so what she saw over the course of the 20th century was wave after wave of incredible change, particularly for women, which opened up opportunities all of which she grabbed with both hands,” Grenville told the audience.

“All my life she’d been telling me stories about our ancestors, including our convict ancestor on who The Secret River was based, but also about her own young life and all that involved.

“The reason why she kept telling us those stories, I think, was that she knew that she was representative of a generation of women for who life was different than it had been from every other generation of women on the planet.”

There is nothing quite like a mother’s love and the impact of Grenville’s mother, and to an extent her grandmother, on her is obvious. She speaks very matter-of-factly about the shortcomings of the adult figures in her life, of her grandmother’s frustrations at being blocked at every turn, of the loveless childhood experienced by her mother, of affairs, conspiracies and secrets uncovered.

She holds no illusions about the line of women she comes from and chooses to accept their imperfections, to understand the hardships experienced instead of judging. In that way, Grenville turns the tables on her mother, proving a child’s love can be just as unconditional.

“Mum never had any secrets … I think she made sure that there were no skeletons for me to be shocked by after she died, or if there were she’s hidden them so effectively that I haven’t been able to find them,” Grenville said with a smile.

The tables continued to turn on the Grenville women as the award-winning author revealed that she and her brothers were the catalyst for change for Nance.

“She said to me, ‘I come from a long line of unhappy parents producing unhappy and unsettled children,’ and she would say, ‘I am determined to break that cycle. I’m going to be the generation where, OK, I might not be happy but I’m not going to pass that unhappiness on to you children’,” Grenville said.

“She was an incredibly loving mother and she somehow managed to absorb into herself like a sponge all the unhappiness of the marriage so that it didn’t infect me and my brothers.”

In all of her fiction there is something of Nance, Grenville admits. The root of Grenville’s love for reading and writing is most certainly traced back to Nance, who was saved from a particularly dark period in her life by the words of poet John Keats.

“I grew up almost slightly embarrassed by the intensity of my mother’s love of literature, but it certainly rubbed off on me,” Grenville said. “When I became a writer I think mum was as surprised as I was.

“I certainly think I owe her my love of writing.”

Grenville, who exudes the warmth, inner strength and intelligence she describes her mother as having, brings everything full circle by immortalising Nance’s history in One Life: My Mother’s Story and discussing it with obvious pride and love. The memoir is a sort of proof that the cycle of unhappiness has indeed been broken and the stories shared highlight just how fortunate women in the 21st century are.

“I wanted to tell my mother’s story as she would clearly want it to be told,” Grenville said.

“She was remarkable.”

Emma Sartori is an Australian writer continually beating away inner demons with a pen. Follow her on twitter on @EmzSartori.

By Anna Bowden

In his TV series Brilliant Creatures  Howard Jacobson links four “exiled” Australians who arrived in the UK in the 60s: writer Clive James, feminist Germaine Greer; performer Barry Humphries; and art critic Robert Hughes. And, he says, without them England wouldn’t have been the same.

Jacobson shares an interesting relationship with them; during this time he traded places, travelling to Australia – from their sleepy backwater to his brave new world. “They all justified leaving home by attacking Australia, but it was not the cultural desert they described.” His views of Australia are not resolute, as with any ex-pat on new shores. But his observations and links from the famous four, shape a complex picture of what it is to leave home, and more so, what it is to choose to stay in faraway lands: “The other side of the exhilaration of leaving home is the longing you have to go back there.”

Having spent hours interviewing each of the Australian four, Jacobson offers a warm view of the remarkable contribution they made to Britain, paving the way for future generations, and introducing the world to Australian-ness. While not connected to each other personally, the four offer special similarities in their love of literature, and performance that shaped their individual successes. A scale of  cultural nourishment that may never be seen again.

Jacobson was joined by poet and academic Jaya Sivage, and The Australian managing editor Helen Trinca, who together explored the new generation and the opportunities for similar cultural influence. Sivage talked about the fragmentation and clamour of media and the difficulty in cutting through the noise of today. While Australians comedian/composer Tim Minchin and comedian/actress Rebel Wilson were mentioned as having strong voices, we probably won’t identify their impact without the benefit of another 50 years hindsight, and the eloquent Howard Jacobson to wrap it all up in a lovely documentary to present it to us.

Anna Bowden is a New Zealander living in London. Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram @annabowden.

Sometimes it’s the small stories that matter the most. Like what happens when a child growing up in the north-western Australian desert eats too many of a certain type of insect and her blind mother sits with her all day, comforting her until she feels better. 

Pat Lowe met Walmajarri woman, Jukuna Mona Chuguna, while living in Broom in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. Jukna, shared many of her childhood stories with Pat, and the two of them collaborated on a children’s book, The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert.

The session featured Pat Lowe; the book’s illustrator, Mervyn Street; and Jukna’s son, David Chuguna.

What makes Jukna’s childhood so exceptional is that her family were some of the last Walmajarri hunter-gatherers to grow up pre-contact. Jukna eventually came out of the desert to live on a cattle station because she was unwell with kidney disease.

As with many personal stories, it’s the fabric of everyday living that makes them engrossing. Pat describes Jukna’s anecdotes as tales of ‘daily life’ rather than ‘social organisation’ and it’s a child’s world view of Walmajarri desert life not filtered through anthropologists. Mervyn’s sensitive ink and wash illustrations are an interpretation of this life from an artist that, while not brought up in the Great Sandy Desert – Mervyn is a river man – has family who were.

Before reading, Pat and David delved into some of the aspects of traditional Walmajarri life, the defining one being, of course, the eternal search for water. Pat told a story about artist Jimmy Pike, a childhood friend of Jukuna’s, being taken up into a helicopter. Despite never having seen the desert from the air before, he was able to guide the pilot to exactly where he needed to land. ‘You couldn’t, said Pat, ‘be walking around a desert hoping you find water – you know.’ This knowledge is still held by elder Walmajarri, and David still knows where the jila or waterholes of his parents can be found.

The waterholes also formed the centrepiece of the first story Pat read. Mana’s (the fictionalised name of the child in the book), grandmother told her of seeing non-Aboriginal people, kartiya, at one of their water holes. Mana remembered asking her grandmother what they were like and being told that they were ‘just like us but a different colour’. Afraid to go near it, the family waited until the kartiya had finished drinking and then went down, but the water hole was empty. The kartiya had killed the spirit snake and destroyed the jila.

First contact is, for some Aboriginal people, still a thing of living memory and Mervyn Street explained that he was 15 when he saw his first European. It can he hard to remember that the Girl from the Great Sandy Desert tells stories of recent history which, as Pat pointed out, makes the adaptations the people who moved to stations and cities made, extraordinary.

One of the recurring motifs in Mana’s stories is the closeness and love of the family unit. This was heartbreakingly illustrated in the story of Mana’s father’s second wife – Mana’s ‘blind mother’, who insisted that she was left behind after the death of her fourth child. Mana recalled with terrible detail the harrowing grief of family members who hit themselves with boomerangs until they bled.

Mana’s may have been a cultural experience far removed from the lives of western and even many contemporary Aboriginal readers, but her stories reveal her to be a typical (although extremely observant) little girl, whose story of nurturing an orphan puppy and loving it to distraction is as universal as any Shakespeare play.

Jukuna Mona Chuguna’s people started drifting away from their traditional lives as they went to work on cattle stations in the latter half of the 20th century, but connection with the Walmajarri lands is still strong and David is a ranger in the places his mother grew up. When asked by an audience member if the younger generation were learning the ways of their ancestors, David explained that that was what he did now – taking the next generation into the desert and teaching them the culture and the stories, though some things – like knowing where to find jila – are harder to pass on in a changed world.

This session with Pat, David and Mervyn, demonstrated just how much a culture is defined and shared by narrative. The stories of those who have gone before can serve as an inspiration for a new generation’s desert stories as well as a bridge of understanding to children in the rest of Australia and the world.


Katie Haworth is a children’s book editor and writer from New Zealand who now lives in London.






By Emma Sartori

The F word was used at the Inspiring Women Reflect event on Friday night. And not the first or second one most of you are probably guessing was used right now.

The word was formula.

‘There’s no one formula’ that can be used to succeed in a chosen career, host the Hon. Ros Kelly, AO, told the predictably mostly female audience. The panel, made up of artistic director Robyn Archer AO, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum Diane Lees CBE, ANZ CEO Diana Brightmore-Armour MC, MCCA and renowned journalist Geraldine Doogue AO, all agreed.

The panel navigated the well-worn terrain of women in the workforce with warmth, humour and a level of insight that can only be achieved from experience.

From vastly different sectors – business, media, government and the arts – the panel members all had one thing in common other than their gender. Each was able to tell a story about a time in their career when they were blindsided by criticism, by an attitude or by reactions that forced them to question, and sometimes alter, their working strategy. They were also all examples that many in the audience could identify with.

Then, the questions flew thick and fast; What is it that hold women back? Why do women think they’re not good enough to even apply for a senior position in a company when it becomes available? Are women their own unconscious roadblock on the path to career success? How important are quotas really to a workforce, to the equality cause? How can we change the culture, the outdated attitudes and the mindsets that may stop women in their tracks? How can women use their differences to men to their advantage? How can women make sure they are not only heard but understood?

Broad strategies were offered to help deal with some of those scenarios, from reading body language, particularly of male counterparts, and finding not only a mentor but a sponsor (a champion of your talents essentially) to not taking criticism personally, believing in yourself and grabbing opportunities as they arise and, preparing and practicing for the big moments.

As the discussion grew from various questions, theories and thoughts, a sense of affirmation began to settle over the room. And indeed within me.

I’ve not experienced overt sexism in a workplace. I’ve not been put in a situation where I’m pitted against another woman and the claws have come out. I’ve also never had someone tell me I couldn’t do something because of my gender. Perhaps I’m just lucky, or maybe I’m just too stubborn and refuse to hear that if it’s being said. In fact, I had no personal questions to ask the panel on how to handle certain situations.

I did, however, nod along with some of the views expressed by the panel. In particular, I suffer from inner demons telling me I’m not good enough to apply for this job or to write that article, I’ve been stung too personally by criticism before and in previous jobs I have found myself mentors instead of sponsors.

And here is where something serendipitous, and downright inspiring, happens.

In the time it took for the session to end and the networking drinks to begin I found myself with a sponsor of sorts. And by the end of the drinks I found myself with the chance to write this blog.

I had seen the advert on Facebook for bloggers and, after reading the description, had written off being able to do it despite my writing experience; I would not know a Sidney Nolan if I fell over one, I could not sing the lyrics to The Waifs ‘London still’ to save my life and I’m sorry, UK culture, I landed here a week ago, I’m still trying to figure out the right train to get home.

But, here we are.

There really is no one formula that can be used to get ahead in your career. There are no magic words to change ingrained attitudes and culture. There is just repeatedly putting yourself out there, forgiving yourself if you fail and giving yourself the chance to succeed through self-belief and grabbing opportunities as they arise.

Emma Sartori is an Australian writer continually beating away inner demons with a pen. Follow her on twitter on @EmzSartori. There is a much more informative article by Alex Ivett on this session she would like you to read here.

War Stories: Uncertain Allies with Professor James Belich and Sir Lockwood Smith reflected on the Great War and the alliances that were challenged and strengthened – across the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

It started with a history joke – renowned New Zealand historian Professor James Belich apologizing for his rushed beginning, noting it was perhaps comparable to the Australian and New Zealand contribution to the Battle of Jutland, where the HMS Australia and HMS New Zealand on their way to the action had ‘banged into each other’ and missed the entire encounter.

An opening which set the tone for a surprising hour – challenging the orthodoxy of a commonly held understanding of Australian and New Zealand history, but also the very stereotype of a history lecture itself. Engaging, entertaining and full of detailed facts, Professor Belich was not like any history professor I’d encountered at school, and this was not your average history lesson.

Introduced by the NZ High Commissioner, Sir Lockwood Smith, Professor Belich first acknowledged the significant contribution to World War 1 Australia and New Zealand had made. Particularly as small countries, and new countries at that, the proportion of men heading to war, and then more importantly the proportion not returning, he noted was staggering.

In particular, it was a war with an enemy people at home couldn’t see – a war fought across oceans many thousands of miles away.

“The Great War was a lethal absence in Australian and New Zealand history”, he said.

Here is where the mythology sets in – newly independent countries asserting their sense of national identity on a world stage, an important stepping stone in the development of a post-colonialist and self-assured identity.

Not so, said Professor Belich. In fact during this time, and right up until the 1970s, there was a strong sense in Australia and New Zealand of being British. The large numbers that flocked to Britain’s aid during the war did so precisely as the result of a feeling that they were “fighting for Britain because they were British.”

That is, the idea that the kernel of collective identity was planted in the dirt of Gallipoli and the Somme and has grown into our modern sense of independent patriotism is somewhat overstated. There was a collective feeling borne out of WW1, Professor Belich acknowledged, but was this identity “an independent nationalism or a better Britishism?”

The idea that both countries’ national identity grew steadily in the post-war period is also, Professor Belich argued, a myth. There was instead the feeling that in fact a sense of ‘Britishness’ could be better preserved in the colonies – away from the trappings of English notions like class. Australia and New Zealand did not see themselves as victims or subjects of the British Empire, but as co-owners – “the leading edge of Britishness”.

As a result Australia and New Zealand had a “protracted adolescence” – which carried with it its own disadvantages such as racism, but also it’s advantages – privileged access to London, high standards of living, and a vested sense of self that lay with the British Empire.

“It’s not necessarily a comfortable idea”, acknowledged Professor Belich as he concluded.

“But then again, history is not meant to be comfortable.”

Alex Ivett is a full-time lawyer and part-time writer who sometimes wishes those two could switch. Check out her work at or follow her on twitter @ozlondonlife.

Poetry Poster project launched at the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London.

The final poet in the series is Selina Tusitala Marsh.


Pānui Poetry Posters invites poets to send their work out into the world; allowing distinct Antipodean voices to be heard across the globe, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

This project features the words of New Zealand poets on a series of uniquely designed posters, free for you to download and print.


PP_A3 SELINA TUSITALA MARSH_FACETIMINGSelina Tusitala Marsh Facetiming (2015)

Reproduced with permission of the author.


Selina Tusitala Marsh is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Auckland, where she teaches New Zealand and Pacific Literature and Creative Writing. Of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English and French descent, her critical and creative work focuses on giving voice to Pacific communities. She was a Poet Olympiad for the 2012 London Olympics, and her award-winning poetry collection, Fast Talking PI (Auckland University Press, 2009), featured at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair. It has been translated into Ukraine and Spanish. Her second poetry collection, Dark Sparring was also published by Auckland University Press (2013) and connects the act of sparring and the Tuvalu dance, faatele, with how one faces life’s adversaries of death, addiction, and disempowerment. She is currently writing a book investigating first wave Pacific women poets (1974-2008) and is the designer and facilitator of Best Leadership Academy’s Pasifika Mat programme which examines leadership through creativity.

LINKS: New Zealand Book Council  |  Auckland University Press


You can read and download the fourth poster in the series, featuring Alice Miller here

You can read and download the third poster in the series, featuring Bill Nelson here

You can read and download the second poster in the series, featuring Joan Fleming here

You can read and download the first poster in the series, featuring Rachel O’Neill here


Pānui Poetry Posters project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.


On Thursday 28 May, the second Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts leapt off the starting block with a dynamic opening event at Kings College, London.

The writers and performers included Tony White, Jarred Christmas, Steve Toltz, Melissa Lucashenko, DBC Pierre, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Javier Jarquin and Duncan Sarkies with Joe Blossom. It was certainly an evening that provided an extremely diverse cross section of Aussie and Kiwi talent.

In the beginning was Tony White, the only non-Australasian of the event. White is a Jamaican/UK musician, and he filled the auditorium with the grumbling earth vibrations of his didgeridoo. His style is one that he describes as non-traditional and he brings a charismatic jazzy flare and swing to the instrument. After this growling overture, our host for the evening was the ebullient comedian Jarred Christmas, whose relaxed stage presence, quick-fire humour and ability to spin a yarn (and a funny one at that), have made him one of New Zealand’s favourite comedy acts.

Booker Prize-nominated Australian author, Steve Toltz read from his latest novel, Quicksand, and its description of an incarcerated crook vehemently arguing every opinion under the sun in a doomed attempt to snatch a cop’s weapon was ridiculous, sublime, and plausible enough for pathos. Selena Tusitala Marsh brought the evening back to cultural introspection with her poetic response to a very typical New Zealand debate moot, ‘That Australia is the Lucky Country’. Tusitala Marsh’s delivery is always mesmerising and she took us on a journey from creation, with the legend of Rangi and Papa, to land wars, to politics (‘Muldoon was no Mugabi’), and spoke lovingly of the sorts of images that often adorn the postcards of kiwi kitsch. But unease still nibbled around the edges, for ‘everything we think is free, is hostage to a global economy’.

After Jarred Christmas had cleared up the question about the origin of Pavlova (New Zealand, of course – but I didn’t see any Australians walk out, so diplomatic amity was obviously the order of the night), the audience was treated to something completely different. Javier Jarquin is a Kiwi comedian and entertainer whose shtick is card tricks. No, not the sort where he finds your ace at the bottom of the pack. He throws the things, twists them, turns them, makes them dance as if on strings (they aren’t, as he’s quick to point out), while managing to maintain the repartee of a stand up comedian with a ninja complex. A highlight of the evening was hearing a literary festival audience earnestly chanting ‘ninja’.

The language of the press conference may be some of the most bland and ubiquitous around, but Australian writer, DBC Pierre used the colossal irony at his disposal to turn it into something quite different. A certain Nordic serial offender who forces reindeer to circumnavigate the globe in a single night is on the loose . . . A witty satire of a language that we all know how to read between the lines of.

The most powerful moment of the evening had to be Melissa Lucashenko, an Australian poet of writer of Goorie (Aboriginal) and European heritage, reading two poems ‘Circles and Squares’ and ‘Black Boys’. ‘Circles and Squares’ delves into the cultural conflict of a stolen generation, taken away from the circles of their land and brought up in square houses. Find it, read it – it will take your breath away.

It was only fitting that such an eclectic entertainment ended with something totally off the wall. Kiwi writer Duncan Sarkies and musician Sean O’Brien (aka Joe Blossom) performed an extract of the show based on Sarkies’ book, The Demolition of the Century. A mix of book reading and underground gig, which is the perfect vehicle for Sarkies’ blackly funny piece of kiwi gothic. Oh, and Sarkies can dance

If the variety of the festival’s opening night is anything to go by, then the weekend ahead is going to be something to write (or tweet, facebook, instagram, vlog, pinterest …) home about.

The full festival programme is available online.


Katie Haworth is a New Zealand-born editor and writer who lives in London




When five high-profile successful women from a spectrum of industries – business, politics, arts, media and the public sector – are brought together on one panel, you could be forgiven for expecting the result might be a fireworks display of clashing opinions.

Instead, for the audience of Inspiring Women Reflect, what was apparent was the consensus on the challenges women face in the workplace, and ultimately, the need for women to support women if we’re going to make any dent at all in this world of ours –in whatever industry we might be.

As the host, Hon. Ros Kelly AO (former Australian Federal MP), eloquently quoted as a final parting tip to the mostly female crowd:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”  (Madeline Albright)

An attendee had picked up on this theme in the earlier Q&A, asking for advice from the esteemed panel on how to handle difficult women colleagues. Diane Lees CBE, current Director-General of Imperial War Museums, had only two words: “Frog-snoggers Guide”, a book she said offered techniques to handle  conversations and interactions with competitive showmen (and women). A later  google search reveals its tag line to be “A guide to getting along with toads”.

This was only one of a number of useful, practical and insightful tips from an illustrious panel. Tips which revealed not just ways of succeeding in a chosen field, but also revealed something about the experiences of these women as they made their way in traditionally male-dominated fields and something more still about the current challenges we, as women, all still face.

Joining Hon. Ros Kelly AO and Diane Lees CBE were renowned journalist Geraldine Doogue AO, singer, writer and artistic director Robyn Archer AO FAHA and ANZ CEO Diana Brightmore-Armour MCT, MCCA. Together they represented a wealth of knowledge and titillating tips, which flew out much faster than the rate of women currently joining FTSE Boards.

1. Maintain your confidence and self-belief.

If a theme emerged, it was that across all represented industries, the panel members had experienced a situation where a talented, qualified woman had doubted herself and questioned her capacity to fulfill a role. It was noted that research indicated often women would wait until they ticked off every criteria of a job description before putting themselves forward, when by comparison men were happy to put their hand up at 30% or 40%.

“Just give it a go” implored Robyn Archer, noting that she “had no formal qualifications for anything I do” but had carved an influential path in the arts world.

Diane Lees agreed, arguing there was still resistance to women getting senior roles. When she was appointed to her position at the Imperial War Museum, she noted the press reaction was universally “Woman gets top museum job”, with her gender being a primary focus.

The panel returned to this idea later when exploring unconscious bias. One way it manifested was in the reaction to a senior woman failing after being appointed to a public role. In a similar situation a man may fail for a number of reasons, and likely be replaced by another man, whereas if a woman failed the discourse always suggested her femaleness was a factor. Being a ‘woman’ was the defining descriptor.

2. When you walk into a high-level meeting, just don’t say anything at all for the first five minutes.

In the first of a number of specific, practical tips, Diane Lees acknowledged the power-play behind much of our workplace interaction, suggesting the best way to be successful in a meeting is to first understand your adversaries. Sit back, watch the body language and assess your opponents before making your move was the subtext.

“The bloke with the papers spread over three seats”, she said. “He’s the easy target.”

Understanding your opponent was important she said. For example, acknowledging and understanding their value base may be different from your own. The most important value Diane Lees says she learnt is “generosity”.

“Allow everyone who sounds like they are a complete jerk at least 15 seconds to find and present their best self.”

3. When someone steals your idea, turn it back on them.

Another practical, and seemingly tried and tested, tip from Diana Brightmore-Armour. She mentioned the man we all know well – the one who, after you’ve put forward a brilliant idea in a meeting, turns around and repeats the exact same thought, and sits back to enjoy the kudos. As Diana informed the audience, play him at his own game – agree with the idea , whilst pointing away from him (at another person, at the slideshow), visually deflecting the attention.

Game, set, match.

4. Practice makes perfect.

Think of the best one-liners you’ve ever heard uttered in a public forum. If you’re Australian you’re probably thinking of Paul Keating – from calling the Leader of the Opposition a “mangy maggot” to comparing his performance to “being flogged with a warm lettuce” – spur-of-the-moment zingers delivered for maximum effect.

Not so easy for most of us to deliver those “zingers”, revealed Ros Kelly. Any important political speech, in fact any presentation, talk, discussion or contribution to a meeting, should be thought through, and practised. The panel agreed. Do your homework, prepare and practise in front of a mirror. Practise 25 times if you have to. Then get out there and make your argument well, but also make it persuasively.

Failing that, said Diana Brightmore-Armour, you’ll always be able to get out of trouble with a quote from Churchill!

5. Pick your partner wisely.

Whether in business or in life, the panel emphasized that the value of a good partner or mentor cannot be understated. What better person to be your sounding person, your constructive critic, or your cheerleader, than someone you trust and whose opinion you respect and value.

6. Don’t take negative feedback too personally.

Take it on board, analyse it objectively to assess its merit, but don’t let it fester, said the panel. In addition, depending on your industry, network and find a sponsor.

It was an illuminating discussion, drawing on a combined wealth of experience from across industries that would be difficult to replicate in any other setting. With handouts and a networking evening to follow, it certainly fulfilled its brief. Inspiring women, reflecting on inspiring careers. The audience could not do too much else, but sit back and soak up the words of wisdom.

Alex Ivett is a full-time lawyer and part-time writer who sometimes wishes those two could switch. Check out her work at or follow her on twitter @ozlondonlife.

For a personal take on the lessons learnt at this session, read Emma Sartori’s insightful piece here.

By Ivor Wells

I got an inkling of where Melissa Lucashenko’s lecture ‘Black, White & Brindle: Aboriginality in an age of unreason’ might be taking us the moment she was introduced by a painfully nervous British Museum staffer who needed her help pronouncing Mullumbimby.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone in one of London’s most learned institutions maroon themselves on the first syllable of a foreign word, as if it had suddenly reared up out of the sentence like a barely submerged reef.

Melissa hadn’t even arrived on stage and there was already a crackle of tension in the air.

This’ll be interesting, I thought.

And indeed it was.

It was a challenging, informative and at times graphic talk, even if the question of its venue – the British Museum in the old imperial metropolis – became the main issue for most of the audience. After all, Empire and the language of Empire featured heavily in what Melissa had to say.

She began with a recent news story.

“What did this Roman ever do for us?” asked indigenous lawyer and land rights activist, Noel Pearson last year in reference to a Monty Python sketch.

He was giving a eulogy at a memorial service for the former Australian Prime Minister, Gogh Whitlam, challenging the ease with which Whitlam’s achievements had been forgotten by some.

They included, during his three short years in office from 1972-1975, the Racial Discrimination Act which finally brought Australia into line with international norms and began the process of Aboriginal land reform.

“The achievements of this old man”, Pearson said, “are present in the institutions we today take for granted.”

Melissa cited the speech not to make her own tribute to Whitlam, but to draw attention to the use of Pearson’s language. “This old man” was how Pearson referred to Whitlam throughout his entire eulogy, never mentioning the former Prime Minister by name.

The speech sparked a debate at the time. Many people took Pearson’s language to be disrespectful. It was anything but. Some indigenous Australians (though not all) practise ‘name avoidance’ when speaking of the dead. It’s one of many cultural practices that are often misunderstood in white Australia.

But Melissa didn’t avoid the dead in her talk. Thousands got a mention; those indigenous people killed in almost two centuries of violence across the length and breadth of her lucky country, a country so passionately defined by its iconic experience of war.

But which wars are we choosing to remember, and which do we choose to forget, asked Melissa.

She quoted extensively from the memoire of the Englishman from Dover, Korah Wills who emigrated to Queensland and became Mayor of both Bowen and Mackay in the 1860s and 70s. In England Wills had been a butcher by trade, a skill which would come in handy when dealing with the ‘savages’ of Australia.

“I took it on my head to get a few specimens of certain Limbs, and head of a Black fellow, which was not a very delicate occupation I can tell you. I shall never forget the time when I first found the subject that I intended to anatomise, when my friends were looking on, and I commenced operations dissecting. I went to work business like to take off the head first and then the arms, and then the legs, and I gathered them together and put them into my pack saddle and one of my friends who I am sure had dispersed more than any other in the colony made the remark that if he was offered a fortune he could not do what I had done.”

‘Anatomisation’, as it was euphemistically referred to, is part of the story of extreme frontier violence that began at the moment of Australia’s colonial conquest and still echoes well into our own time.

How uncomfortable it was then for an audience in the British Museum to be reminded that it was the terrifyingly fascinated gaze of colonisers like Wills who helped stock museums across Australia, America, Britain and Europe with the body parts and belongings of indigenous people.

The British Museum alone still holds 6,000 indigenous Australian artefacts variously acquired since 1770, many of which are still sources of considerable controversy in Australia today.

As an indigenous Australian herself, Melissa admitted to almost pulling out of this talk on several occasions, such were her conflicted feelings about visiting the museum. This, despite the fact that the current ‘Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation’ is curated by Gaye Sculthorpe, an indigenous Tasmanian and leading figure in Australian arts and culture.

Melissa was asked whether people should see the exhibition or boycott it. She threw the question back on the audience citing the importance of personal autonomy.

You decide, she said, before making her own reference – less humorous than Noel Pearson’s – to imperial Rome. “Let the maxim of Cassius apply”, she said, “Cui bono – who benefits?”

Despite my own misgivings I paid £10 to see the exhibition, partly in preparation for my write up of Melissa’s talk, but also because my interest lies in the language of these things, the way the story is being told, which words have been displayed alongside the shields, baskets, boomerangs and paintings.

There were the facts and figures. Passages of historical text. Some quotes from indigenous people themselves. But the most informative words were simply the names of hundreds of languages peppered across a huge map of the Australian continent, or ‘terra nullius’ (nobody’s land) as it was known until quite recently.

But I also found a language so drenched in euphemism it wouldn’t have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch set in a government office. Australia, apparently, is a land of ‘entangled’ and ‘interlinked’ stories, where ‘encounters’ and ‘misunderstandings’ are still ‘subject to debate’.

It was a dead language that kills the imagination and strangles a story. One could be forgiven for thinking that a more subtle form of ‘name avoidance’ was being practised.

Because regardless of whether the artefacts should be exhibited or not I was, on the whole, free to gaze with fascination and tell – using whatever other knowledge I may or may not have – my own story about what I was seeing.

Perhaps it’s why we’re lucky in a rather twisted and macabre way that the bloody butchering of a warm body, the calm removal of flesh from arm and face from skull was once described by the likes of Korah Wills in his own words, not ours.

After all, sometimes it’s not easy to say the words, to mention the thing by name, to tell a bigger story.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

Melissa Lucashenko is also appearing in the Festival in conversation with Alan Duff in Breaking the Cycle on Saturday May 30. 

What happens when you combine a collaboration of artists with cosmology? The answer is Elemental, a piece of performance art that uses music, poetry, theatre, dizzyingly accomplished animation and the vast theories of the universe, to create an experience that pushes the porous boundaries between science and imagination.

Elemental has been shown at planetariums around the world and it delves into complex scientific territory: The Big Bang, the Theory of Everything, Dark Matter and M Theory. Each of these is explored in visual, poetic, scientific and musical languages that make clever use of the planetarium’s dome-roofed auditorium, and the result is that the audience was treated to an immersive exploration of the universe as we know it, as we calculate it and as we dream of it.

Professor Chris Lintott, presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night, set the scene with an introduction that took the familiar, static, view of the night sky (well, a projected version of what we would see if the sun and the lights of London were dimmed) and made it three dimensional and fluid. Galaxies are always moving apart in our 13.8-billion-year-old universe. Cosmologists, he explained, are unique among scientists in that they can look back in time – ‘we do cosmic archaeology’.

What followed was a balletic series of visuals where light and matter clumped and flew apart. Special mention needs to made of the meticulously detailed DNA animation from Emmy Award-winning Drew Berry and the eerie, immersive music which features a specially commissioned piece from experimental musicians Nurse With Wound. The visual and audio aspects of Elemental are breathtaking.

Those without an immediate grasp of Dark Matter need not fear getting bogged down in scientific minutiae. The voice of science writer, John Gribbin, explained each theory with great character and clarity.

What was perhaps unexpected was just how seamless the transition from planets to poetry could be. But, on reflection, why should that be a surprise? As the Elemental website says, ‘For centuries, poets have looked to the skies and attempted to scribble meaning into the galaxies.’ And sometimes the conclusions scientists draw seem just as fanciful as fiction.

One aspect of String Theory explored in Elemental is that there could be multiverses in which time splits and parallel universes are created. So in this universe you could be doing the dishes; in another pedaling in your flying machine. Contrast this to one of the artists’ stories about a man in an Eden-like garden who thinks himself dead because in paradise his thoughts come true – even the bad ones. One is a theory based on physics, the other is a legend-like tale with shades of a biblical creation story that almost certainly has more followers globally than string theory’s parallel universes. If this seems a wandering thought, that’s only because one of the great achievements of Elemental, with its haunting language, its dives into narrative, its ambiguous conclusions,  is creating an experience where audience members can follow their own thoughts, draw their own parallels between theories and art and this is as much part of the performance as the performers.

In one of the final segments of Elemental a narrator imagines meeting famous astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle on the road one night and driving with him into space. ‘Space isn’t distant, it’s an hour’s drive away.’ While they look out at the round Earth and the endless galaxies, Hoyle, who famously negated the Big Bang Theory (while giving it its name) ponders the seeming impossibility of the universe and the world being created in all its detail from a series of random events. Perhaps this story more than anything; an imagined car driven to the edge of space and a famous astronomer marveling at how little we know, sums up Elemental better than anything: It is a cleverly orchestrated response that opens up the questions we have about the vastness of the galaxy and humanity’s many, varied ways of trying to answer them.

Katie Haworth is a New Zealand-born editor and writer who lives in London

Poetry Poster project launched at the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London.

Next up in the series is Alice Miller.


Pānui Poetry Posters invites poets to send their work out into the world; allowing distinct Antipodean voices to be heard across the globe, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

This project features the words of New Zealand poets on a series of uniquely designed posters, free for you to download and print.


PP_A3 ALICE MILLER ALBERT PARKAlice Miller Albert Park (2015)

Reproduced with permission of the author. First published in IKA 2, 2014.


Alice Miller earned an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2005 and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2008. Her writing has appeared in Oxford PoetrySportBoston ReviewFive DialsMslexiaNarrative and The American Scholar. She has received the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award, the Royal Society of NZ Manhire Prize, and fellowships from Glenn Schaeffer and Grimshaw Sargeson. The Limits was simultaneously published in 2014 by Shearsman and Auckland University Press. In 2015-2016 she will be a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.

LINKS: Alice Miller’s website  |  Auckland University Press


You can read and download the third poster in the series, featuring Bill Nelson here

You can read and download the second poster in the series, featuring Joan Fleming here

You can read and download the first poster in the series, featuring Rachel O’Neill here


Pānui Poetry Posters project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.

Poetry Poster project launched at the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London last week.

Next up in the series is Bill Nelson.


Pānui Poetry Posters invites poets to send their work out into the world; allowing distinct Antipodean voices to be heard across the globe, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

This project features the words of New Zealand poets on a series of uniquely designed posters, free for you to download and print.

New posters will be added over the next couple of weeks, so keep up to date here and via Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.


PP_A3 BILL NELSON HYDROPHOBICBill Nelson Hydrophobic (2015)

Reproduced with permission of the author and Victoria University Press.


Bill Nelson has an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University Wellington and was awarded the Biggs Poetry Prize (2009). His work has appeared in Sport, Hue & Cry, Shenandoah, Minarets, The Lumière Reader, 4th Floor, Swamp and Blackmail Press. Bill was part of the project The Sparks Fly Upwards (2010) at City Gallery Wellington and in Against the Prevailing Winds, an exhibition for the Courtenay Place light boxes (2013). He is writer and co-editor at Up Country. Victoria University Press will publish a collection of Bill’s poems later this year. Bill lives in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

LINKS:   Up Country  |  Victoria University Press


You can read and download the first poster in the series, featuring Rachel O’Neill here

You can read and download the second poster in the series, featuring Joan Fleming here


Pānui Poetry Posters project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.

Poetry Poster project launched at the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London last week.

This week we bring you a brand new poster.

Pānui Poetry Posters invites poets to send their work out into the world; allowing distinct Antipodean voices to be heard across the globe, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

This project features the words of New Zealand poets on a series of uniquely designed posters, free for you to download and print.

New posters will be added over the next couple of weeks, so keep up to date here and via Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

The second in the series is . . .


PP_A3 JOAN FLEMING_STILL IN ITJoan Fleming Still in it (2015)

Reproduced with permission of the author and Victoria University Press. Still in it will feature in Joan’s second book of poems, published by Victoria University Press.


Joan Fleming’s first book of poems, The Same as Yes, was published in 2011, and her second book, Failed Love Poems, is forthcoming with Victoria University Press. Her poetry has been anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems, Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems and Essential New Zealand Poems, and her collaborations with visual artists have been shown in the Blue Oyster Project Space, the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville, and Wellington’s Courtenay Place light boxes. She lives in Melbourne where she is working on a PhD in ethnopoetics.

LINKS:  Joan Fleming’s website  |  Victoria University Press

Photo credit:  Kate van der Drift.


You can read and download the first poster in the series, featuring Rachel O’Neill here


Pānui Poetry Posters project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.

Poetry Poster project launches at the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in London.

Pānui Poetry Posters invites poets to send their work out into the world; allowing distinct Antipodean voices to be heard across the globe, to be shared and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

This project features the words of New Zealand poets on a series of uniquely designed posters, free for you to download and print.

New posters will be added over the coming weeks, so keep up to date here and via Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

The first in the series is . . .


RACHEL ONEILL_ALMOST EXACTLYRachel O’Neill Almost exactly the love of my life (2015)

Reproduced with permission of the author. First published in Minarets Journal.

DOWNLOAD the A3 poster here

Rachel O’Neill is a writer, filmmaker and artist. She graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University (2005) and gained an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University Wellington (2008). Her writing has appeared in a range of literary and art publications and was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2011 and 2013. She has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia and in the EU, and she is a member of art collective All the Cunning Stunts. Her debut poetry collection One Human in Height was published by Hue & Cry Press (2013). Rachel lives in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

LINKS:  Rachel O’Neill  |  Hue & Cry Press  |  Minarets Journal



Project and poster design by Lily Hacking.


1. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to announce, notify, advertise, publish, proclaim.

2. (verb) (-hia,-tia) to read, speak aloud.

3. (noun) public notice, announcement, poster, proclamation.

Dylan Horrocks and Roger Langridge could be described as the royalty of the New Zealand comic book world. They are both New Zealand cartoonists who have written for big names as well as finding recognition on the international stage for their own characters and creations. For Horrocks it came with the publication of Hicksville, the 1998 graphic novel that gained him a cult following. He is also the creator of the two series Pickle and Atlas, and his second graphic novel, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen was published in 2015. Horrocks has written and illustrated for well-known comics including Batgirl for DC Comics and Hunter: The Age of Magic for Virtigo.

Roger Langridge moved to the UK in the early 1990s and has worked in the UK comic scene for twenty-five years. His series, Snarked! won the Eisner award and he has written and published many of his own comic series. He is also well known for his work on the Harvey Award-Winning Muppet Show Comic Book and Thor the Mighty Avenger.

Sunday May 31 will see Roger Langridge and Dylan Horrocks in conversation with Paul Gravett, writer, co-publisher of Escape Books, and a director of the ‘Comica’ festival.

For those who can’t wait until then to find out if cartoonists share the super powers of some of their characters, here is an extract from Horrocks’ new graphic novel Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen (Knockabout Comics, £14.99).


Dylan Horrocks will also be running a comic workshop, Drawing Stories Writing Worlds at the festival on Sunday May 31.

The Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts at Kings College London, 28–31 May, will include the unique opportunity to attend creative workshops with some of the writing industry’s best. Both aspiring writers and established practitioners looking for fresh perspectives will find inspiration at the five two to two-and-half hour sessions.

Capturing Yong Hearts: Writing for the Middle Grades

Saturday 30 May

Jesse Blackadder is an Australian author of three adult novels and three novels for 8–12 year olds. Jesse teaches writing historical fiction and writing junior fiction.

In this workshop participants will explore how to create engaging, memorable characters; how to structure stories for junior readers; practical exercises to jump-start creativity; and advice on getting published.

World-Making for the Writing in Fiction

Saturday 30 May

Leading New Zealand writer, Elizabeth Knox is a master in the creation of fictional worlds. Her oeuvre includes fiction for both adults and teenagers and she the author of the acclaimed The Vinter’s Luck and more recently Wake as well as the vivid YA fantasy novels the Dreamhunter Duet and Mortal Fire.

This workshop aims to offer writers strategies for the creation of whole, real-seeming worlds in long fiction, through the collaborative construction of a single fictional situation – a premise, plot, setting, and a cast of characters.

Fiction Writing: Seeds to a good story

Saturday 30 May

Tony Birch is the author of five novels and has been widely publishing both in Australia and internationally. His latest book, Ghost River, will be released in October 2015.

In Seeds to a Good Story, participants will experiment with a range of skills and exercises to enhance their fiction writing, both long and short. It will include ‘sketching’ and observational work, character development, emotion, conflict and more.

Telling Other people’s stories: Writing Across Cultures

Sunday May 31

Pat Lowe has written fourteen books, several in collaboration with her partner, Jimmy Pike; his niece, Jukuna, and other Aboriginal people who experienced first contact with Europeans in the 1960s.

In this writing workshop Pat Lowe will share her experience of gathering stories and rewriting them and will invite participants to discuss the ethical dilemmas and practical difficulties of interpreting someone else’s world for an English-reading audience.

Drawing Stories: Writing Worlds

Sunday May 31

Dylan Horrocks, is author of the acclaimed graphic novel Hicksville, the comic book series Pickle and Atlas and the 2014 graphic novel Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen. His works have been widely translated and published and have been nominated for multiple awards.

Whether you’re an experienced cartoonist or simply curious, this workshop will encourage you to forge new paths, strengthen your voice and explore the infinite potential of comics.



From inspirational women writers to strong female characters, there is no shortage of examples of ways women have motivated, encouraged and empowered other women through literature, arts and culture.

This year the Festival celebrates the importance of women in the field through a series of dynamic events, discussions and debates.

Chaired by the Hon. Ros Kelly AO, first up is a dynamic and interactive session with five highly successful women from Australia and the UK at the top of their fields. Ms Kelly AO will be joined by Robyn Archer AO, Diane Lees CBE, Diana Brightmore-Armour and Geraldine Doogue AO to share their insights into career success in Inspiring Women Reflect on Friday 29 May.

Kate Grenville pays tribute to her mother, a woman whose life spanned a centure of tumult and change, when she joins us for a discussion of her new memoir One Life: My Mother’s Story on Saturday 30 May.

Two of New Zealand’s most exciting female writers, Elizabeth Knox and Janina Matthewson, demonstrate the power of storytelling, in an event which explores alternative worlds in fiction in Alternative Worlds on Sunday 31 May.

The importance of literature for crossing cross-cultural boundaries, and the vital role of women in gathering and sharing stories, will be explored by author Pat Lowe in Telling Other People’s Stories: Writing Across Cultures. Part discussion, part workshop, the session will focus on participants’ experiences in navigating difference in storytelling.

To cap it all off, Sunday 31 May also features an afternoon performance in the beautiful Chapel of King’s College London from a powerful Australian voice, Nellie Bell – singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

With such talent, ability and experience across a range of Festival events, we can’t wait for this year’s showcase to inspire and encourage our guests to look at the diversity of womens voices in arts, culture and literature. These are only a few highlights of a diverse programme – click here for the full Festival event list.

Don’t forget you can purchase Day & Weekend Weekend passes for the main Festival weekend (Saturday 30 May & Sunday 31 May) and see a lot more events for less. Only £35 for a full day pass (excluding workshops), and £60 for the whole weekend! Phone 020 7692 8780 to secure your tickets.

Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & the Arts co-ordinator, Neil Mitchell, provides an oversight to the film sector of this year’s programme. With offerings that range from the the world’s first full-length feature film to enduring Australian and New Zealand classics and recent award-winning cinema, this is a programme with something to offer everyone.

Film buffs can purchase three tickets for the price of two.

The film strand of this year’s Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts provides a snapshot of the themes that have dominated cinema from South Country. Tales of triumphant underdogs, family loyalties and indigenous culture rub shoulders with those addressing individual and national identity, and the mysteries of the outback and criOncewereWarriorsme, both real and imagined. Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave bring an unsettling mysticism to the divides between opposing cultures and physical spaces, while The Dead Lands, Boy and the internationally renowned Once Were Warriors look at Māori life from very different perspectives. Success against the odds, often bittersweet and not without consequence, can be seen in The Dark Horse and All This Mayhem, two real life tales recounted in memorable fashion in fictional and documentary form respectively.

The remaining footage of Charles Tait’s ground-breaking silent classic, The Story of the Kelly Gang (the world’s first feature length film) will be fascinating for lovers of social and film history alike. Similarly, Geoff Murphy’s riotous Kiwi road movie Goodbye Pork Pie focuses on more ‘legendary’ crimes, in the shape of theTheTurning comedic and entirely imaginary ‘Blondini Gang’. Secrets, lies and the pressures of modern life are at the fore of the ambitious portmanteau adaptation of Tim Winton’s collection of short stories, The Turning, which features an award-winning turn by Rose Byrne.

Finally, The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse, provides a fascinating account of the 130,000 Waler horses that served during the Great War, and sheds light on why none came home.


If so, we need your help!

The Aus & NZ Festival is looking for bloggers to join our team in the lead up to London’s best (and only!) Antipodean literature and arts festival.

We’re looking for writers with a passion for Antipodean arts, literature and culture in the UK who would like to write informative and interesting blog posts covering key Festival events.

Bloggers will have the opportunity to attend and write about unique Festival offerings ranging from Peter Carey through to classical music in the King’s College chapel. Bloggers need to be available on the key Festival dates of 28-31 May. Contributions are on a volunteer basis, however bloggers will have the opportunity to attend some fantastic events, meet interesting writers and artists and get access to Festival events.

We’re interested in all tones of writing – humorous, personal, journalistic – and ideas! This is your chance to get artistic with the arts, liberal with the literature, and generally get people talking about our favourite topic – Antipodean arts and culture.

Please see here for examples of some of the fantastic posts our dedicated blogging team produced at last year’s Festival: 2014 Festival News & Views

If you are interested please fill out the below form below and we’ll be in touch. Please include a link to previously published work or upload an example of your writing.

Please share this page with friends, family or colleagues you think may also be interested.

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Amidst a fascinating programme of film, debate and discussion, we’ve made sure to include a range of performance and poetry to enlighten the spirit and romance the soul.

Starting on Sunday 17 May, we’ve joined forces with Sounds Australia to present a showcase of Australian live music in East London. It is a packed day of exciting new bands about to break through to the UK.

Our launch event on Thursday 28 May features a blistering mix of poets, performers, musicians and writers from Australia and New Zealand, including performance poet Selina Tusitala Marsh, a force to be reckoned with in the British poetry scene, and a major advocate for Pacific writing and poetry back home. Kiwi duo Duncan Sarkies and Joe Blossom will also perform an extract from their show Demolition of the Century, a taster for the full performance offered on Sunday 31 May. This fast-paced cabaret-comedy is a humorous and sometimes heartbreaking look at families, memories and the fragility of the human mind.

A special showcase of Australia & New Zealand poetry held during the Festival will feature distinguished New Zealand poet laureate Vincent O’Sullivan discussing war poetry and music with esteemed British poet Ruth Padel. Separately AC Grayling will explore the work of one of Australia’s finest and most prolific poets Gwen Harwood.

Another performance poet to share his work will be Omar Musa from Australia, whose debut novel has been enjoying praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh and Christos Tsiolkas.

For the classical music fans, we’re delighted to be working with Tait Memorial Trust and presenting a concert with the Australian Piano Quartet, with a range of music recitals scattered throughout the weekend (further details will be announced soon).

For more details on the variety of events on offer, see our 2015 Festival Programme.


Priority tickets are now on sale for the 2015 Australia and New Zealand Festival. 

Kate Grenville, Peter Carey, Steve Toltz, Alan Duff, Ruth Padel, Vincent O’Sullivan, Howard Jacobson, A C Grayling, Omar Musa and Dylan Horrocks are just some of the names now released as festival participants for the 2015 London event.

The 2015 Australia and New Zealand Festival will bring together stories and ideas from a globally-diverse cast of both established and emerging writers, thinkers and creators. The Festival, staged in London and supported by the governments of both countries, will explore Australian and New Zealand culture and identity through the eyes of the world. 
Featuring more than 60 events across a four-day weekend at King’s College from 28–31 May, the Festival will also present a string of events spanning performance, film and literature with leading partners across London from 19 May.


Kate Grenville – One of Australia’s best-known authors (winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) discusses her new memoir

Steve Toltz – Launches Quicksand, his highly anticipated follow up to A Fraction of the Whole (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award)

Alan Duff – In conversation about his life, writing and best-known work (via live link from France), plus a screening Once Were Warriors

Howard Jacobson
 – Discusses Rebels of Oz (BBC4) with Jaya Savige and Helen Trinca (Managing Editor, The Australian newspaper and biographer of Madeleine St John)

Dylan Horrocks – New Zealand’s leading graphic novelist launches Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen as part of European and UK-wide tour co-ordinated with the Festival. Dylan will also be in discussion with Roger Langridge (Muppet Show) about the Australian and New Zealand comic scene on the world stage

A C Grayling – will explore the work of Gwen Harwood, regarded as one of Australia’s finest poets.

Australian and New Zealand poets and spoken word performers including Clare PotterJaya SavigeAlan WearneSelina Tusitala MarshOmar MusaVincent O’Sullivan and Ruth Padel, will debate and perform their works,

Mike Allsop – in a discussion on human endurance, adventure and scaling the extremes of the planet

Duncan Sarkies and Joe Blossom
 – present a blistering hour of animated readings and music from the world of Sarkies’ novel, The Demolition of the Century

Other confirmed participants include indigenous authors Tony Birch and Tara June Winch, activist and storyteller Pat Lowe, children’s favourite Jesse Blackadder and bestselling YA New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox.

Priority booking opens 5 March; general release opens 12 March.

For the full program click here

Kate Grenville, Peter Carey, Steve Toltz, Alan Duff, Ruth Padel, Vincent O’Sullivan, Howard Jacobson, A C Grayling, Omar Musa and Dylan Horrocks are just some of the names now released as festival participants for the 2015 London event.

A full announcement of the programme will be made on 5 March.

The 2015 Australia and New Zealand Festival will bring together stories and ideas from a globally-diverse cast of both established and emerging writers, thinkers and creators. The Festival, staged in London and supported by the governments of both countries, will explore Australian and New Zealand culture and identity through the eyes of the world. 
Featuring more than 60 events across a four-day weekend at King’s College from 28–31 May, the Festival will also present a string of events spanning performance, film and literature with leading partners across London from 19 May.

Priority booking opens 5 March; general release opens 12 March


Kate Grenville – One of Australia’s best-known authors (winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) discusses her new memoir

Steve Toltz – Launches Quicksand, his highly anticipated follow up to A Fraction of the Whole (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award)

Alan Duff – In conversation about his life, writing and best-known work (via live link from France), plus a screening Once Were Warriors

Howard Jacobson
 – Discusses Rebels of Oz (BBC4) with Jaya Savige and Helen Trinca (Managing Editor, TheAustraliannewspaper and biographer of Madeleine St John)

Dylan Horrocks – New Zealand’s leading graphic novelist launches Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen as part of European and UK-wide tour co-ordinated with the Festival. Dylan will also be in discussion with Roger Langridge (Muppet Show) about the Australian and New Zealand comic scene on the world stage

A C Grayling – will explore the work of Gwen Harwood, regarded as one of Australia’s finest poets.

Australian and New Zealand poets and spoken word performers including Clare Potter, Jaya Savige, Alan Wearne, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Omar Musa, Vincent O’Sullivan and Ruth Padel, will debate and perform their works,

Mike Allsop and Tim Cope – in a discussion on human endurance, adventure and scaling the extremes of the planet

Duncan Sarkies and Joe Blossom
 – present a blistering hour of animated readings and music from the world of Sarkies’ novel, TheDemolition of the Century

Other confirmed participants include indigenous authors Tony Birchand Tara June Winch, activist and storyteller Pat Lowe, children’s favourite Jesse Blackadderand bestselling YA New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox.


By Anna Bowden

There is an art and literature festival today, Australia and New Zealand. I will make my way six stops on the central line, so I can wander to Kings College. It is a beautiful day to hear writers speak. It is a way of being inspired, of keeping ‘my’ writing mind going.

60 talks, performances and workshops. 100 writers artists and speakers. Four days. Two countries. It’s been a tough choice. My writing mind is ready. It’s open. It’s excited. My writing mind is ready to hear some of my most admired writers speak. My journey to the edge of the world is about to begin.

Friday. Anna Funder is here. She’s with Margot Stedman. They discuss writing their books while we sit, in tiers, hanging on every word. Funder describes homesickness as fuel. Evernote… write it down. I use that, I think. I’m homesick too. She reads, then Stedman reads. I love to hear authors read. When I read books I wonder if their characters were the same in my writers mind, as in theirs. They weren’t. It is wonderful to hear how they were thought to Be. Historical fiction, but not. It’s a curious relationship with history, she says. I like that, evernote. It’s messy, they say. The writing process. Like knots.

Margot has a magical mind. Her characters tell her the story. I think that this is baffling. I can’t hear anything my characters say, I have to write it for them. They talk about their readers. They’re talking about me! They say they care what I think, they don’t want to break the spell they have cast on me. They feel obligated to make sure things are right for me. Readable and plausible. Endangered phrases. Details. Oyster flesh swaying in china spoons. Trust. I trust you Anna Funder. You didn’t stub any of my toes. But someone sued her! She mentions it briefly. Mental note, google that – evernote.

Saturday. First Contact. The panel takes us away from The Strand in busy central London. We are in the space in our minds where Antipodes thing about home. Knocking on the doors at Heathrow is a sort of rite of passage. London is life and we take up residence for a short (or long) while. While the connection remains strong with the Brits, the scars of the past are not forgotten. What’s Captain Cook got to do with Australia and New Zealand anymore? There is spirit and fire in the panel today. Ali Cobby Eckermann tells us of the half-truths, the whole-truths and sadly, the lies.

Stolen generations and family, culture and language lost. Being away from your country and countrymen gives you a new perspective on them. Comparing. The ache of homesickness. The longing for familiarity soon shifts to curiosity of new cultures and values, yearning to understand, and a desire to question and challenge your own thinking about why things are. The panellists talk about familiar things, and new things. The ripple effect. The world suddenly seems smaller. Frenchman Laurent-Frédéric Bollée talks of his desire to understand. The French and their fascination with the idea that Australia might have been theirs. But it was already discovered, Bruce Pascoe says. The stories of the indigenous people must be told. And they must be told truthfully: In schools! He is warm when he speaks of the women he has learned his stories from: “Because I’m a deaf they thought they could say anything. Because I’m a writer I let them”. It’s a nice thought for my writers mind. Across the Tasman, Witi Ihimaera pitches in, things are different. He talks about his gran, and his lisp and we smile. He says a word I’ve never heard – re-historicise. Evernote.

Outside. Coffee, tweets, instagram filed.

Back in, upstairs, down the hall to the River Room. Blue walls and calming art. Jesse Blackadder is writing a list. It’s about writing. There are six points and it says how to write. We are bathed in the mid-day sun and my writers mind feels warm. We do writers practice. Three minutes. Think about details. Don’t say tree: Say oak. Don’t say car: Say Cadillac. Another three minutes. I feel my hand softly ache. It is a nice feeling to have. I can’t share my writing mind with the others around me. Just write, just write. Don’t think. Just write. The creativity and courage around me is like a buoy. It keeps me afloat. And after the 10 minute one, I read mine aloud. Today, for a moment, I decide to be someone else. I am not shy.

Outside. Coffee, tweets and instagram filed. Sunshine.

Tony Wheeler time. Back in the tiered seats and in front of a great adventurer. Breaking the law, dog attacks, muggings and border control. His grin is like a hitchhiker. His yellow shirt seems to go with it. He talks about the accusations. People think Lonely Planet ruined places. It ruined Bali, wrecked Thailand. There’s always more to it. He says he wants to wreck Afghanistan next – in the nicest possible way.

Fay Weldon’s Kiwi connection is in childhood. Her memories sound like my memories. Even though she speaks in the endangered language of grandparents. Her life experience is broad. From other times my writing mind cannot imagine. Like the time she was let into an English university because they thought she was a boy. (Her name was Franklin. They were confused.) The lecturers would not speak to her, or mark her essays. She’s described as a feminist, and an anti-feminist. I’m not sure what that means really. But, when she says we should be concerned for the condition of women abroad, that makes me ache. She is right. If I am alive, I am writing. She says. Evernote.

Mind switch to youngsters and writing for them. It’s teens versus the land and there are four writers sat ready to read from their books. The lands they create are inhospitable and scary. They talk about toxic oceans, mutant sharks, kidnappings, Nicholas Cage and searing desert sun. Imagination and imagery. They create worlds they hope their readers will digest, and hope that their own does not become. The writers clash with opinions. Some it’s worldly experience, some it’s experience travelling within imagination. Creating places they would never want to go. It’s comforting to think that there is no ‘one way’. My writing mind feels ok.

It’s launch day. Five Dials’ contributors are in the chapel. The room is decorated with coloured sunlight. Stella Duffy reads. She describes her New Zealand and it sounds a lot like mine. My home is 40 minutes’ drive from hers. I can feel her love and warmth for memories. Gulp a bit. Can’t do anything but listen. Listen so hard I’m slouching into myself. It is a lovely way to launch a magazine. I subscribe.

The last event I will attend today. Five women talk about Brilliant Careers. The talk is off-topic but gives insight into the hurt of critics. Critics that became critics simply because they are sports journalists. Hair-crush Funder says some words: “Critics are irresponsible in the sense that they are not responsible to anyone.” There are no comebacks for writers. But the women today are strong: They say critics are allowed to say ridiculous and sexist things. The power of critics, media, consumers. Who are the gatekeepers of our culture? The question is too big.

My journey to the edge of the world has come to an end. My writing mind has been turned upside down. I’m lucky to hear thoughts from courageous writing minds. Inspired, enlightened and a bit smarter than I was three days ago, I walk to Holborn station and sit for six stops. I’m back in London again.

Anna Bowden is a New Zealander living in London. Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram @annabowden

By John Forde

For most of us, Antarctica is a mysterious, mythical place – remote, inaccessible and severely beautiful. In the historical and literary accounts of Antarctica, women barely mention – it’s the preserve of Boys Own fantasies involving stoney-faced Victorian explorers with beards like badgers, or modern-day designer action men like Bear Grylls.

How refreshing, then, to hear a panel discussion by three women writers who shared their experiences of visiting, studying and writing about Antarctica. English historian Meredith Hooper has written extensively about the history and ecology of Antarctica, including an account of the secondary characters in Shackleton’s famous expedition. Australian novelist Jesse Blackadder visited Antarctica via an Australian arts grant and has written two novels set there, including a fictionalised account of the first woman who attempted to visit Antarctica. Despite her impeccable pedigree, Alexandra Shackleton didn’t visit Antarctica until she was in middle-age, admitting that “the genes got me in the end”.

Blackadder discussed her longing to visit a place where landscape and nature was the greatest force and (quoting her compatriot Tim Winton) the landscape had not been “fully humanised”, and her interest in exploring a place that inspired obsessional interest in people who went there.

Hooper explained that visiting Antarctica fed, rather than quenched her obsession, and recalled falling to the earth and kissed the snow when she first arrived, without quite understanding why. Visiting Antarctica forces visitors “to think about oneself in relation to nature” and then to consider Antarctica’s essential place in the earth’s ecosystem. Walking past animals that accepted you without question, it was possible, Cooper said, to imagine the earth before humans intervened. Ms Shackleton noted pithily that it was unwise to get in the way of a seal, as their bites generally turn septic and can be resistant to antibiotics.

All the panellists agreed that Antarctica represents a unique inspiration for writing and the creative imagination. Blackadder and Hooper noted that as Antarctica has no indigenous people or aboriginal narrative, it comes free from backstory and hundreds of years of descriptive writing about the subject. Hooper described the “intellectual joy and fun and creativity of thinking about words” to describe the landscape. Blackadder admitted to being “humbled” when she first saw an iceberg, and struggled initially to find the language to describe it.

The panel noted that the history of Antarctican exploration is also one of female exclusion. Hooper and Shackleton discussed how women had wanted to participate in Antarctic expeditions from the beginning. Shackleton (the explorer) was approached by three sporty girls who wanted to don men’s clothes and join in the adventure, to which he gave a stony refusal. In the 1930s, over 1,300 applications were received from women wanting to join the expedition – again, alas, all were refused.

Blackadder discussed the limiting effects of this male mythology, and the difficulties of finding a narrative hook for a woman-centred story that lacked the “heroic heft” of the men’s stories. Fortunately, she persisted, and her novel Chasing the Light told the fascinating tale of Ingrid Christensen, a Norwegian mother of six who visited Antarctica four times in the 1930s. Hooper acknowledged the untold stories of the secondary characters in the Shackleton expedition: her book The Longest Winter told the stories of six site builders who all kept diaries about their experiences. She also noted that it was important to consider the perspectives of Antarctic historians from other countries, including Denmark, Germany and Japan.

All the panellists expressed their “great privilege” at being able to visit Antarctica, which “elicits an extra responsibility” to report it accurately, Hooper said. Ms Shackleton expressed disappoint at recent film and TV adaptations of the Antarctic expeditions, pointing to the many diaries kept by real-life protagonists as an authentic record that ought to be respected.

Interestingly, all the panellists were adamant that there should be more, rather than less tourism allowed in Antarctica – “carefully managed, of course”, Ms Shackleton said. Hooper noted Antarctica’s importance as “a library” for our understanding of the earth’s ecology and the long-term effects of climate change.

Ms Shackleton ended the session with a stranger-than-fiction anecdote about a new species of worm discovered recently in Antarctica. Named for her grandfather, the worm is a double hermaphrodite, meaning that it can breed with itself. “At least it will never have to worry about what to do with its Saturday nights”, she mused.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

By Ivor Wells 

When CK Stead was at school in the 1940s books about New Zealand were kept in a glass case in the library. “You had to ask especially for the key”, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated writers reminisced, flanked by both his daughters.

“The London Reunion” was the first time that Stead has appeared in public with his daughters, both of whom have forged their own literary careers; Charlotte as a novelist, Margaret as an editor. Both based in London. Dad back in Auckland. Regular visits to and fro.

Stead was remembering a time when New Zealand literature was mostly heroic writing written for no one. How things have changed since then. But the memories of his children, brought up surrounded by the who’s who of New Zealand literature were, I think, of most interest to the audience as this most literary of families chatted away.

It’s well known that the likes of Alan Curnow and Frank Sargeson have been big influences on Stead’s own development as a writer. But perhaps we didn’t know that Alan lived across the road and, like the Steads, also had a batch at Karikari. Or that the poet, Sam Hunt and his dog, Minstrel used to visit.

“That’s when Sam was living in an ambulance.”

“Of course, I’d forgotten about the ambulance.”

Charlotte spoke of visiting Janet Frame, walled in by furniture in a house clad with extra walls on the outside to keep the sound out.

“Like Proust”.

“I bumped into Janet in New World in Remuera once.”

“Did you? Good grief.”

Charlotte never took a liking to the titan of New Zealand poetry, James K. Baxter when he first came to visit though.

“I remember just glaring at him from across the room.”

How delightful the disrespect of children can be, I thought. Baxter was a sod after all.

As an expat in London I’ve attended numerous talks by foreign authors regaling audiences with glimpses into their inner worlds, their memories of London and ‘home’. So a conversation in which Auckland, my own place of origin, was the ‘home’ was a rare treat to listen in on.

But I was interested in the writing too, the craft of pen on paper and finding one’s voice in London under the weight of this city’s most impressive of literary pedigrees. The first arrival. The barely believable conversations. Following the ghosts of those who came and saw and wrote before us. Washing up marooned in the British Library. Always the British Library.

“What of the writing” I asked, “here in London, under all its influences?”

Stead immediately mentioned his poem, “Pictures in a Gallery Undersea”, written in 1959 when he was a student in England. A nod to Eliot’s “Wasteland”, someone suggested.

I read it that night when I got home. There was something quietly comforting about these two verses, and the image of a city submerged beneath literary illusion;

Pictures in a gallery undersea
Were turned facing the wall, and the corridors were endless:
But in the marine distance, floating always beyond me,
A girl played Mozart on her sun-bleached hair. 

So that wherever I walked on that long haul, midnight to dawn,
Stones of a sunken city woke, and passed the word,
And slept behind me; but the notes were gone,
Vanished like bubbles up through the watery air
Of London, nor would again be heard.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

By Ivor Wells

It didn’t help that I was the only person in the front row. Of a church. I haven’t cried at the front of a church since, well, I promised myself I’d never cry at the front of a church again. I resolved to leave the festival immediately after the event. Call a cab. Skip the country.

We were in the atmospheric chapel at Kings College where a special New Zealand edition of the brilliant (and free!) Five Dials literary journal was being launched. I highly recommend it, especially this edition.

There’s some great pieces covering a plethora of themes and places; Paula Morris’ intriguing short story about stealing wine bottles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Micha Timona Ferris’ delicately observed conversation with a surgeon in a Parisian café; a heartbreaking memoire by Paul Ewen about a sudden death in Covent Garden and a funeral back home in Canterbury; poems by CK Stead (one including the c-word which the octogenarian read into the cavernous church while the rest of us began long internal monologues about how comfortable we felt).

Refreshingly, not all the pieces were about questions of identity or the navel gazing ‘tyranny of distance’ we Kiwis love to bang on about ad nauseum. Except for one. And it was worthy of exception.

Stella Duffy opened proceedings by reading, “We’re Not In Tokoroa Now”, a moving walk through her memories of emigrating from south London to south Waikato. It’s an honest piece. Sentimental but pragmatic. Quite Kiwi actually.

It spoke to me.

I’ve spent most of my life as an expat of some kind. Yet it’s in London, this city I’m still infatuated with after almost a decade and a half, where my New Zealand is deconstructed, recreated and, on occasion, celebrated or mourned.

My New Zealand is barely more than a series of shifting memories moving in and out of view, an imagined hinterland beyond the ‘great cup of London’.

Like Stella’s, my New Zealand is barely more than a series of shifting memories moving in and out of view, an imagined hinterland beyond the ‘great cup of London’. Stella spoke of “a scent I almost catch and then loose again – damp bush, lake weed, potato fritters, frost and wood smoke”.

Her piece reminded me that our memories aren’t just about places but moments in time too. The when you are from is as important as the where, so in a sense a full return is impossible. “You can never go home”, Stella said, “But there are tastes of it, scents of it, sometimes. And sometimes will have to do.”

I’ll be going back in a few weeks. It will be my first visit in far too long. I’ve got my own reasons for the long stretches in time and distance between me and New Zealand which, like Stella’s darker memories, I don’t write about either. She’s right though. I’ll be going back to somewhere different. Much of what I remember is, after all, somewhen else.

Stella read on, listing tastes and smells, image after familiar image while I began to look for the exits. I felt assaulted. Not by her memories which I could sense as vividly as my own, but the words, the words of it all, the whole thing put into words, those three words, ‘my New Zealand’.

My New Zealand.

Lakes and drives and Aunts and southerlies and “Pass the bloody ball”.

My New Zealand.

Bare feet and swims and pikelets and guitars and State Highway 1.

My New Zealand.

I wanted her to stop, to stop saying the words; New Zealand. I wiped tears from my cheeks, all the while hoping that in not too many sleeps, like Stella, I’ll be back there too. Just for a while. I know it won’t last. But some things aren’t meant to last.

And that’s life.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

By Emma Perry

How much influence does the land have in teen fiction? How important is it, and what is it’s role in determining character? A intrepid crew of teen writers buckled down to answer these questions in ‘Teen vs The Land.’The result? A myriad of refreshingly different opinions.

For Lucy Christopher the starkness of the Australian desert was an all encompassing feature of her debut novel, Stolen. Here she utilised the landscape to interact with her character, to enforce her character’s personal development – her character is changed by the land.

Despite the fact her character is trapped in the desert, it was important for both Lucy’s characters and readers to also develop a sense of the beauty of this vast ‘amazing, amazing space’. She sought an antidote the the negative and scary portrayals of a unique landscape that she is clearly incredibly proud of.

From the varied panelists it was incredibly interesting to hear that each have very, very different approaches to researching the setting. ‘I have to understand the setting, every detail’explains Lucy, for her that means lots of visiting and research. Anna MacKenzie’s approach varies recognising that quite often, being away from the landscape she is working on ‘gives you a different perspective.’

Whilst Joe Ducie assured the audience he hadn’t felt the need to isolate himself on a rig for his preparation for The Rig, Geraldine McCaughrean also made us giggle by pointing out that she had no intention of visiting some of the landscapes in her novel. Searching out places that people are scared of, can be killed in …I guess the wish to avoid such places is understandable!

Australia was again revelled in and praised with Geraldine crediting travelling through the wonderful Australian landscape for inspiring several of her books including The Middle of Nowhere. Landscape clearly has the power to ignite the imagination.

For Anna the landscape ‘has to be about the challenge’, a challenge through with characters discover themselves. A harsh, hostile landscape shapes the characters, as in Sea-Wreck Strangers. The landscape gains equal attention during the writing process, ‘it’s like a character in the book. I’m developing character, I’m developing the setting.’

The effect of setting on character was emphasised by Joe. Isolation on the rig, in the middle of the inhospitable ocean accentuates protagonist Jake’s mental isolation and strengthens the iron grip the warden.

To conclude? Why are these writers writing for teenagers?

Joe Ducie ‘I write what I want to read.’

Geraldine McCaughrean‘I write what I want to be.’

Lucy Christopher ‘I write for the teenager I was’

Anna MacKenzie ‘I write for the teenager I was, the teenager I would like to be.’


Emma Perry now lives in Bath, having recently said goodbye to Melbourne, Australia. She’s a freelance writer, reviewer, founder of My Book Corner and organiser of International Book Giving Day. She studied English Literature at Kent University and teaches at Primary Schools in her spare time.

Twitter @mybookcorner @epmk

By Daniel Sage

“Saying goodbye too often”, he told us, “people get impatient. But at least if I drop dead you’ll get some action, instead of me just talking. Are you ready?”

Perhaps we were ready, but still what surprised us was how open and warm and plain human he was, displaying weakness and wisdom side by side like a true master.

The wit pours out as ever in a fountain, but we were also privileged to be shown much more. We met the poet who sits behind the comic, who picks up details and characters and turns them all over in his hands, and we listened to a soul of acute sensitivity read to us a long evocative passage from his recent translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“Every serious poet should translate it,” he said, and who can argue. James is a serious poet. A wit on the telly, a poet in real life. “My media life fed my family,” he explained, “it was a conscious choice. Otherwise, all I’d have written is poems about feeling hungry.”

He recalled the time when authors signing books in shops were considered crass. Until someone realised signed books couldn’t be sent back to the publishers. Every Tom, Dick and Fanny writer then jumped into their four wheel drives and drove up and down the country signing everything in sight. Jeffrey Archer, he joked, was the first writer to break into a bookshop.

The sentimental ebullience is gallows humour on turbo. His aim, he said, was “to live long enough to watch Season Four of Game of Thrones.” A quip from the media CliveJames. But delivered here with a virtuosic melancholy, and with the detail and mindfulness, yes, of a poet. A serious poet. And a unique and funny one.

Answering a question from the floor about whether he’d made his own luck in his life, he said, “You make your luck all the time. But first you have to have it. And you must think of those who haven’t got it.” How beautiful is that.

Clive James, don’t go.

Daniel Sage is an author and journalist based in London. More information is available at


By Emma Perry

When music and literature combine, notes and words swirling with an unbridled affinity to their creator, leaving in their wake a magical impact on those who were lucky enough to secure a seat in the Kings’College Chapel on Saturday evening.

Since leaving Australia 12 years ago musician Emily Barker has been preoccupied with what home means. Her album Dear River is a personal story of her home, her history and her respect for the land she grew up on.

With a desk all book lovers would be jealous of on stage right, Emily proceeded to pull selected tomes from its top to read snippets of wisdom from the likes of Tim Winton, Bruce Pascoe and Eve Hoffman. Words from which she drew knowledge, inspiration and comfort as she reconciled her own life experiences thus far – specifically, reconciling her decision to make England her home. For the captivated audience, looking through this window into the creation on important album …well, it felt like quite an indulgence.

The album begins with ‘Sleeping Horses’ followed by the title song, ‘Dear River’. Gentle and hypnotic, Emily recreates the hypnotic idyllic charm of her childhood home, revealing in the beauty and calmness of the beautiful landscape.

Emily’s thoughtful exploration of family history emerges as the album progresses. ‘Letters’conveys the anxiety felt by those left at home when her Dutch grandfather, accompanied by his brother, were forced into exile for a long 3 years during the war.

‘A Spade Full of Ground’was a passionate filled, standout song for me. Highlighting the contradictions in Australia’s post colonisation history, and introduced with wonderful words from Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Convincing Ground, ‘to steal land is theft’, it was a powerful, engaging performance filled with emotion.

As Emily continued to treat her audience to the inspiration behind each track – both the music and the lyrics – the breadth of the journey she had taken was made wonderfully apparent. A continuing inner turmoil on attempting to reconcile a decision to make somewhere else your home – a place far beyond your childhood home – was something she captured acutely.

Her closing song ‘In The Winter I Returned’was melodic and comforting, reflecting her peace and reconciliation. Her comfort and acceptance in the knowledge that she is ‘always destined to be of two worlds’and ‘will always be a traveller’caught up in the hypnotic ballad.

Delving into a myriad of experiences and knowledge – from family anecdotes, and letters from the past, to personal lightbulb experiences – Emily Barker has created a wonderful album that not only whisks you away with the musical notes, but brims with touching lyrics which reveal a plethora of feelings, strength and passion.


Emma Perry now lives in Bath, having recently said goodbye to Melbourne, Australia. She’s a freelance writer, reviewer, founder of My Book Corner and organiser of International Book Giving Day. She studied English Literature at Kent University and teaches at Primary Schools in her spare time.

Twitter @mybookcorner @epmk

By Emma Perry

Relaxed, friendly, natural and generous describes the overall tone of the intriguingly titled ‘Being Brave, Being Curious’panel on Saturday afternoon.

Chaired by the warm and welcoming BJ Epstein the panel, comprising of James Dawson, Rebecca Root and Alyssa Brugman, proceeded to delve into a number of interesting and engaging topics.

The panel begun by exploring a myriad of reasons why LGBTQ literature is needed in the first place. Beginning with personal experiences both Rebecca and James lamented the lack of LGBTQ literature when they really needed it, ‘when I was growing up I didn’t read books about people like me and my friends,’explained James.

Echoing Malorie Blackman’s words that every child deserves to see themselves reflected within the pages of a book, BJ Epstein made the point that there’s a need for both mirror books (to identify with) and window books (to learn about others).

This lack of literature also extends to non-fiction books.

James Dawson’s soon to be published ‘This Book Is Gay’is a non-fiction ‘manual you can sink your teeth into.’James, with a background as a PSHCE teacher, was keen that his book wasn’t filtered, elaborating that the worry about if things are suitable for teenagers comes from the parents, the teenagers aren’t worried about it.

Rebecca Root applauded the ‘beacon’cover (google it!) that has been designed for James’book, and was quite keen to sit on the London underground proudly showing what she was reading.

It was the lack of LGBTQ characters that led Alyssa Brugman to create Alex – born intersex and raised male – the protagonist of Alex as Well.

Rebecca had many, many kind words to say about Aylssa’s novel elaborating that Alex’s experience spoke strongly to her, with the conflict captured with subtlety and elegance. Strong praise indeed, though the critics are – as ever – still around.

An interesting discussion emerged which centred on the criticism Alyssa has received for writing a book about an intersex character, when this is not an echo of her own life. James in particular was very forthright here, stating it ‘makes me cross’people questioning Alyssa’s right to write.

‘Nobody has questioned me about my ability to write straight characters.’

Firmly adding, ‘that question is redundant.’As Rebecca succinctly put it, ‘you just need a good, healthy imagination’. Clearly the license to create and explore is at the very heart of who an author is and what they do. Alyssa further illustrated this idea with the very sensible comment ‘you can’t populate a novel with yourself, it would be very short and very boring.’

As for the future?

As James pointed out ‘there will always be a place for issue books’, but collectively the panel were passionately pleading for more positive books, those which avoid the descent into the stereotypical angst ridden teen struggling with a big coming out moment.

The panel would love to see books where the plot isn’t centred around the characters sexuality as a problem, which focus on similarities rather than differences between groups.

Well-written, plot driven books where the main characters just happen to be LGBTQ will all help to ‘Keep the conversation going’…whilst Dr Who fanatic James has his fingers crossed for a gay Dalek asap!

Emma Perry now lives in Bath, having recently said goodbye to Melbourne, Australia. She’s a freelance writer, reviewer, founder of My Book Corner and organiser of International Book Giving Day. She studied English Literature at Kent University and teaches at Primary Schools in her spare time.

Twitter @mybookcorner @epmk

By Ivor Wells

As soon as Paula Morris’ award-winning novel Rangatira was published in 2011 I made a beeline to a London bookshop. Problem was, the poignant story of a Maori delegation meeting Queen Victoria at the zenith of Britain’s Empire wasn’t on sale here. I had to order it online from New Zealand.

But in a performance entitled, ‘The Ghosts Among Us’ the story of Paratene Te Manu, a rangatira (chief) of Ngati Wai (People of the Water) returned to London through Paula’s own voice and the voices of London’s Maori Club, Ngati Ranana (People of London). In the ornate chapel of King’s College, on the banks of the timeless River Thames, the writer herself invited the audience to gaze fascinated and fearful upon eye bulging, tongue poking, thigh slapping savages from the south seas, just as Victorian England once did in 1863.

Paula was joined by Witi Ihimaera, the first Maori writer to publish a novel and, amongst a host of award-winning works, author of the internationally acclaimed Whale Rider. From 1863 we were transported to 1914 and a montage of scenes from his new WWI play, All Our Sons, the little known story of the Maori contribution to New Zealand’s first overseas war effort.

A hapu (clan) is making the agonising decision whether or not to send its young men to fight a “white man’s war” alongside pakeha with whom there is only a fragile peace. The heart-breaking result is a German machine gunner lowering his weapon out of respect while waiata (songs) of grief drift like mists of mustard gas across the trenches of Gallipoli.

These two moving pieces spoke directly to some well-worn trenches of storytelling in Australia and New Zealand; objectifying and gazing upon the ‘exotic others of history’ on the one hand, and altogether omitting their stories on the other.

Witi spoke this weekend of ‘unpoisoning’ the stories inherited from incomplete histories. He wasn’t alone. In other sessions on indigenous writing Bruce Pascoe, a Bunurong Tasmanian spoke of young Aborigines unlearning the myths of their country’s “European discovery”. For Ali Cobby Eckermann, a Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha kunga poet, the unlearning was more personal; finding her mother with whom she was separated at birth only to also search for her own son whom she too lost as a young mother.

Perhaps it’s why this festival has significance here in London that it wouldn’t have had in Auckland or Sydney. Regardless of where our own mountains and rivers lie, London is, on so many levels communal land in the country of imagination and memory.

Despite the difficulties of remembering and reimagining there are the springs of opportunity too. And if this weekend has reminded me of anything it’s that ‘unpoisoning’ the waters, subversive and unsettling as it can be, is not only a redemptive act for the artist, but audiences too. For that we owe a debt of gratitude to our ‘creative Rangitira’, the tellers of those older, bigger, fuller stories that bring us full circle, into memories we would otherwise never have.

Kia ora for that.

Ivor Wells is a London-based Kiwi/Brit hybrid who grew up in NZ, Australia, USA and Germany. He writes a blog called ‘Pacific Londoner’ about his travels, reading and musings.

There could scarcely be two more mismatched partners for a panel discussion than the two Helens; Garner and Simpson.

Garner, an Australian journalist, novelist and screenplay writer, caused a literary scandal with her first non-fiction book, The First Stone, which analysed a sexual abuse case at an Australian university campus. A more recent work, The Spare Room, fictionalises Garner’s experience of caring for a terminally ill friend, and a forthcoming work examines the defendant and witnesses in a grisly family murder trial. Her work is praised for its analytical rigour and emotional acuity, and criticised just as enthusiastically for its “selective” readings of fact and tendencies towards emotional bias.

Another world away, Simpson began her career writing for English Vogue magazine, and has published four volumes of comic short stories, whose sleek style and elegant plotting recall P G Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford.

Nonetheless, the two found much to admire in each other’s work. Simpson praised Garner’s work for its “hard honesty” and for “the emotional punch of truth” that connects with a reader’s inner sense of inauthenticity, regardless of whether the work is prose or fiction.

Both Helens agreed that the publishing world was too nervous and cautious about assigning strict categories to books. Simpson noted disapprovingly that modern publishing mistrusts the imagination and valued tabloid-style truth telling over literary merit. Citing the recent cases of James Frey, whose semi-fictionalised addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces was rejected as fiction but became a bestseller when presented as memoir, Simpson argued that publishers deserved what they got when these frauds blew up in their faces, and that memoirs should be sub-titled “a version”, to reflect that “truth” can only be one person’s perspective.

Garner acknowledged a degree of anxiety with writing about true-life subjects, arguing that writers should only fictionalise lived experience when they were able to bring some artistry and perspective to the telling of it, and that she was continually on guard with herself when walking the line between truth and fiction. She noted that while almost of the events in The Spare Room were based on truth, it was “morally a novel”, as she had fictionalised supporting characters and details of the clinic that her friend attended.

Like many of Garner’s fans, Simpson praised Garner for the emotional clarity and directness of her work. In response, Garner discussed how the anger apparent in The Spare Room prompted an interesting, gender-split response from readers: women, she said, related to Garner’s description of her powerlessness and rage as she watched her dying friend pursue futile quack medicine, whereas men found it affronting or unsettling.

Simpson argued that this was what happened when women writers write about taboos like death, and disrupt cherished gender role fantasies about women as selfless death-bed carers. Both writers agreed that this disruption was an essential job of the novelist, and that writers owed it to themselves and their audiences to observe their experiences acutely and report as accurately as they could.

Garner said she was surprised at the reaction of friends to her covering the Australian murder trial, who expressed disbelief that Garner would want to investigate the story of the defendant (a man who reputedly drowned his children as revenge on his ex-wife) who was “clearly a monster”. Garner said that it was this reaction that prompted her to keep going and explore the defendant’s story. “It’s too easy to apply simple truths to difficult situations to keep the unbearable elements at bay,” Garner said.

When asked why she inserted herself into so many of her works (the fictional carer in The Spare Room is called Helen), Garner spoke of her desire to “take the story inside me so that I can fully commit to it with all my concentration”.

On a more light-hearted moment, Simpson discussed her own act of literary memoir fraud as a younger writer, penning a fantastical autobiography inspired by the cruel North of Wuthering Heights in a (successful) attempt to get an internship at Vogue.

“You’ve got to be brave to be honest,” chair Carmen Callil stated at the end of the panel discussion. It was a fitting tribute to the work of Garner, whose work goes boldly where most other writers fear to tread.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

By Anna Bowden

In Stories from the Past the stars of the discussion open by saying they do not consider their books historical fiction. It is a surprising revelation from authors Anna Funder and Margot Stedman whose books are tapestries of historical detail. But, Funder continues, she doesn’t know what historical fiction is. She goes on to describe her second book All That I Am, as having been intricately plotted with real material and having a “curious relationship to history”: A far more lovely way of describing her Miles Franklin-winning novel.

Funder’s stunning debut Stasiland retold the true stories, with aching detail, of the lives of people walled into East Germany from August 1961 to November 1989 and the impact of the Stasi during this time. It was followed by her Miles Franklin-winning novel All That I Am which blended fact and fiction in a tale about German pacifists who are forced to flee their homeland when Hitler comes to power.

In Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans, a survivor of the First World War trenches enjoys the solitude of life as a lighthouse keeper. When describing the creative process, she recalls listening to the voices in her head and waiting for the story to unfold.

Both Funder and Stedman discuss fact-checking and while challenging, both agree that the ‘contract’ with their readers relies on this pain-staking process – there is an obligation to get things right. Funder’s book was edited in three different countries and she recalled a particular scene in All That I Am where “oyster flesh swayed in china spoons”. She describes being unreasonably attached to the phrase and in this case, she put her foot down.

“It is an exercise in trust. No one particularly cares if there are oysters, you just don’t want to break the spell.”

Stedman holds similar views saying it’s not always about whether it’s accurate, it’s whether it’s plausible: “Don’t do things that make the reader stub their toe.”

In The Light Between Oceans, Stedman explores Australia in the 20s and describes how understanding the detail such as clothing, language and environment is so important.

“It’s interesting exploring women’s underwear, you never know what you will come across,” she says.


By Anna Bowden

The inspirational workshop saw Blackadder share top tips and tricks for aspiring writers to keep up their energy and stay on track – wherever you may be writing from.

Blackadder led the session using tips from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and simple exercises designed to free the mind, and the handwriting. The rules are easy:

  • Keep your hand moving
  • Lose control
  • Don’t think
  • Spelling grammar etc… ‘No worries mate’
  • You can write total crap
  • Go for the jugular (the scary part)

With a series of three to 10 minute exercises, Blackadder approached with the warm message to just keep writing. She likens writing to running, saying that runners are not born runners; they stretch; they train; they run around the block. And that is what writers must do also. So if procrastination is the fear of writing something badly then thanks are due to Blackadder for giving us all permission to write total crap. For a start at least.

By Cathy Powell

Points distilled.

Both about books.

A discussion of classics.

Eddington.  Callil.  Romei.  Johnson.  Heiss.

A publisher decides what a classic is.

A classic illuminates the history.

Can you have a commercial classic, or do only literary books make the cut?

Essentially it is all open to interpretation.

The publishing industry is changing.

Self-publishing is making its presence felt.

e-books too.

Satire is undervalued as is poetry.

Onto Their Brilliant Careers, where women’s writing was considered, though not from the historical perspective that was detailed in the description.

Five women writers asking: are women’s writing careers measured differently?

The writer has no comeback.  Applies to both men and women.

Writers need support.

Past women in books have been stereotyped as the mother, the mistress or the wife.  And today…

Too many women writing for children.

Christina Stead was mentioned in both panels.

Lots of food for thought.

I came away from both of these panels wanting to read more literature from the southern hemisphere.

Cathy Powell is a blogger based in East Sussex. Read her blog at or follow Cathy on Twitter @cathylpowell.

By John Forde

1. Her real first name is Franklin. Having a man’s name helped her get into St Andrew’s University, however when the Deans found out she was a woman, they tried to kick her out.

2. Her first memory is of her mother turning cartwheels on the lawn in their home in Christchurch.

3. Fay’s mother was a novelist who hung out with HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw. She wrote a novel on the boat over from New Zealand. This horrified her Kiwi neighbours so much that she became Public Enemy No 1.

4. As a teenager, Fay was thought to be a lesbian and was sent to a “progressive school” in Hampstead where studying was frowned upon.

5. Famed New Zealand artist Rita Angus painted a portrait of Fay and her sister as children. Fay’s mother didn’t like it and hung it in a dark corner of the house, fishing it out only when Angus came for tea.

6. One of Fay’s first jobs was in the espionage unit of the Foreign Office, and used to take a bath in her lunch hour.

7. Of her career in advertising: “The women did the work; the men just went to lunch and drank”.

8. She ran the world’s least successful cake shop out of a home shared with her mother, her sister and the death-watch beetle.

9. She says: “All novels are acts of persuasion”.

10. She wrote the screenplay for the first episode of Upstairs Downstairs but was fired by the producers for “ingratitude”, after sneakily recycling old versions of the script.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

By Daniel Sage

Into unashamedly sentimental territory last night with a showing of Michael Blakemore’s evocative film about surfing at Bondi beach when he was a boy with his father. Shot in 1981 – and winner of the Melbourne Film Festival’s Audience Prize, and, interestingly, the first program ever bought by Channel 4 – its story is set 30 years before that. It neatly weaves in 40s and 50s footage of muscly surfers carting their enormous door-like boards down to the grainy grey waves. All this fixes the film way back in time, yet what it portrays looks pretty much the same as it does this morning all those miles away: Bondi’s irrepressible curved smile, beguiling waves, crazy surfers, shimmering water, lolling sunbakers everywhere.

We see Bondi’s irrepressible curved smile, beguiling waves, crazy surfers, shimmering water, lolling sunbakers everywhere.

Much has been said about the significance of beach in Aussie culture yet its potency as a symbol is undimmed. It is both the very essence of an amazing democracy and the presence of the power of Australia the land itself.

“We see beneath the veneer,” Blakemore told us, “it allows us our iconic skeptic-cemia.”

Blakemore was one of the early settlers in England, after the vanguard of James, Greer, Hughes, Humphries et al, and he was surprised to find it wasn’t the grand reality he expected – “we were told real life happened in Europe,” he said – but instead life for many here was grim and simple.

A defining moment was when Neighbours swept through the land and every youth started speaking with a rising inflection.

“Exquisite,” he said, “I knew I could go home and feel at peace.” But he stayed on here, and continues his remarkable career.

The film is subtitled “Confessions of a Straight Poofter,” and as Blakemore tells us, that really is a whole other story. But the theme as shown here is that his arty leanings and distaste for contact sports made him a worry in his father’s eye, who was a bastion of pre-war conservative values. For the young Michael that meant being cajoled to do as his father did; become a doctor, choose a regular life, be a privileged citizen.

But Michael preferred magic and theatre, late night parties and similarly nerdy sport-avoiding pals. In a way his confidence to follow his heart and leave Australia for a go in London (where it took 20 years before he was successful) is testament to the strong, albeit contrary, bond between father and son. Robert Morley – the actor who first noticed Michael in Sydney and persuaded him over – was Blakemore’s first choice for a dedication.

“Not at all, dear boy,” Morley wrote to him. “The film is about your father. If you hadn’t argued with him so much, you’d have become a lifesaver and lived at the beach.”

The room’s collective wistfulness could nearly be felt as he described the “ravishing scented evenings” he missed so much

After such a stirring film that didn’t seem such a bad option, and the room’s collective wistfulness could nearly be felt as he described the “ravishing scented evenings” he missed so much. Luckily for our cultural life, he chose to write, produce and direct instead.

Kathy Lette was as gorgeous and witty as ever and a perfect foil and interviewer. They both filled the room with laughter and sunshine, and for a couple of hours Bondi and Aussie beach life holidayed in the old country.

Daniel Sage is an author and journalist based in London.  More information is available at

By John Forde

New Zealand writers Stella Duffy and Stephanie Johnson were joined by English novelists Margaret Drabble and Linda Grant to discuss the life and work of Janet Frame, one of New Zealand’s best known and loved writers.

The author of twelve novels, four short story collections and a book of poetry, Frame is best known for her autobiography, An Angel At My Table, first published in three volumes between 1982 and 1985 and as a single work in 1989. As with many of her earlier works, the autobiography chronicles Frame’s severe shyness, her desire to write, her misdiagnosis as a schizophrenic, and a nightmarish decade spent in and out of mental institutions receiving shock treatment. Scheduled for a lobotomy, Frame was literally saved by her writing: on the morning of her operation, her doctor noted that she’d won a literary prize for her first novel, and cancelled the procedure.

An Angel At My Table was a bestseller in New Zealand and attracted rave reviews from abroad. Michael Holroyd called it “one of the greatest autobiographies written in the twentieth century”. Jane Campion’s 1990 film adaptation,also an international success,brought Frame and her writing to a wider global audience, and re-established her as a cornerstone of New Zealand literature. She died in 2004.

Stella Duffy, graciously standing in at the last moment as chairperson for the session, began by describing Frame, half-jokingly, as “New Zealand’s Sylvia Plath”. It’s a telling and somewhat unsettling line, which pinpoints the voyeuristic fascination many readers have with Frame’s traumatic struggles with mental illness. Like Plath, Frame’s work seems fated to be read through the prism of her life-story, and assessed for the authenticity of her suffering rather than for its literary merit.

It wasn’t completely surprising, then, that the panellists spent the first half of the session discussing Frame’s life and sharing their favourite Janet anecdotes. Linda Grant related a long but not unamusing tale of visiting the elderly Frame in Dunedin and persuading her to move from her old publishing house The Women’s Press to the up-and-coming Virago.

What, then, of Frame’s work and her literary legacy? Of all the panellists, Margaret Drabble provided the most incisive analysis of Frame’s gifts as a writer. Starting with Owls Do Cry, Frame’s first novel (and the one later agreed on by all the panellists as the most appropriate Frame work for a “nice middle class book group” to read), Drabble praised Frame’s ability to seamlessly combine realism with modernist experimentation, which she compared to the work of Virginia Woolf. The sudden shifts in tone in Frame’s work revealed, Drabble said, a “volatility of temperament which made [Frame] exciting to read”. Drabble praised An Angel At My Table for Frame’s commitment to truth-telling, and for allowing herself to “appear foolish and feckless”.

Linda Grant quoted several times from Frame’s novel Living In the Maniototo, which she praised for the beauty of its language, which, in Grant’s words “detonated banality”. Grant took issue with the popular view of Frame as a recluse, noting her extensive travel and cosmopolitan existence, and her incessant curiosity about other people, which fuelled her convincing descriptions of different characters. The “Maniatoto” was for Frame, Grant said, a place inside her that she could go to where she could write, regardless of her physical location.

Stephanie Johnson described a moving first encounter with Frame’s work as a teenager recovering in hospital, when her mother brought library copies of Owls Do Cry and Faces In the Water for her to read. Johnson recalled identifying with the sense of entrapment that Frame described so vividly, and her excitement at discovering a New Zealander writing about working class family life with such honesty and compassion.

Stella Duffy also praised Frame for the kindness and compassion evident in her work, and later conceded that the myth of “mad woman writer” was too convenient a tale to tell about Frame’s life. “We like our writers to be crazy”, she said, agreeing with Johnson that Frame’s work, particularly her poetry, was due for a biography-free reassessment.

When discussing why Frame’s work wasn’t more widely known, Linda Grant observed that Frame existed in a cycle of generational neglect and rediscovery. Frame’s writing was too often seen as “challenging” and “experimental”, Grant said, and its lack of easy identification with a “fashionable cause” made teachers reluctant to put it on school syllabuses. All the panellists agreed that Frame fans had a responsibility to ensure that she continued to be read and discovered by younger generations of readers.

Both Johnson and Grant referred to one of Frame’s most famous quotes, from the third part of An Angel at My Table – a fitting tribute to a great writer and literary pioneer:

“A writer must stand on the rock of her self and her judgment or be swept away by the tide or sink in the quaking earth: there must be an inviolate place where the choices and decisions, however imperfect, are the writer’s own, where the decision must be as individual and solitary as birth or death.”

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

By Patsy Trench

Friends of my generation in Australia were taught English history in school. Their children, so far as I can gather, were taught Australian history but from a colonial perspective. In the case of my nephew in the generation following, it focused on the years since the First War. None of them, as far as I know, were taught anything about the 60,000 odd years of Indigenous history that took place before the Europeans moved in.

So it was shocking to hear from the speakers in ‘First Contact’ that children in both Australia and New Zealand are still being taught that Captain Cook ‘discovered’ their countries. According to author Bruce Pascoe one of the problems encountered by young Aboriginal boys, particularly, stems from being vilified and punished for disputing this version of Australian history in the classroom.

It was not comfortable to sit in the same room as these eloquent speakers and hear of the dreadful things our ancestors did to their people. The first contact that Aboriginal poet Ali Cobby Eckerman’s family had with white people was when they tested an atom bomb in the desert region in South Australia where they lived. Her mother was four years old at the time and managed to survive because her family went south, which happened to be downwind. Many other families were not so lucky. This tragedy created what she called a ‘ripple effect’ which resulted in the fact that none of her family grew up with their children, neither her mother nor her grandmother, nor herself.

The French, according to writer Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, regard Australia as ‘fashionable’ and, in these days of economic crisis, an example of a successful, happy country where the sun shines and there is good employment. He has written a graphic novel called Terra Australis, to inform the French about the country’s colonial background. The French are very aware the country should, or could have been French, if only La Pérouse had arrived at Botany Bay one day earlier. (He was pipped at the post by Captain Phillip and the First Fleet. He subsequently sailed north and was never seen again. On board might have been, had he not been turned down for being too young, Napoleon Bonaparte.)

Bruce Pascoe, a part-Aboriginal Tasmanian, learned his own family history by eavesdropping on some female relatives who thought he was too deaf to hear what they were talking about. School libraries, he says, are ‘repulsive’ if the best the can offer is books such as Walkabout.

Witi Ihimiera, a Maori New Zealander best known for the film Whale Rider, painted a similar but slightly different picture of the preservation of Maori culture and history in his country. Children there are also taught that Cook discovered New Zealand, although the Maori language is taught in schools. The preservation of his country’s history and culture, he says, can be best achieved through language, and by encouraging young people to become lawyers and to counter western law.

European enlightenment doesn’t seem to be doing very well in either country, according to the speakers. There are plans to alter the school history curriculum to focus more on Aboriginal history, though these are in the process of being watered down by the current government. With publishers not disposed to assist Indigenous people to tell their stories it is difficult, though not impossible, says Ali, to ‘rehistoricise’.

First Contact: The British Arrival in Australia & New Zealand featured Maori author Witi Ihimaera; journalist and graphic novelist Laurent-Frédéric Bollée,  author Bruce Pascoe and poet Ali Cobby Eckermann.

Patsy Trench is an author and theatre-lover who blogs at London Theatre Visits. 

By Patsy Trench

  • Research your facts so thoroughly you live in the period.
  • Then don’t let your research show. You are writing a novel, not a text book.
  • Show the period you’re writing about through your characters.
  • Beware of glaring anachronisms.
  • Be mindful of modern sensibilities.
  • Dialogue should reflect the period you are writing about. Or should that be (since we’re writing about the past) the period about which you are writing. Key words and phrases are useful here but make sure they fit the period.
  • Be wary of foreshadowing; ie overusing the benefit of hindsight. We know Anne Boleyn had her head chopped off but she didn’t, not until it happened.

This was a practical workshop and Anne Mackenzie, famed New Zealand writer of books for young adults and teacher of creative writing, worked us hard. Some examples of the tasks she set us:

  • Write a scene about a married couple buying a bed. Their relationship is on the skids. Both these facts should be made evident in the dialogue without it being spelt out.
  • Write it again but in the period your book is set in.
  • Write it again and edit it so it’s half or two-thirds the length.
  • Read it aloud to the class so they can guess what period it is, forsooth.

An excellent workshop, much food for thought, and note to self to buy a Dictionary of Idioms.

Patsy Trench is an author and theatre-lover who blogs at The Worst Country in The World.

Crouching Aphrodite

By LK Holt

Still as always surprised at her bath,

no arms to cover her breasts, no head for modesty.

Sea anemone, or remnant hand of her son attached

to her back—he broke off her

below the clamber of the civilized.

Crouching, prey-predator, inland, far from her birth-foam.

Crouching, pre-dating the guiltlands,

unfraught among sots and satyrs

groping like waterplants.

Romans pick-pantheon for a god

of easy victories, a quick crown of her myrtle

for the low-grade triumph and something

to soothe the sword’s hand.

Let her ask of lovers that they ask why Love.

She’s as unwilling to spring as the funerary lion.

There’s a time which statues won’t stand for—

we should let them tire.

LK Holt‘s first collection, Man Wolf Man (2007), received the Kenneth Slessor Prize in the NSW Premier’s Awards, and her second collection, Patience, Mutiny (2010), received the Grace Leven Prize. A collection of new poems, Saccadic, will be published in July. She lives in Melbourne.


You’re in a session called ‘Extreme Country’: what makes New Zealand extreme?

Extreme natural beauty, extreme distance from other civilisations, and an extreme ability to throw down a scrum and beat everyone at rugby.

What is your favourite part or characteristic of the New Zealand landscape?

Mangroves. The mangrove plant, avicennia marina, crowds most every bay and creek in the top half of the North Island, and at high tide the water is green and mysterious and loaded with eels, mullet, and cormorants.

What does that landscape make you want to write about? 

Much of my book of essays about 20 small New Zealand towns, Civilisation: Twenty Places at the Edge of the World, is landscape writing – the bleak wasteland of the Desert Road, the white shellbanks at Miranda where bar-tailed godwits live for half the year before they depart for Alaska, the murderous coalfields of the West Coast, and that frozen country village at Scott Base, Antarctica.

Does an extreme country make extreme people?

For sure. New Zealand television routinely celebrates eccentric New Zealanders as harmless, charming, quaint oddballs, but my book Civilisation presents eccentric New Zealanders as I think they really are: demented, intense, self-harming, a threat to others, extreme in everything they do.

You’re also in a ‘Big Debate’ on the subject ‘The Cultural Cringe is Over’ and you’re against the motion. What makes you cringe?

New Zealand cringing makes me cringe! The way we’re so grateful for anyone who ever notices us and gives us a good approval rating. We’re like some sort of desperate online trader – “92% positive over the past 12 months (452 total ratings)”, that sort of thing. At the same time we’re laid back and just like to fish, drink, play golf and take the kids to the beach. It’s just that our relaxed state of mind is also seething with an anxiety that can never be soothed.


See Steve Braunias at this weekend’s Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts in ‘Extreme Country’ with Jesse Blackadder, Karen Foxlee and Ashley Hay and ‘THE BIG DEBATE: The Cultural Cringe is Over’ with Robert Collins, Jane Cornwell, Juno Gemes, Paul Ham, Anita Heiss.


Claire Mabey is from New Zealand and works on festivals, most recently on New Zealand Festival’s Writers Week. She is currently travelling and working on New Zealand’s first LitCrawl ( which is a lot of fun.

By John Forde

The Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts got off to a rousing start last night with welcomes from Aboriginal and Maori elders – the first storytellers of Australia and New Zealand.

After a stirring karakia and haka, New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera spoke about New Zealand writers “creating our own way while they [the colonising British] weren’t looking” and joked that, for this weekend at least, “our side is up” rather than Down Under. Aboriginal writer Bruce Pascoe invited the audience to “come in peace”, but reminded us of the “convenient narratives” told by white colonists that imagined Aboriginals as savages. Both welcomes were timely reminders of the importance of narrative as a social and political force in both countries.

The evening’s star guest was Australian writer Tim Winton, the celebrated author of Cloudstreet (regularly voted Australia’s favourite novel), Dirt Music, The Riders and Breath. Dressed in his trademark polar fleece, black t-shirt and pale jeans, his surfer’s ponytail now streaked with grey, Winton is the thinking man’s Aussie bloke: smart, funny, thoughtful and allergic to anything smacking of writerly pretension.

The session was chaired by BBC journalist Kirsty Lang, who started with a review of Eyrie, Winton’s new novel (released in the UK this month). Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a disillusioned middle-aged environmental activist living in a tower block in Freemantle. Winton rejected suggestions that Eyrie was a state-of-the-nation work about modern capitalist Australia, but noted his interest in writing about characters who don’t share in the country’s economic prosperity. “It’s a mistake to think that there are no class distinctions [in Australia]”, he said, arguing that “the way we live now is horizontal”, allowing us to ignore the plight of the less-well-off next door.

While Eyrie moves away from the desert and beach landscapes of Breath and into a modern, urban setting, it shows Winton’s ongoing interest in describing a particular “ecosystem” from which characters and situations develop. Winton claims not to structure his plotting in advance, allowing characters to emerge slowly, “carrying their history on their backs”. Unlike the close-knit family of Cloudstreet, Eyrie’s disgruntled protagonist lives in self-imposed exile from the world. Even in this setting of urban alienation, humanity eventually “leans in” in Eyrie, in the form of Keely’s distressed neighbour and her young son.

Winton’s appreciation of the Australian landscape wasn’t fully revealed to him until he travelled to Europe, where he realised, to his surprise, that he wasn’t a European. The landscape of Western Australia is so “particular and irrepressible”, he explained, that he realised his sensory responses to place were different from that of Europeans. Australia has “much more landscape than culture,” he said: “more gaps, more spaces, more pauses” and a quality of being “implacably itself” that still resists human civilisation.

On a more personal note, Winton spoke of inheriting his mother’s love of books as means of escape to a better life, and spoke of bookshops and libraries as “pillars of civilisation and civility”. His uncanny ear for authentic-sounding Aussie dialogue came partly from listening to adult conversations as he hid under tables at family gatherings, or tuning in on the neighbours through the thin asbestos walls of his childhood home.

Winton spoke generously, if not completely enthusiastically, about the TV adaptations of Cloudstreet (for which he wrote the teleplay), and recent and forthcoming film versions of The Riders and The Turning, commenting wryly about the relative ease of writing fiction to filmmaking. “You don’t need bankers to write books”, he said – just solitude, endurance, and, in Winton’s own case, a room of one’s own. Fortunately for all his fans, Winton has those qualities in spades, and doesn’t intend to give up anytime soon.

Winton’s lively, entertaining discussion ignited several themes that will be explored in talks, panel discussions and workshops through the weekend, including Writing From Extreme Locations, First Contact and Extreme Country.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

By Holly Ringland

If people ask me how remote my life was living in a western desert community, I tell them it was a ten hour round trip just to buy new knickers. If the conversation later includes my vocation as a writer, the question is usually asked: so, where did you write in the desert? These are three of the unlikely places I found myself a ‘desk’.

Erldunda Station.

On the journey from Uluru to purchasing said new underpants in Alice Springs, Erldunda Station was my rest stop. Plonked on its own where the Lasseter intersects with the Stuart Highway, Erldunda consists of a basic motel, pub, and roadhouse, all of which draw a colourful and surprisingly constant crowd of wanderlusting road-trippers and desert characters. I often sat under the broad shade of a gnarled ghost gum off to the side of the roadhouse and used a weathered picnic table as my desk where I scribbled details of my people-watching at this highway ‘metropolis’. A particular favourite from one of my notebooks: ‘three legged Pete… and his dog.’

The outskirts of Blackstone.  

Camping on the outskirts of Blackstone Community, we thought we were alone in our swags on the red dirt under a moonless sky. It wasn’t until a sudden, gut-wrenching, god-awful gurgling woke us that we understood we weren’t. What we thought was a quiet, empty patch of spinifex and mulga to camp by was actually a waterhole, which not much else that tramples like a few hundred wild camels and their growling, mewling, monstrous-noise-making stomachs. From the safety and comfort of our swiftly relocated swags on the roof of our ute, I switched on my headlamp and used a tea tin as my desk to tally the sound effect possibilities the camel noises might have been used for, had we had a recorder. Chewbacca’s fertility cry was a particular favourite.

The 8k track behind my house. 

Despite being known as a land of wide open spaces, what I craved most at the end of each work day in the desert was space. Most afternoons when I walked through my front door I was already half out of my uniform. Straight into ‘civvies’. Running shoes on. I took my camera, notebook and pen, and lavishly wandered the deserted 8k red dirt track looping behind my house. Sometimes I didn’t stop, except to try and photograph the sunset softening Uluru’s stature. Other times I did, always between two desert oaks, tall and grandmotherly in character. Leant against their bases I sat and used my knees as a desk to write fairytale vignettes – one in particular about a broken music box I once found on the track.

It was just that kind of place.

Have you written from an extreme location? Real or imagined? Maybe to do so is an item on your bucket list? Or, perhaps you’re just hankering for some tips and pointers on how to keep yourself chugging along, regardless of geography. Join Jesse Blackadder at the Writing From Extreme Locations event for inspiration to keep you writing no matter your locale.  
Holly Ringland is an Australian writer who mostly grew up on the southeast Queensland coast – except for when her family lived on the road in the US for two years, travelling between national parks, inspiring in Holly what would become a lifelong fascination with different cultures, landscapes, and stories. In her early twenties Holly moved inland to Australia’s western desert where she spent four years working for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and living in Mutitjulu Community. She has been published in various journals and anthologies, and is now working on her creative writing PhD with Griffith University.

For more information please visit or follow @hollyringland.



From Emily Ballou’s ‘Handel, January 17th, 1836′. Published in The Darwin Poems, University of Western Australia Press, 2009


In the shadow of an ancient cave

under the curved, ferned roof of rock,

after a snack of salted beef

Darwin dozed,

though only briefly,

in a heavy jacket of heat


while Handel’s Messiah rose

like a bubble from the deep

& soared cliff-high behind his eyes,

an ascending thought

he could not capture.
He had the truest sense

that there was so much more

to man than breath.


He dreamed his inner body

stretched to accommodate the vast

reaches of mind, stretched

across the empty, remembered wastes

of Patagonia & its stark opposite,

the hungry hands of the dark

Tierra del Fuegians,

their yammerschoonering after the brass buttons

on his coat;

& how his own hand reached hungrily

after the teeming, secret life

of this country,

for he too wanted so much more

than he could speak.



Emily Ballou is an Australian poet, novelist and screenwriter. She is the author of the novels Father Lands and Aphelion (Picador), the children’s picture book, One Blue Sock (with Stephen Michael King; Random House) and the verse-portrait of Charles Darwin The Darwin Poems was awarded the 2010 Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize, highly commended in the Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry, the Mary Gilmore Prize, the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal and the Western Australia Premier’s Prize.

Emily Ballou will be appearing Chapel & Verse Part One: In the Beginning






By Philippa Moore

When the word “chick lit” is thrown around, what usually springs to mind is a story populated by an endearing and usually single Carrie Bradshaw-esque character, with a penchant for cupcakes, shoes and emotionally stunted men. And nine times out of ten, the character will be white. Recently there’s been a welcome smattering of racially diverse characters in women’s fiction in the UK (Mhairi McFarlane, Carole Matthews, to name a few) but it appeared all was still whiter-than-white in the Australian women’s fiction landscape, until Anita Heiss appeared with Not Meeting Mr Right in 2007.

“I don’t think Aboriginal women appeared in commercial Australian fiction until I put them there,” says Anita.

“That’s one of the reasons I write – to put us into the Australian literary landscape, across genres. I think I am still the only Aboriginal author writing commercial fiction.”

Based in Sydney, Anita Heiss is a prolific writer working across a range of genres – non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel. She was the first Aboriginal student to graduate with a PhD in Communication and Media at the University of Western Sydney and is now an Adjunct Professor with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS. Anita currently divides her time between writing, public speaking, MCing, and being a ‘creative disruptor’, as her website describes her.

She’s certainly been busy of late. Having had much success and impact on readers of all ages with her historical novel Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937 (published in 2001) – the book she says she is most proud of – Anita’s entry into commercial fiction started out as simply wanting to read a novel that had a central female character she could relate to.

“I wanted to connect with Australian women to talk about Aboriginal art, culture, politics, social justice and issues that I am passionate about, and issues that I think all Australians should be engaging with,” Anita says.

“But I had to think about ways to engage women who may never have had a cuppa or yarn with an Aboriginal woman before, who may have seen us marching about Black Deaths in Custody or the NT intervention but never understood why. Or worse still, had never thought about us at all.”

Now, five novels later – Not Meeting Mr Right (2007), Avoiding Mr Right (2008), Manhattan Dreaming (2010), Paris Dreaming (2011), and her latest, Tiddas (2014) – Anita has carved out a new genre of Australian commercial fiction (“choc lit”, as she calls it) and has established a new place for Aboriginal characters within the broader literary landscape.

Anita says the key has been finding common ground with her readers to connect with them rather than highlighting differences.

“I had to think about what we had in common….what connected us aside from the love of reading a good story? And that is of course our experiences as women. Like (all) other women, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we fear rejection, we suffer heartache, we know what it’s like to be infatuated, we experience, grief, sympathy, empathy – these are emotions that are universal, regardless of socio-economics, geography, age, gender or cultural heritage. This is about being human.”

With that in mind, Anita admits she has used many of her own experiences as a springboard for her fiction.

“In Not Meeting Mr. Right it is true that I was purging myself of fifteen years of bad dates!” she says. “There is a lot of me in my fiction….(but) my characters can say the things that I, Anita Heiss, may not want to say in the public domain but that I feel need to be said, unpacked, engaged with my broader audiences.”

Anita is also, quite famously, a method writer, inhabiting the physical environment and daily routines of her characters as she immerses herself in the writing of their stories. It all started when she began Avoiding Mr Right.

“I developed a complete research schedule where I went to Melbourne and walked in Peta Tully’s footsteps,” she explains.

“And it’s what I’ve done ever since. I do believe I get the authenticity of character as well as setting by being a method writer.”

As well as her work as a writer and academic, Anita is a passionate campaigner for indigenous literacy and is an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador. Does she believe that people who may have struggled with reading will be encouraged by the presence of characters they can relate to popular fiction?

“Absolutely. It’s not rocket science, people of all cultural backgrounds want to see themselves on the page. And in order to improve literacy rates for young Indigenous Australians we need to be creating relevant resources to inspire them to pick up books – of course we also need to be getting those books into communities, and often into traditional languages as well. And that’s what the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Yarning Strong (a YA book series) aims to do.”

While things have improved over the last decade or so, Anita believes there is still an expectation that Aboriginal writers generally will cover issues and themes deemed to be ‘Aboriginal’ – land rights, native title, identity, ‘Aboriginal history’ and so on – despite the author’s work engaging in mainstream themes and issues, as hers does.

“I think publishers expect if they are getting a manuscript from an Aboriginal person then there will be ‘Aboriginal identifiers’ within the work,” she says.

“For me personally, I just write what I know, and what I am interested in, which also includes dealing with politics and social justice, so without trying to I guess I am fulfilling some expectations. Even my chick lit covers black deaths in police custody, interracial relationships, Indigenous intellectual property….and various cultural practices.”

While Anita is happy to see an increase in indigenous themes and writers being published, she sometimes wishes the focus on identity and issues “that other writers aren’t expected to (talk about)” wasn’t so strong.

“I am a writer and at a writers festival I want to talk about my process, about my research methodology, about what I like to read, just like other writers do,” she says.

Her advice to aspiring writers appears to be in the same vein as the way she approaches her writing as a whole – do your research and immerse yourself.

“Read across genres to get a range of voice and style, and read in your own genres so you know what your competition is in the marketplace,” Anita suggests.

“Join a writers centre and a writing group. If you can afford to get a mentor for your writing project, do that. And definitely get a structural edit on your manuscript before submitting to an agent or publisher. These are things I wish I’d known before I started out!”

Reading her work, be it her fiction, poetry, non-fiction or her very engaging blog, it’s clear Anita Heiss is a very engaged, positive and passionate woman, about many things. When asked which book changed her life, she couldn’t pick just one.

“My brother said I’d read enough self-help books I could write one! And then one Christmas two people who love me gave me the same book The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. I read it. Twice. It helped me simplify my own meaning of happiness. Couple that with Stephanie Dowrick’s Choosing Happiness and I’d say they both changed my capacity to let go of guilt and appreciate the simple things.”


Anita Heiss will be in conversation with Ali Cobby Eckermann, Rebecca Hossack and Bruce Pascoe at the event It’s Not Black And White: Indigenous Issues in Literature and Arts

Other events featuring Anita Heiss:


The Big Debate: The Cultural Cringe is Over

Lost Classics

Philippa Moore is an Australian writer and editor who has lived in London for seven years. She has a degree in English from the University of Tasmania, was an award winner at the 2011 Cosmopolitan Blog Awards and is currently writing a novel while cultivating an organic vegetable patch…guess which gets more attention. Find out more about Philippa at or follow her on Twitter @philippa_moore.





From Ian Wedde’s ‘Shadow Stands Up’ in The Lifeguard (Auckland University Press, 2013)




Ian Wedde is a poet, novelist and essayist. He was New Zealand’s poet laureate 2011–2013 and is currently living in Berlin as Creative New Zealand writer in residence.












I had extraordinary opportunities to live, research and write on Antarctic research ships and scientific bases, funded by Australian and American artists and writers programmes, and the Royal Navy. The freedom to be alone, and absorb, was central. This image was taken at a Glacier edge, Anvers Island.

I had extraordinary opportunities to live, research and write on Antarctic research ships and scientific bases, funded by Australian and American artists and writers programmes, and the Royal Navy. The freedom to be alone, and absorb, was central. This image was taken at a Glacier edge, Anvers Island.

During fieldwork with US seabird ecologist Dr William Fraser, tracking data on Adélie penguins nesting near US scientific base, Palmer Station, Anvers Island. I researched my book on climate change, The Ferocious Summer: Palmer’s penguins and the warming of Antarctica (Profile Books 2007, 2008) over two Antarctic summers.

During fieldwork with US seabird ecologist Dr William Fraser, tracking data on Adélie penguins nesting near US scientific base, Palmer Station, Anvers Island. I researched my book on climate change, THE FEROCIOUS SUMMER: PALMER’S PENGUINS AND THE WARMING OF ANTARCTICA, (Profile Books 2007, 2008) over two Antarctic summers.

Adélie penguins nesting, with chicks, on one of the small islands off Palmer Station. Adélie penguins search out nesting sites on rocky ground free of snow for summer breeding on small islands off Anvers Island, returning every year.

Adélie penguins nesting, with chicks, on one of the small islands off Palmer Station. Adélie penguins search out nesting sites on rocky ground free of snow for summer breeding on small islands off Anvers Island, returning every year.

Wheels from the Arrol-Johnston motor car taken to Antarctica by  Ernest Shackleton on his Nimrod Expedition 1907¬–08,  stored against the side of the hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island. Shackleton with three companions got within one hundred miles of the South Pole. Conservation work on Shackleton’s hut undertaken by New Zealand and UK Antarctic Heritage Trusts helps preserve the first iconic buildings of Antarctica.

Wheels from the Arrol-Johnston motor car taken to Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton on his Nimrod Expedition 1907–08, stored against the side of the hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island. Shackleton with three companions got within one hundred miles of the South Pole. Conservation work on Shackleton’s hut undertaken by New Zealand and UK Antarctic Heritage Trusts helps preserve the first iconic buildings of Antarctica.


Meredith Hooper is a leading writer of non-fiction, with some 75 titles published internationally both for the children’s market and the wider adult market. Over the last fifteen years she has focused on writing and lecturing on the polar regions, in particular Antarctica. Her book The Longest Winter – Scott’s other heroes (John Murray, hardback 2010, paperback 2011), celebrates the centenary of Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. The Ferocious Summer – Palmer’s Penguins and The Warming of Antarctica (Profile Books, Australia; Greystone Books, North America, 2008) won the 2008 Nettie Palmer Prize for non-fiction at the Victorian Premier’s Awards. Meredith was born and brought up in Adelaide, South Australia.

Antarctica: Truth and Legend will take place at 4pm, Saturday 31 May at Kings College, London.

Review by Anna Woods

From the opening few minutes of Raimondo Cortese’s Holiday, in which the two men (played by Paul Woodson and Andrew Buckley) emerge wearing nothing but bright-coloured Speedos, and burst into sombre Baroque song, we are readied for a good dose of surrealism. If you like your humour dry (another Antipodean export, Flight of the Conchords, comes to mind), then you will enjoy Cortese’s writing, which could have been lifted directly from bizarre overheard conversations (if you’ve ever taken the after-midnight bus you will know the sort). Woodson and Buckley’s drawling Aussie accents and deadpan delivery make the most of the script’s potential for laughs. In fact, neither actor is Australian, so sustaining the accent must have been a challenge—I thought they did a fine job (but, I am not Australian, so I can’t really claim to know my flip flops from my thongs).

Funny as Holiday might be, the humour here is deceptive, because there are also very serious and sad moments (Buckley’s character in particular seems dogged by a certain melancholy, possibly arising from a missed chance at love). Cortese deftly mixes the profound with the ridiculous (men in Speedos quoting Hafiz Shirazi, for example). Just when it seems we are about to hear the punchline of a joke, the conversation may take an unexpected turn down a philosophical by-road (or it may not turn, but instead stop in its tracks; a dead end). The conversation is full of unanswered questions, unfinished stories, and silences—sometimes comfortable, sometimes pointed. This stopping and starting has the potential to frustrate, but in a sense comes closer to the feel of spontaneous conversation (as opposed to scripted dialogue), where the point is rarely resolution. Such open-endedness gives the audience space for contemplation, rather than reaching foregone conclusions.

Staging is strong but simple, with the central paddling pool creating an interesting tension as we wait for the moment when the characters to finally step into it (the night I attended, the theatre was sweltering and the audience audibly sighed when the actors submerged themselves). Perhaps I should mention—The Holiday isn’t really about a holiday. Yet it does seem to return to the notion of ‘escapes’, whether escaping the humdrum banality of the everyday, or the pressures of adulthood, or behaving in an expected and appropriate way (one character remembers, or fantasises, about asking a stranger if he could come into her house and just talk, just for a while).

The second play in the double-bill is Lally Katz’ The Eisteddfod. Katz speaks directly to her audience—no, seriously; The Eisteddfod opens with a voice-over of ‘the playwright’ introducing her main characters, brother and sister Abalone and Gerture (Paul Woodson and Louise Collins). And so we find ourselves back in the territory of unreality from Holiday—but here the humour is blacker, and the bleakness bleaker. And the floor is tilted—which at first has a slightly nausea-inducing effect. The off-kilter staging is in fact cleverly thematic, contributing to the increasingly warped reality of the siblings, whose bedroom is literally their entire world (they are afraid, and perhaps unable, to ever venture outside).

Woodson inhabits an entirely different kind of character in Abalone than in the previous work. The changeover is pulled off remarkably well. Woodson plays the domineering, petulant, occasionally maniacal Abalone with an energy that is both childish and sinister. He is matched by Collins’ Gerture, who is by turns both innocent child and scorned woman. Starved of any other human interaction, the children play out fantasies and pretend scenarios with each other. Their imagining of adult interactions (when they play Mother and Father, or when Abalone pretends to be Gerture’s husband Ian) may be a form of parody (which is often very funny) but they also delve into increasingly dark themes—and such ‘play’ is, after all, seemingly the coping mechanism of two children who have never been able to grow into adults. It is interesting that both Katz and Cortese return to the notion of escapism, when theatre itself is an important space for escapism and creating fictional worlds.

Abbey Wright gives confident direction in two pieces of theatre that must present a challenge, largely for the fact that they waver so much between lightness and dark, comedy and (in The Eisteddfod in particular) tragedy. This is theatre that will delight and disturb, and allow you to step out of reality—even if just for a while.

Holiday and The Eisteddfod are showing at the Bussey Building until 4 June 2014. Tickets to the joint shows can be purchased from here [this will take you to an external website].

Discount code ‘AUSTRALIA’ for £7.50 tickets


By Patsy Trench

Australian and New Zealand drama does not feature as much as it should the UK focussed theatre scene. So it was a special treat to spend 75 minutes in the company of a group of largely (but not entirely) Antipodean actors performing plays written by Australian and New Zealand writers on the theme of Going Bush.

The theme was interpreted loosely, and expressively, by the seven writers. In Marimba a man named Timothy Knightley introduces himself and tells us he lives in Cleveland. From time to time his IPhone rings and he goes back to the beginning of his story, each time telling us a little more about himself before eventually reverting to childhood. The Eeneid features a Kiwi soldier fighting in Gallipoli who receives an unexpected visit from Aphrodite and her father (Zeus presumably), who believe he is Aeneas. The Fag from Zagreb concerns a boy communicating by computer with a man from Serbia – who in the course of the playlet commits suicide – and his minder, a humanoid bear, who listens while he knits (or to be more precise passes stitches from one needle to the other, which may or may not be significant). Other plays feature a young woman dying of drugs while a doctor tries to save her and her boyfriend goes hunting his next fix. The more literal interpretations concern a pair of (English) hikers plagued by a pair of Antipodeans, and, finally, a family group of mum, dad and two boys relocating to their grandfather’s farm, where he blew his brains out and which is haunted by mysterious lights.

The plays are performed with great gusto by a group of talented actors, though in the tiny (and appropriately warm) space of the Attic room at the Bush Theatre I felt they could have reduced the projection a notch or two. Of all the plays the standout, for me, was Yuna, by Kate Mulvaney – whose wonderful autobiographical play Seed I saw some years ago at the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney. Here we are very solidly in the Australian bush in all its weirdness, with its extraordinary remoteness, its strange lights and its secret horrors. We never do learn why the granddad killed himself, but presumably he was doing what many farmers in Australia are known to do in times of hardship. While the play itself is light-hearted, especially in the portrayal of the two young boys by big, burly men, there is a story, and a darkness, underneath that is quintessentially Australian.

So all in all although the programme was a bit of a curate’s egg, in my view, I did feel I had spent my early evening back in Australia, with its quirkiness, its iconoclasm and brashness, and its tenderness too. It was a reminder of how very different the country colonised by our forefathers is to the country that colonised it. There are so many great stories coming out of Australia and it’s time we paid them more attention.

Patsy Trench is an author and theatre-lover who blogs at London Theatre Visits. 

Paula: Our joint event on Saturday, 31 May features an excerpt from a new play of yours, All Our Sons. Would you talk about the genesis of this project?

Witi: In the middle of writing my memoir last year I decided to mix things up by writing All Our Sons about Māori soldiers in the First World War. It had originally been conceived as a novel, then as a film, but when a theatre company in Wellington asked me if I had an idea for a play, I rethought it for the theatre. This happens a lot in my work; it starts out being one thing and ends up being another.

Paula: Why a play rather than a novel?

Witi: I like to mix things up. Writing a novel or a memoir is so solitary and I get bored with my own company, whereas when you write a piece of theatre or film – or opera for that matter – there are other people to play with. So the interest in reconceiving All Our Sons as a theatre piece was like the heavens opened, as I like to have something collaborative on the go at the same time as something I am writing, and theatre people know how to party.

Paula: How much research did you do – and where?

Witi: Actually, I am an opportunistic writer and had planned to write the original World War I novel three years ago when it would have been published in time for the centennial commemorations, but I missed that window. I had amassed a fairly decent library of first-hand diaries and other written accounts of New Zealand soldier experiences at Gallipoli and on the Western Front and made personal site reconnaissance during visits to Europe. The central narrative is based on the true story of a Māori father who took his two sons with him.

Paula: What’s special about this event in London with Ngāti Rānana?

Witi: This will be the first time any version of All Our Sons will have been performed and although it is a rehearsed reading without the bells and whistles of a production I am grateful for Ngāti Rānana for agreeing to present it.

Paula: Tell us about some of the other things you’re up to at the moment: you always have lots of things going on.

Witi: Yes, well, maybe I’m mixing too much up this year. I’ve just helped to launch the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) New Zealand’s “Save The Maui Dolphin” campaign as there are only 55 dolphins left. As far as travel is concerned, two weeks after London I go to Oslo to give a speech on the Pacific Ocean at the Thor Heyerdahl museum. In October I think we start pre-production of the film, The Patriarch, which Lee Tamahori will be directing around March 2015 in New Zealand. Meantime I am within striking distance of finishing the memoir . . .

The Ghosts Among Us with Paula Morris and Witi Ihimaera is on Saturday May 31st at 1pm. For information and tickets click here.

By Emma Perry

1. You know they all proudly belong to the oldest living culture right? These guys are a passionate, focused bunch.

Dr Anita Heiss

2. Fabulous sense of humour and a great speaker. If you haven’t yet watched her TEDx talk, it’s a must see.

3. Social commentator, poet, writer and chocolate lover. Her incredible work has been nationally recognised, with Heiss a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards and the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards.

Bruce Pascoe

4. Pascoe has penned over 27 novels.

5. His latest publication, Dark Emu, argues against the ‘Hunter Gatherer’tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. With plenty of compelling evidence it has the potential to change the way history is taught in schools.

Ali Cobby Eckermann

6. Eckermann has established an Aboriginal writer’s retreat in Koolunga, South Australia.

7. Eckermann has an amazing literary talent. Just take a look at Too Afraid To Cry. A powerful, heart-rendering memoir communicated in Ali’s uniquely strong voice.

8. Oh, and did we mention she is opening this festival!

For more information and tickets for It’s Not Black and White click here.

Emma Perry now lives in Bath, having recently said goodbye to Melbourne, Australia. She’s a freelance writer, reviewer, founder of My Book Corner and organiser of International Book Giving Day. She studied English Literature at Kent University and teaches at Primary Schools in her spare time.

Twitter @mybookcorner @epmk

By Rosemary Harris

It is with a sense of tongue-in-cheek inevitability that, as an Australian writer and performer who works substantially with children, I am finally doing a show about a kangaroo. I lived in Britain for fifteen years before I geared up to portray myself as Aussie ingénue, fresh off the plane with a bag full of stowaway animals. The baggage I tote may seem straightforward to an audience of children – affable grown-up with a bunch of culturally-definitive critters in tow – but in reality it is baggage I had long tried to avoid.

Like many expats, since making Britain my home I had tried to play down my otherness, in the face of common (mis)perceptions of what being Australian means. I remember the long, long evening in Edinburgh when a friend of a friend called Dougie spent the entire meal responding to every conversational gambit of mine with an atrocious, broad Steve Irwin accent. For the first hour I pretended to laugh. That’s right, Doug, I don’t sound like you. Four hours later he was still going, and as well as admiring his stamina I had to acknowledge the bottomless hilarity my mild Australian accent apparently induced. The accent; the animals. These were the things people thought of when I spoke.

However, when placed in front of audiences of six-year-olds, with only minutes to engage them, I found the animals offered a magnificent shortcut, as an emblematic menagerie of instant delight. Ask pretty much any British child what they know about Australia and the very first thing they say is ‘Kangaroos! You have kangaroos!’ Is there any other country on the planet of which one animal is so totemic?

I decided to embrace the marsupials in my own way, celebrating their uniqueness as a pitch for diversity and acceptance. One theatre director said, ‘you’re using soft toys to explore migration and diaspora. For 3 to 7 year olds.’ Pretty much. The irony is that embracing the cuddly clichés in one show has led me to other work which plumbs the issues of Australian/British migration and post-Colonialism more deeply. With the same producing partnership of Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, and Apples and Snakes (the UK’s leading national spoken word organisation) we have followed the Roo show with the recent tour of a new show, One Way Ticket, exploring the British Child Migrants’ scandal of the post-WWII years, to five-star reviews. The cuddly critters in Roo have opened other doors.

But when the kids meet Roo, and Emu and the others, they’re just having funky fun with animals and poetry. The other, deeper stuff quietly hops alongside it.

“Platypus seems to be made up of all different bits and pieces, but so am I. Part of me comes from one country, and part of me comes from another country. But you can’t tell that just by looking at me. All the bits fit together to make me, just like Platypus. So I come from Australia, but that’s not the whole story…”

Rosemary Harris is an Australian poet, writer and performer based in the UK. See her website for more information.

Rosemary is performing ‘A Roo in My Suitcase’ – a show for 3-7s-year-olds celebrating newness, difference and friendship through poetry, songs and plenty of joining in – at the Festival on Saturday May 31st. For more information and tickets click here.

On Saturday 31 May, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Witi Ihimaera and Bruce Pascoe will be discussing the pivotal moment in history when the British arrived and what happened over the subsequent centuries in depth in First Contact: The British Arrival in Australia & New Zealand.

By Patsy Trench

The first proper contact between Europeans and indigenous Australians was described by Captain James Cook in 1770 thus:

They may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon the earth: but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them. [They live in a Tranquillity which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition: the Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life: they covet not Magnificent Houses, Household stuff etc. They live in a warm and fine Climate and enjoy a very wholesome Air; so that they have very little need of Clothing … In short they seem’d to set not value upon anything we gave them nor would they ever part with anything of their own for any one article we could offer them this in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life and that they have no superfluities.]

Subsequent commentators have not always been so enlightened. When I lived in Australia back in the 1970s (as a £10 pom) nobody talked much about the Aboriginal people. When I visited in 2000 however more than 200,000 people took part in a Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I was in Australia in 2008 when the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made his famous apology to the Aboriginal people for the ‘stolen generation’ – an official policy that only ended in the 1970s whereby Aboriginal children were taken from their parents to be brought up in the ‘white’ way. But it was only when I began looking deeply into Australian history for a book I was writing about my own Australian family history that I came upon the ‘history wars’ and realised how much perceptions of Australia’s past change according to the government of the day.

For instance, John Howard, Liberal PM for eleven years, believed Australians should celebrate their achievements rather than chide themselves for past misdeeds. He famously and continuously refused to say sorry to the people whose land the Europeans had taken two hundred years previously. He had little truck for the ‘black armband’ version of history – a phrase coined by the historian Geoffrey Blainey to define colonial guilt.

On my more recent visits to the sunburnt country the major news focused on the economy and asylum seekers. The plight of the Aboriginal people no longer seemed to be a priority. So it will be especially interesting to hear what Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Witi Ihimaera and Bruce Pascoe have to say about this contentious topic in

FIRST CONTACT: The British Arrival in Australia & New Zealand

Saturday 31 May 10–11am


Patsy Trench is a writer, teacher and theatre tour organiser. She lives in the UK with dual British–Australian citizenship and she has been travelling regularly to Australia over the years, partly to research book one of her family history series called The Worst Country in the World. Her maternal family is descended from Mary Pitt, a widow with five children who migrated to New South Wales in 1801.

By Holly Ringland

As Angela Carter immortally explains, “the term ‘fairy tale’ is a figure of speech and we use it loosely, to describe the great mass of infinitely various narrative that was, once upon a time and still is, sometimes passed on and disseminated through the world by word of mouth – stories without known originators that can be remade again and again by every person who tells them…”

At the heart of Australia, the western desert is a place where such fairy tales, as Carter defines the term, provide the foundation of a rich and complex belief system which connects all things. These tales are still passed on by word of mouth, remade from the ancient and unchanged landscapes they have been embedded in for time immemorial.

In 2004 I moved from my coastal Queensland upbringing to live and work for four years in the Pitjantjatjara lands of the western desert. Prior to this time in my life, I – an educated, well-travelled, fifth-generation white Australian woman – had never met an Indigenous Australian.

My job with a national park involved assessing media permit requests to ensure they complied with protecting the cultural values of the land, one of the strongest being its stories. However, despite my university degree and experience, I was only competent in my position once I had learned the stories of the land – the two are interchangeable and as real as each other. It was a swift realisation: these fairy tales are not myths, nor are they only for children.

Despite having grown up with a vague sense of them as being mere fable, as unreal as dream time, I very quickly learned Indigenous Australian creation stories are fundamental Australian fairy tales, which contain essential and ageless truths at the heart of one of the oldest living populations in the world. Through these stories I was able to bridge universal issues of prejudice, racism, misunderstanding, and ignorance, at an individual level – it was grasping an understanding of them that reshaped my understanding of self and my identity as not just an Australian but global citizen.

I’ve often considered, why, as a representative of my generation, did it take moving to the desert for me to learn Australia’s first fairy tales? Why wasn’t ‘the great mass of infinitely various narrative’ from any one of the hundreds of Indigenous Australian language groups included in the curriculum during my schooling?

An elderly man in the western desert once told me that any Australian at any point in time has more than 60,000 years of stories at our fingertips. All we have to do is ask. Initiatives like the Australia NZ Festival of Literature and Arts are vital to raising such crucial questions. As does an enchanted mirror, festival event Once Upon A Time in Oz will be reflecting on the nature of Australian fairy tales. Come along and join the conversation about the magical narratives and fascinating stories which shape our Australian identity.

For tickets to Once Upon a Time In Oz click here.

Holly Ringland is an Australian writer who mostly grew up on the southeast Queensland coast – except for when her family lived on the road in the US for two years, travelling between national parks, inspiring in Holly what would become a lifelong fascination with different cultures, landscapes, and stories. In her early twenties Holly moved inland to Australia’s western desert where she spent four years working for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and living in Mutitjulu Community. She has been published in various journals and anthologies, and is now working on her creative writing PhD with Griffith University.

For more information please visit or follow @hollyringland.

Wally enlisted at the start of the war in the 11th Battalion, a Western Australian unit. He distinguished himself at the Gallipoli landing and in numerous ensuing battles at both Gallipoli and the Western Front. Initially a private, he rose through the ranks and became a captain. Widely admired and repeatedly decorated, he became the most acclaimed and popular member of the battalion.

In late 1918 Wally was notified that that he had been chosen for “1914 leave”, as some of the originals were, to return to Australia before the end of the war. He had heartfelt farewells with his mates in the 11th Battalion, journeyed to England, and prepared for the long journey home. He sent his sister a postcard, in which he briefly and casually mentioned that he was about to be married. A friend of Wally’s who later wrote the battalion history stated that Wally’s fiancee was a nurse, without identifying her in any other way.

Unexpectedly Wally was told that he had to return to France to participate in what became his battalion’s last battle. His comrades were stunned to see him, and he was given a less dangerous role with the moppers-up. However, a shell struck him, and he was killed.

In my biography of Wally Hallahan I’d like to include the fiancee — who she was, what she was like, and what happened to her after the war. The problem is that she is unknown. Wally’s only reference to her in correspondence with his family was the postcard when he said he was getting married, without identifying his fiancee at all. We don’t know her name, or whether she was from Australia, England, or somewhere else.

Wally wrote that postcard from Sutton Veny, where there was a substantial military hospital, so it’s likely that his fiancee was a nurse at that hospital. He presumably met her during his stint with a training battalion at Salisbury Plain between late 1917 and May 1918.

I’d be grateful for any information that might illuminate this intriguing puzzle and help me identify Wally’s fiancee. Does anyone recognise this story from their family’s history?”

Ross McMullin will be part of an expert panel of historians speaking at Farewell, Dear People: Forging of ANZ identity in the Great War. For more information on this Festival event click here.

 Please leave any information you may have that could assist with the search for Wally Hallahan’s missing fiancee in the comments box below.

By Jennifer Meredith

An actress during the glamorous eras of the 1930s and 40s, Perth-born Mary Ann Evans had moved to India as a child where, as the story goes, she was instructed by a fortune-teller to change her name to one beginning with the letter ‘N’. The name change was fortold to bring success in Evans’ chosen career. Evidently the fortune was correct, as Fearless Nadia went on to feature in more than fifty films, and became an icon in Bollywood theatres.

Previously a circus performer, Nadia performed all of her own stunts, including sword-fighting, tiger wrestling and her famous whip-crack, known to scare away even the most fear-inducing masked villain. As a young girl, she developed skills in horseback riding, shooting and fishing, and experienced a far from traditional upbringing following her father’s death during World War I. After refining her talents, Nadia began touring India as a theatre artist and it was not long before she caught the attention of Hindi filmmakers for her blonde hair, blue eyes and determined personality, not to mention her fantastic, death-defying performances!

On May 25 2014, the spirit of this swashbuckling Bollywood actress will be reignited in a screening of one of her most iconic pieces of cinema, Diamond Queen, in which we see Nadia shattering the dreams of a tyrannical ruler in a hilarious ‘good versus evil’ caper. To make this experience even more exciting, the film will be accompanied by a live, original score from Ben Walsh & The Orkestra of the Underground, featuring an eclectic range of twelve incredibly talented musicians from Australia and India, whose resumé includes the Sydney Opera House and the Darwin Festival.

The event, dubbed a ‘must-see’ at the 2013 Melbourne Festival, is precursory to the electrifying schedule of the Australian & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts that will take place over four days at the end of May.

Fearless Nadia: Australia’s First Female Action Hero in India is on Sunday 25 May 7.30pm & Monday 26 May 5.00pm at the Southbank Centre. For more information click here. 

By Caitlin Albery Beavan

I was introduced to Abbey Wright (director of Holiday and The Eisteddfod) by a friend who thought we would work well together. For almost a year we would get together, drink wine and discuss different projects and theatre in general.

During the run of our first play together in October 2013 – Mrs Lowry & Son by Martyn Hesford at the Trafalgar Studios – Abbey showed me two Australian plays she had found, Holiday by Raimondo Cortese and The Eisteddfod by Lally Katz. I fell in love with the writing. The plays were completely off the wall, had a great energy pouring out of them and were hugely comedic.

As Mrs Lowry Son had been very successful – nominated as the Critics’ Choice in the Times and Telegraph – we decided to go ahead with showing these plays. We wanted to find a space that matched the feeling of the plays, and decided the Bussey Building in our local area of Packham would be perfect.

The Bussey Building is an old warehouse on Rye Lane in Peckham. Although it has been home to the Royal Court’s Theatre Local for the past two years more people know it as a music venue. During the summer months it also doubles as a cinema, with films being screened on the roof. I like that when the audience come to the space to see these plays, they will also enjoy the buzz of these fun and exciting events going on around them.

It was also at the Bussey Building I first heard about the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts. At a meeting to discuss becoming part of the Programme, I met IronBark – the great champions of Australian writing in the UK. This company brings the best Australian writers to UK audiences and are producing Going Bush as part of the Festival – a series of quality short plays by Australian and New Zealand playwrights at The Bush Theatre.

IronBark opened my eyes to the prejudice we have towards Australian writing here and the importance of bringing it to the UK stage. The more Australian plays I read the more I believe we should make a concerted effort to present these works to a wider audience. I hope Holiday and The Eisteddfod, along with Going Bush, will be the first of many to be showcased to UK audiences.

These plays feel very new and fresh, and Abbey and I were overwhelmed by the reaction we received when starting to build the team to create these plays and bring them to life on stage. The actors we have cast – Andrew Buckley (Holiday), Louise Collins (The Eisteddfod) and Paul Woodson (Holiday & The Eisteddfod) – have thrown themselves into the wonderful and weird characters of the plays. The roles definitely stretch them mentally, physically and vocally!

We have now finished our fourth and final week of rehearsals and time has flown by. The set is being built, the costumes made and we are starting to run both shows fully instead of focusing on small sections of script. We moved the set in on Friday and have started to rig the lights and fill the paddling pool ahead of opening night.

We open on 14 May and would love nothing more than to see you there!

Holiday was written 7 years ago and won the Green Room Award for Best Australian writing. The Eisteddfod was written 10 years ago and won the Producer’s Choice Award at the New York International Fringe Festival. So although it seems unbelievable that it has taken these plays such a long time to make their way across the world I am so proud and thrilled to be the first to be presenting them to you. Finally.

For tickets to Holiday and The Eisteddfod follow this link to Soho Ticketing.



By John Lang

We, as New Zealanders, often protest that Australians don’t usually cut us the slack we might deserve. Yet the Brisbane-based Griffith REVIEW, a quarterly journal of essays, poetry, memoirs, fiction and imagery, has chosen to be a high profile exception by dedicating its latest quarterly issue to more than 40 New Zealand authors. As the co-editors of Pacific Highways Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones validly point out, New Zealand is too often misconstrued by outsiders thanks to its hard-to-kick stereotypes and compartmentalised complexion. As Schultz rather frankly admits, sure New Zealand may be “inch for inch” the most beautiful country in the world, but it also teems with talent, creativity, culture, commerce, diversity and potential beyond the rugby field, at times rivalling its dizzying topography. What country did she say she was from?

Pacific Highways offers more than just snapshots. Collectively, it’s an insight into where we’ve come from, what we’re doing and who’s been joining us for the ride. But like any event with more than 40 friends present, attempting to give time to all so often leads to a neglected few. So, while they all might deserve our attention, we’ve highlighted our favourites to enable ‘conversations’ to move beyond the mere pleasantries.

Setting the scene, Steve Braunias provides a people-packed microcosm of multicultural New Zealand by narrating us through a 30km stroll en route to Auckland Airport, navigated in part via ‘the great’ Great South Road. Braunias uses his meandering journey to gently remind us to remain empathetic and respectful in light of our cultural accommodations. We all live in a global village these days, even if we don’t call Auckland or London home.

For the serious minded, Bernard Beckett offers a sobering analysis of New Zealand’s educational system. As it turns out, casting a statistical eye on our children and their academic achievements produces some stark realities – namely an even darker relationship between inequality and failure than we thought.

Educational reality makes way for Rod Oram’s version of our economic future. Coupling vision with introspection Oram comes up with a prescription the late Sir Paul Callaghan, New Zealander of the Year 2011, would have applauded. Dairy is our commodity, but where is our creativity, he asks. It’s in the names of Xero and Lanzatech. Along with a call for names of similar elk, Oram idealises a future New Zealand at the vanguard of environmentally pacifying the pacific paradise we are so fortunate to be floating in the middle of.

Leilani Tamu provides insights from the perspective of an ‘afasaki’ wading through the cruel characterisations of children. A Samoan-European can find it hard to find their tribe, but when Leilani visits Samoa for the first time there are indications that it was only ever a matter of time.

Christchurch receives attention from Sally Blundell, Pamela ‘Judy’ Ross, Anne Noble and Glen Busch. Why? I wasn’t in the country when either of the earthquakes hit so first-hand accounts are necessary to scratch the surface of my empathy gap. Whether you were affected or not, the courage and optimism of the people of Christchurch is difficult to comprehend and brought to life in ‘Amending the Map’, Ross’s memoir, and Noble’s short but powerful photography collection of a ‘Christchurch Christmas’. Glen Busch speaks openly about Christchurch, photography and people who can do things – people like the man who lives on a boat and whose diesel engine skills make him ‘king’.

New Zealand literature gets its most earnest consideration from Kate De Goldi, giving special attention to “New Zealand’s most famous writer” Margaret Mahy, interspersed with commentary on the likes of Elizabeth Knox, Janet Frame and Jack Lasenby. Fiction itself is represented by intriguing stories from C.K.Stead, Emily Perkins and William Brandt.

David Burton stirs the appetite of stomach and curiosity by lacing his recipe for paua – better known out of New Zealand waters as abalone – with facts and practical nous. Burton tells us to enjoy them (when we can) but predictably, also to savour them – preferably alongside silverbeat, samphire and sea grapes.

As I’m sure many of New Zealand’s diaspora will agree with, any time is a good time to be reminded of what we’ve all got to go back to. Whether it’s soon, soonish or never, Pacific Highways’ New Zealand authors and their Australian facilitators do an excellent job of advancing decisions for those of us who aren’t quite sure when. More to the point, it provides a collective snapshot to those of us who don’t call New Zealand home, what home really is.

Co-edited by Julianne Schultz & Lloyd Jones.

Griffith Review 43: Pacific Highways will enjoy its UK launch at the Festival, with contributions from key writers in the edition including Steve Braunias, Kate de Goldi and C.K. Stead. To buy your tickets to the May 31 event click here.

By Lisa Nops

As global nomads go, I take some beating. I have seen more packing cases than I have seen changes in Parliament in my native Australia. India is my 12th destination since I started along the expatriate trail in 1987. Then it was just my husband Michael and me, and an assortment of suitcases and tennis racquets chasing our footsteps from Asia to Europe and Australia. These days our entourage includes our daughter Sally, who is 15 years old. Sally must have inherited our gypsy genes for she seems to like the adventures as much as us. She is mostly unfazed by the packing boxes and complications of foreign travel, and steers a course for all of us to follow. Her optimism is beguiling. It is what keeps me going, for sometimes, in spite of her blooming face, I have bad days. Sally has severe autism, epilsepy and other health issues. It dampens my spirit at times – but never hers. Unblinking, she’s too pre-occupied with thinking about what type of plane she might be catching to her next wonderland.

Sally must have inherited our gypsy genes for she seems to like the adventures as much as us.

People often ask me, ‘How do you move around so much with a disabled child?’ Travelling with Sally has become such an accustomed practice that I can’t imagine flying without her sitting next to me on a plane, bouncing up and down on her seat as if it was a mini-trampoline. I have also learnt to put on my pair of ‘invisible goggles’ to blanket out the expressions of the disapprovers. For the past fifteen years I have only seen the world through Sally’s eyes. The process of packing is less daunting for her, as pulling items out of half filled boxes is as good as any game, as much of an entertainment as watching the Wiggles in concert or splashing water in the shower. She inexplicably seems to deal with the changes better than any of us. For my part, while I will moan shamelessly at the prospect of facing another moving truck, I am quietly intrigued by the nuances and conventions of every shipping company – the cranky ones, the idle bosses, the unusual habits. The experience of dealing with the packing companies becomes as much of a cultural event as the very countries in which we have lived. Across the globe, the packers always arrive an hour later than scheduled, with a burst of men wearing blue dungarees clutching onto flattened boxes in one hand and butchers paper in the other. In Australia the packers who loaded up our worldly goods for our move to India worked to a tight schedule due to their high labour costs; they told me we were their third assignment for the day. Too bushed to talk, they only took one break during their long shift, lying on the sofas and helping themselves to the coffee and sandwiches which I had bought from the local bakery. In India, there was more of a feeling of joie-de-vivre among the packers who unloaded our goods four months later. During their rests, they huddled closely together in one corner of the apartment, like kittens hiding in the shadows, wary that I could be the type of Madame who barks at workmen. They then gingerly ate the curries wrapped in sheets of newspaper which we had purchased for them from the local street vendor. It is now nearly 15 months, more or less, since I left Sydney for Mumbai. Michael has been involved in a project to build an eight kilometer tunnel through a mountain in Kashmir, basing Sally and me in Mumbai. India was never going to be a dull posting. I knew this from the start when I spent six days at the Indian Consulate in Sydney sorting out our visas to live here. The immigration officer, like most Indians, smiled and nodded his head gently, but we had to wade through many layers of red tape and through many levels of authority before we could obtain the holy grail of a visa. There hasn’t been a boring moment since. India is as unexplained and provoking as any riddle. I remember the day after I arrived in Mumbai talking to a German lady at our hotel who had lived here for three years. She was in the camp of westerners who loved the country, hooked by its colour and culture; the type of returning tourist who spends weeks or months every year in Goa and Rajasthan. As I stared out onto a skyline of smog denser than oils on a canvas, I was hard pressed to perceive any clarity in our situation. ‘On every road trip in Mumbai,’ she said to me at the time, ‘you’ll discover something quite wonderful that you will never see again.’ The downside to living in Mumbai, she advised, was the accommodation, but that was secondary in her thoughts. She told me to just enjoy it all – the sight of women wearing saris dyed in the colours from the local plants, the spices from the street curries lingering in the air, and the manner in which a cow loping down a street can gridlock traffic for hours. Even the Bollywood actors stop for the cows.

India is as unexplained and provoking as any riddle.

It’s taken a while but I am now stumbling upon and enjoying the amusements in the street scenes. The quirks in Mumbai are just as captivating as the names of pubs in London or the hair styles of teenagers in Tokyo. Yesterday I saw four ladies walking in a single file on the side of the road near our apartment, wearing faded saris and each escorting a cow tethered by a rope to their wrists. Their homely goods were stored on their heads: one lady had a sizeable tricycle propped up at an angle on the tip of her cranium and another lady carried five buckets, all piled up together at an angle above her hair. It was moving day for the family. We are now moving once more – this time to England. Now that I am readying myself for another wave of packers, I am reflecting on the good days here. There have been many more of them lately. Of course I will miss my friends the most. My English neighbour living down the corridor and our driver, Raju. Sally has made many of my acquaintances, too, by leading me into her special world in Mumbai. Through her activities I have formed a bond with a group of local mums whose children have disabilities. We rub shoulders daily, smiling, stilled by our worries but generally putting up a good show. In Australia the disability landscape wasn’t much different. Whatever the nature of the disability, I made friends with the mothers of the children who attended Sally’s dancing classes or schools. In our minds we retained a sense of hope and spirit to help us through the fog of disability. It was a mixed bag of services for disability in Sydney. The highlight was Sally’s second school where under the care of her teacher, Joy, she started to improve. Joy is one of those people whose name mirrors her personality. She was like the Mary Poppins of Sydney who dropped into our lives, sprinkling a little magic here and there to families in need. Yet there just wasn’t enough of Joy or of her caring school. There never is enough in disability.

In our minds we retained a sense of hope and spirit to help us through the fog of disability.

In India, at least, I knew that we could afford to pay for more services to help with Sally’s development. It was a gamble moving here but I had come across some dynamic Indians in the past and suspected one or two could be working in special needs in Mumbai. There is a different perception of disability in India to Australia. Disability has a much more public face back home. In many suburban malls in Sydney, you will come across one or two people with significant disabilities. Sally is the only person with an intellectual impairment that I have come across at a shopping mall in Mumbai. Early on I learnt to tune out to the scrutiny of the other shoppers, staring at Sally who might be jumping up and down like a kangaroo and flapping her hands in the air. The only evidence of disability in Mumbai are the one-limbed beggars knocking on my car window for money or the massage centres that employ and train people with visual impairments. I have become an expert at smiling stubbornly back at the many, puzzled faces in the public domain who see us as more of an oddity than a herd of elephants walking across their much-hallowed cricket grounds. In this haze of different cultural interpretations of disability, I have still found this little gem of a school, resting on the second floor of an office building. We have to bypass a sleeping, furless dog on the ground floor and ignore the banging noise of builders on the first floor before we reach it. The contrast between the bedlam in the stairwell and the unruffled scene in the school mimics the imperceptible swings in Mumbai from chaos on one street corner to peace around the next one. Backpack swinging off her shoulders, Sally starts school every day at 10am and finishes at 4pm. She knows all of her teachers’ names and teaching habits, even if she can’t quite put this into her own words. Her school, SAI, is an acronym for ‘Support for Autistic Individuals’. It follows an intensive program of student engagement in individual and group work. Sally’s activities range from making puzzles on an IPAD to ball games and art work. The Principal has drawn on the techniques of a US programme called ‘Relationship Development Intervention’ which, loosely speaking, it is a blend of ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) and Sonrise principles, taking the best bits from each method. Through her immersion in this enquiry-based learning syllabus, Sally is now babbling in her own language at home and having very few tantrums. We are leaving India soon to start another chapter in England. India has touched me on many positive levels. It’s unavoidable in a nation of so many cultures, languages and vibrancy. I am affected and feel loved by the people who have reached me through Sally too. Everything will seem very grey from now on. Leaving Mumbai neither diminishes nor questions the work of her teachers and Principal here. Like Sally’s teacher in Sydney, they have helped us immeasurably. It’s just time to move on. For tickets to Writing About Autism: Kathy Lette and Lisa Nops click here.

‘All the world’s a stage’, a great writer once said, and what better place to showcase the unique and exciting talent of young Australian writers than through the medium of performance and theatre.

This year will see the UK premiere of both Holiday and The Eisteddfod, written by two of Australia’s most imaginative and dynamic playwrights, Raimondo Cortese and Lally Katz.

Directed by hotly-tipped director Abbey Wright and her company tackroom theatre in conjunction with Moya Productions, the two plays will feature a run at South London’s Bussey Building before being performed as part of the Festival programme over the weekend from 29 May – 1 June.

Wright says she was motivated by the opportunity to share two truly original works with UK audiences.

“I feel there’s a lot of very interesting writing coming out of Australia at the moment, and much of it isn’t performed here in the UK.“

Lally Katz is one of Australia’s most popular dramatists with three new plays premiering on major stages there in 2011 alone. The Eisteddfod is a fresh, poetic farce set about an agoraphobic brother and sister who create an unsettling fantasy world inside their own flat. Following its Melbourne premiere in 2004, it transferred to the New York Fringe Festival where it won the Producers’ Choice Award.

Raimondo Cortese won the Australian Leadership Award in 2010 and was described by The Age as “one of the most exciting playwrights around.” He won the Green Room award for Best Australian Writing for Holiday, a contemplative play that starts with an innocent discussion between two men and becomes an exploration of private fantasy, hidden anxiety, personal mythology and inexplicable behaviour, accompanied by baroque song.

Both plays are sure to attract strong support for UK audiences, and we can’t wait to see them performed as part of the Festival.

Holiday and The Eisteddfod will be performed at the Bussey Building from 14 May – 4 June 2014. Tickets are available through Soho Theatre ticketing. 

We continue the discussion here, with our bloggers Anna Bowden and John Forde sharing their thoughts on the event.

What did you think of the Union Chapel as a venue?

John: The building is a mixture of Victorian Gothic and Byzantine architecture, so it felt appropriately grand and dramatic for a discussion of Catton’s 19 century “novel of sensation”. The upper galleries were lit with tea-light candles, adding nicely to the Dickensian atmosphere. And the acoustics were great for the opening musical performance by two opera singers from the Kiri Te Kanawa Academy – Maori baritone Kawiti Waetford and tenor Thomas Atkins.

Anna: Yes, the opera singers sounded great and it was a fitting introduction to the evening. The operatic version of the All Blacks’ Haka –  “Ka mate! Ka mate!” – was incredible, I’ve never heard anything like it.

It was interesting to hear the perspectives of Robert Macfarlane, chair of the Man Booker Prize judging panel which awarded Eleanor Catton the prize for her novel The Luminaries, particularly when he noted his comments on his copy read ‘a book that slowly stakes its claim on you’.

Anna: I heard Eleanor speak before she was shortlisted for Man Booker, and now having heard her afterward I feel her own perspective and values continue to shine through unchanged. Even though her life has probably changed a great deal, including financially, it seems her views on wealth and worth are perhaps even more resolute than before.

When asked about how her life has changed since winning the Prize, Catton noted she still faced the same task facing all authors – to write a book that is good and that people will love.

Anna: I enjoyed the simplicity of this statement, and showed her humility and modesty in her career. She has achieved an incredible accolade, yet the core of her craft remains true. I found it generous of Catton to describe her own systematic approach to writing her novel. I have been to a number of author talks, and I feel that Catton gives a lot to readers who are also aspiring writers.

John: Catton told an interesting anecdote about modern-day hikers in New Zealand who reach the top only to be joined by the beautiful wealthy people who land in their helicopters to see the view. Her words “Effort is something you cannot buy… A view needs to be deserved” feels like as good an analogy as any for the writing process. It was also, unconsciously, a note of encouragement for her readers, to persevere with this great big book with the promise of a marvellous view at the end.

Robert Macfarlane commented on the incredible sense of place in the novel – a setting Catton described as achingly beautiful yet incredibly savage.

John: Catton’s description of the emotional quality of the West Coast is very striking. She has a great feel for the drama of the landscape, and the sense of wildness and danger of living so close to rough seas and impenetrable mountains. That sense of awe in the presence of the landscape still exists even in modern-day New Zealand: there’s a sense that nature hasn’t completely been “tamed”.

One interesting point Eleanor Catton raised was the paradoxical relationship between love and money, and particularly her contention that there can be no ‘love’ for money – what we love is instead the ability to buy things, and conversely money cannot buy love.

John: The world of 19th century goldfields that Catton describes is an almost wholly transactional place. Everything and everyone seems to be up for sale – gold, ships, clothes, manual labour, opium, sex – and the relationships between the characters are motivated mostly by what character can hope to profit from another. There’s an excitement to this world, at least as Catton describes it, as settlers’ fortunes can be made or lost in an instant. Money might not be able to buy love, but for Catton’s characters, it offers the possibility of escape, a new life, respectability and freedom. The characters seem very isolated and lonely, though, especially at the beginning. We tend to think of this version of unrestrained capitalism as being an ill of our modern age, so it’s interesting to be reminded that existential malaise is a much older problem.

In a wide-ranging discussion which covered a number of themes and ideas, including landscape/place in writing, fate and will and identity, what was a highlight?

John: New Zealand actor Kerry Fox gave an entertaining and highly theatrical reading from the novel, which brought out the humour of the characters and settings. Literary discussions and reviews can often be earnest, so it was a nice moment of levity, and a reminder that Catton’s novel is meant to be entertainment.

Anna: Too many to choose from!

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

With Aus & NZ Festival tickets now on sale, check out our list of great events just like this one here.

You can read more about the Man Booker Prize here.



After months of late-night planning sessions, cross-continental communications and more post-it notes than the stationery section of Ryman’s, we’re finally able to end the anticipation with the first wave of events for the inaugural Australia and New Zealand Festival now on sale.

Our jam-packed four-day programme of talks, music, arts and culture, running from May 29th to June 1st at Kings College, London, will offer a feast for the senses and a banquet for the brain. With an array of local and expat talent on show for UK audiences, the only difficulty will be choosing which events to attend.

Opening proceedings will be one of Australia’s most beloved and prolific writers, Tim Winton, who will be discussing his new novel and life as Australia’s most adapted writer into stage and screen with Radio 4’s Kirsty LangWiti Ihimaera, one of New Zealand’s most prominent Māori writers writing today and Ali Cobby Eckermann, an award-winning Aboriginal poet, will jointly open the festival in a special ‘welcome to country’ address.

From Helen Garner and Helen Simpson discussing memory and imagination, to Antarctic expert Meredith Hooper and YA writer Jesse Blackadder exploring the inspirational landscape of a harsh and unforgiving environment, to the UK premiere of Virtuosity, a feature documentary by award-winning choreographer and filmmaker Sue Healey about eight outstanding New Zealand dance artists as they make their mark on the world, the festival will journey to all corners of the globe being explored by Aus & NZ artists.

Themes of war, courage and the resilience of human spirit in our War & Words series sit alongside an exploration of identity, belonging and demographic change with the launch of Pacific Highways, the NZ-edition of leading Australian journal GriffithREVIEW. Film and music are represented, including a performance of a specially commissioned musical piece from Australian composer Mark Bradshaw, with star British actor Ben Whishaw reading the biblical poem The Song of Solomon. Emily Barker, the BAFTA award-winning Australian singer song writer will give an exclusive, intimate solo performance drawing on the literary connections in her lyrics.

Remember – this is just the beginning. There are still a number of big names and exciting events to come, including writing workshops, art installations and theatre productions. A second wave of events will be released on Friday 11th April, along with the release of festival day and weekend passes. As well as being amazing value there is extra incentive to sign up as a member and earn your money back straight away. Memberships start at £30 and also offer you priority seating at busy events.

Full day ticket Festival weekend pass (Fri until Sun)
Regular £45 £110
Early Bird* £35 £99
Members £30 £80

* Early bird rates apply until 1st May 2014

Note: festival passes will not include entry to our opening and closing events (Tim Winton and Song of Solomon).

Keep checking back to the website for lead-up coverage to the Festival and share your thoughts with us on social media about which events you’re most looking forward too.

For further details on events and to purchase tickets click here.

Review by John Forde.

Most first novel attempts by 20-something writers tend to follow a predictable trajectory: present-day first person narratives about fragile relationships and residual Freudian mother issues. Kudos then to 29-year old Hannah Kent, whose widely praised debut novel Burial Rites (published in 2013) takes a bold imaginative leap out of her native Australia and into the wild, sinister terrain of 19th century Iceland.

Kent spent a year as an exchange student in Sauðárkrókur, a remote fishing village in North West Iceland, where she came across the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, an itinerant workmaid who was executed in 1829 for murdering her employer. While the Danish authorities waited for the king to confirm the verdict and sentence, Agnes was sent to live with a farming family for several months to await the date of her execution.

It’s an extraordinary story, and one that Kent tells with confidence and a keen observant eye for extreme geographical and emotional states. The basic facts of Agnes’ life and death are presented via court transcripts of her conviction and execution, which bookend the narrative. Between these signposts, Kent digs deeper, bringing her complicated protagonist to life with fierce grace and compassion, for the most part resisting sentimentality.

It is clean, spare prose; fitting to describe the wintry elemental landscapes of rural Iceland. “[T]he uninhabited places are as cruel as any execution”, Agnes says, neatly describing a world essentially unchanged since medieval times. Houses are lined with dung with windows made from the stretched intestines of sheep, and the people live a desperate, hand-to-mouth agrarian existence, week-long journeys by horse or foot, minimal medical care, and depressingly high death rates. The Icelanders themselves are a brooding, taciturn bunch, suspicious of outsiders and capable of extraordinary violence, but appreciative of the need for community to ensure their survival.

Into this unwelcoming environment, simmering with Calvinist determinism and resentment over Danish occupation, Kent places Agnes, a woman without family or money who is unwelcome everywhere and profoundly isolated. “[T]here is no home,” she says, “there is only this cold island and your dark self spread thinly upon it until you take up the wind’s howl and mimic its loneliness”. Kent’s finest writing is saved for Agnes’ interior monologues, in which she dives deep into Agnes’ loneliness, her wounded pride and her contradictory feelings of guilt, defiance and terror. It’s a convincing, authentic portrait of a complex young woman who is as much a prisoner of her own mind as she is of the state.

Though it’s rich on atmosphere and subtle emotional observations, Burial Rites plays out like a thriller. Slowly and carefully, Kent loads the bases for and against Agnes’ innocence. As we watch Agnes living among a hostile community and taking refuge in her memories, we ponder, “Did she do it?” As in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (another historical novel about a young woman accused of murder), Kent drip-feeds us the “true” story slowly, taking care to show that nothing is as simple as it seems and resisting the temptation to provide a clear moral framework. As we learn of Agnes’ life – a litany of childhood neglect, death, sexual abuse and thwarted love straight out of a novel by Hardy or Dickens – we’re made to feel sympathy for her, even while we suspect that she has the perfect disposition to kill.

Despite the dramatic denouement, the novel runs out of steam a little in its final sequence. After feeling so involved with Agnes’ story, it’s a disappointment to cut back to official versions of events, and we lose much of the emotional tension Kent has worked so hard to generate. Kent’s intention seems clear – she wants us to appreciate that the truth lies in the shadows of history, not in the official records – but I wonder whether the novel might have been stronger had she dispensed with the archival material and immersed the reader fully in her own narrative.

Despite these speed wobbles, Burial Rites is a gripping read that deserves a wide international readership. (There’s already talk of a movie version – my money is on Jennifer Lawrence to play Agnes, and Holly Hunter would make a terrific Margrét – the initially distrusting farmer’s wife with whom Agnes is billeted). It’s a fine example of the riches that can be gained when a writer don’t just write what she knows, but instead goes on a journey into her imagination.

There’s also an ambition and seriousness of purpose to Burial Rites that marks it apart from the post-Sex and the City narratives of many of her peers. “Everything I said was taken from me and altered until the story wasn’t my own,” Agnes narrates. Burial Rites gives Agnes back her story, and in doing so demonstrates the power of fiction to open up and reclaim the lost female narratives of history. It’s an impressive achievement, and marks Kent out as a major new talent. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

Amongst a full catalogue of fantastic literary events planned for the two-day mini-festival at the famed Marylebone branch of Daunt Books, it is the ‘Bright Young Things’ event that has caught our eye.

The event will feature Evie Wyld, who spent part of her childhood on a farm in rural NSW and now runs a small independent bookshop in Peckham, as well as talented young authors Adam Foulds and Rebecca Hunt. The writers will share selections from their works followed by a conversation with literary critic Edmund Gordon.

Evie Wyld’s second novel All the Birds, Singing, has recently been longlisted for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Wyld is confirmed to attend the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts. Further details will be available on release of the full program of events on 3 April 2014.

Evie Wyld will be speaking at Daunt Books on Thursday 27 March 2014 from 12pm to 12.45pm. For more information on the Daunt Books Spring Festival see the Daunt Books website. 

Evie Wyld, Hannah Kent, and Eleanor Catton are among the 20 outstanding women longlisted for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Previously known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, the award honours works which demonstrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s fiction. This year it features an international cast of writers from the United States, Ireland, Canada, Nigeria, Britain, and of course, Australia and New Zealand.

The Antipodes also feature in the works themselves, with Evie Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing set both in Australia and on a remote English island, and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries depicting life in the New Zealand goldfields. Debut Australian author Hannah Kent in contrast uses the formidable landscape of northern Iceland as the setting for her novel Burial Rites.

The judging panel, consisting of Chair Helen Fraser, former managing director of Penguin Books, classicist Mary Beard, writer Denise Mina and journalists Caitlin Moran and Sophie Raworth, commended the quality of entrants in this year’s prize.

“This is a fantastic selection of books of the highest quality – intensely readable, gripping, intelligent and surprising – that you would want to press on your friends, and the judges have been doing just that,” said Fraser.

Six finalists will be announced on 7 April, and the winner of the prize will be revealed on 4 June.

Don’t miss Eleanor Catton and Evie Wyld speak in person at the Festival

In an exclusive London event on Thursday 3 April Eleanor Catton will be joined in conversation by Robert Macfarlane, Chair of the Man Booker Prize judges at Islington’s Union Chapel. Find out more about this fantastic event here.

Evie Wyld, named one of Granta’s 20 best young writers in 2013, is confirmed to attend the Festival on 29 May – 1 June 2014.  Further details will be available when the full program is released on 3 April 2014.

From Malala Yousafzai’s biography I Am Malala to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, there are innumerable examples of words which inspire, excite and celebrate women. To due justice to them all would be an impossible feat.

Therefore, our bloggers have kicked things off by nominating two books important to them, which epitomise the spirit of International Women’s Day in words. We hope you might be able to add to our list.

White Beech by Germaine Greer

One of the greatest warriors for women’s rights in our age is the great Germaine Greer. Her seminal titles have inspired millions to think differently and to make headway in the ongoing battleground that is freedom and equality. From her first bestseller, The Female Eunuch in 1970, to Shakespeare’s Wife in 2007, she has stridently and brilliantly staked out half the map we now all use.

Her latest book, White Beech, is a departure of sorts, a coda, and a quiet masterpiece of its own. She charts her ten-year journey to the heart of Australia’s neglected wilderness, where she bought a property on the New South Wales, Queensland border which she has doggedly helped to regenerate with native plants and animals. It’s a story of sisterly love too, as her younger sister is a renowned botanist who explains to her and to us in clear steps the truth of this sorry tale of destruction, and what, if anything, can be done about it. The book is lyrical and precise in showing us the science, and inspiring and moving in its eloquent marvelling at nature’s ways. The love we feel and use, it says, for our fellow humans, man and woman alike, can and must be extended to the world we live in, to the mother of us all.

Daniel Sage 

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin 

For inspirational women writers, you can’t go past Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career. Published in 1901, it is written by a sixteen-year-old girl, who understands the concerns of girls in an unashamedly chauvinistic world. Franklin’s passion and determination to become a writer, at a time when failing to conform to social mores could subject a girl to judgemental psychoanalytical assessment, has inspired feminists and women writers around the world.

Born in 1879, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin published the story of Sybilla, trapped on her parents’ farm near Goulburn in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales and forced to choose between a conventional path of marriage and her plans for a ‘brilliant career’. Writing under her great-great grandfather’s name, Miles, but full of barely disguised biographical detail, her protagonist rebels against the dullness of women’s lives and what she describes as the degradation of marriage which to her is nothing short of unpaid drudgery.

Today, a major new literary prize celebrating great books by Australian women, the Stella Award, is named after this inspirational writer. Celebrating women’s contribution to Australian writing, this new legacy of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin raises the profile of women’s writing, encourages a future generation of women writers and builds awareness of the work of Australian women.

Jan Merry

For the full article by Jan Merry see Inspirational Women Writers or read Jan Merry’s book ‘Place of Many Birds’. 

What book would you nominate? Comment below.

World Book Day on 6 March 2014 is a worldwide celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading. With the main aim of World Book Day to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and readings, there are a number of events and initiatives country-wide to help spread the joy of books to all ages.

World Book Day Resource Packs and book vouchers have been send out to more than 14 million children and young people, and children are being encouraged to use the day to celebrate their favourite authors and works.

Visit the World Book Day website to find out how to access a downloadable resource pack and help encourage kids discover the joys of books and reading.

Could you be the next Eleanor Catton in the making? Is a creative idea bubbling away inside just waiting for the right forum to help it be launched into the public sphere?

Applications close next Friday 7 March for two major literary opportunities for New Zealand writers.

The Michael King Writers’ Fellowship

This $100,000 fellowship is available to established New Zealand authors of any literary genre with a significant publication record. It is offered annually for writers working on a major project which will take two years or more to complete.

The Fellowship was offered for the first time in 2003, and was renamed in recognition of the late Dr Michael King for his contribution to literature and his role in advocating for a major fellowship for New Zealand writers.

Previous recipients are Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, C.K. Stead, Rachel Barrowman, Neville Peat, Dame Fiona Kidman, Philip Simpson, Kate De Goldi, Peter Wells, Dr Peter Simpson and Fiona Farrell.

More about eligibility

More about how to apply

The University of Iowa Writers’ Residency

This residency is open to nationally recognised writers who have published at least one volume of work. Applicants at an early stage of their career, as well as more established writers, are eligible to apply. The residency is part of the University of Iowa’s International Writing programme and runs for three months, approximately August to November. A Creative New Zealand grant goes towards airfares, accommodation and living expenses for the selected writer.

Previous recipients of the residency include: Gordon McLauchlan, Vivienne Plumb, James Norcliffe, Penelope Todd, Brian Falkner, Kathy White, David Hill, Lynley Hood and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman and Craig Cliff.

More about eligibility

More about how to apply

For more information on the programme, please visit the University of Iowa’s website

Get your entries in now!

We may be closer geographically to each other than we are to the rest of the world, yet Australians and New Zealanders continue to navigate their way through rocky terrain when it comes to trans-Tasman relations. For every light-hearted rugby quip and joke about the pronunciation of the word ‘six’, there exists the possibility of unaddressed tensions and simmering competition.

It is this relationship, and the place of New Zealanders and Australians together at the ‘edge of the world’, that the Griffith Review will next address in its quarterly publication. Griffith Review 43: Pacific Highway is a collection of contributions from more than 40 New Zealander essayists, fiction writers, poets and memoirists which will explore a number of key issues, including the difficulties faced by New Zealanders living in Australia.

Covering everything from the national economy through to the national identity, the range is comprehensive and informative, to both New Zealanders and the rest of the world alike. It offers an insight into New Zealand’s position as a hub between the Pacific, Tasman and Southern oceans, and examines the exchange of people and culture, points of resistance and overlap.

Edited by Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones, the collection will be launched to the UK at our Festival, helping to offer an insight into the unique world of the Antipodes to a wider audience.

Griffith Review: Pacific Highways is available now in Australia and New Zealand. See the Festival programme for more details on the UK launch. 

Following the success of the inaugural Stella Prize in 2013, the award has returned for a second year to celebrate and recognise the extraordinary talent of Australian female writers. The Stella Prize judges have faced a difficult task in creating a longlist from more than 160 entries, and the recently announced longlist of 12 reflects a diversity of unique writing across both fiction and non-fiction works.

Chair of the Stella Prize judging panel, Kerryn Goldsworthy, said the six works of fiction and six non-fiction demonstrated the depth of talent in this year’s entries and met the formal criteria for the Stella Prize: ‘excellent, engaging and original’.

“There are five novels, a collection of short stories, plus biography, history, memoir, and several books that defy easy classification,” said Goldsworthy.

“Most of the fiction, in its different ways, ventures beyond the restrictions of what Patrick White called ‘dun-coloured realism’ into the realms of the quirky, the surreal, the dystopian or the Gothic.

“Most of the nonfiction titles focus on a particular person but range far beyond that in their implications and themes: in telling one story, they speak for many.”

Several of the longlist authors are due to make an appearance at the AusNZ festival, including debut authors Hannah Kent and Fiona McFarlane.

Hannah Kent’s novel, Burial Rites, has been creating a buzz both at home and abroad, with its story of the last woman in Iceland to be hanged in the 1800s.

The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane, explores ageing, love, dependence, fear and power, set against a backdrop of coastal Australia. It was recently launched in London by the Aus & NZ Festival in a co-hosted event with the Australian Women’s Club.

This year’s judging panel is made up of critic and writer Kerryn Goldsworthy (chair), journalist and broadcaster Annabel Crabb, author and academic Brenda Walker, bookseller Fiona Stager, and writer and lecturer Tony Birch.

The shortlist will be announced on Thursday 20 March. The winner of the 2014 Stella Prize, worth AUD$50,000, will be awarded in Sydney on Tuesday 29 April.

The Stella Prize longlist

  • Letter to George Clooney by Debra Adelaide (Picador)
  • Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey (UQP)
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador)
  • Night Games by Anna Krien (Black Inc)
  • Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP)
  • The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (Penguin)
  • Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir by Kristina Olsson (UQP)
  • The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers (NewSouth)
  • Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca (Text Publishing)
  • The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)
  • The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright (Text Publishing)
  • All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Random House)


Have you read any of the Stella Prize longlist? Tell us what you thought!

What’s better than a four-day celebration of Australian and New Zealand literature? Try 31 straight days of talking and tweeting, blogging and bragging, about the best and brightest authors both countries have to offer.

Over on the site Reading Matters, popular book blogger and Aussie expat Kim Forrester is setting aside the month of May to celebrate Australian and NZ writers. Timed to coincide with our very own wondrous festival, Forrester (aka kimbofo) will be encouraging readers to engage with ANZ literature through online reviews and discussions.

Having blogged about books since 2001, and with her favourite authors including Richard Flanagan and Kate Grenville, Forrester certainly knows her way around the Antipodean sections of the bookshop. We’re looking forward to hearing her choices, and encourage everyone to join the discussion!

Read more here at Reading Matters.

Who makes it onto your shortlist for ANZ Literature Month? Leave your comments below. 

Addict, thief and criminal, or actor, musician and activist? Stage legend and Koori elder Uncle Jack Charles shares his extraordinary autobiographical story at Barbican Centre from 11-15 February 2014.

Uncle Jack Charles is an Australian legend: a veteran actor, Aboriginal elder and activist, but also a former criminal and junkie. A child of Australia’s Stolen Generation, he was taken from his family as an infant and brought up in a boys’ home. In this powerful one-man show, he tells his extraordinary true story in words and song, accompanied by a three-piece band.

Brought to the UK by the Melbourne-based Ilbijerri Theatre Company (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Theatre Cooperative) this unique show spans Charles career as one of the first Aboriginal actors and innovators to cross over to mainstream Australian cinema and stage and a lifetime of political activism. Charles uncompromisingly explores his descent into drug addiction and crime in a tale that is both entertaining and full of unswerving optimism.

Jack Charles v The Crown is on at Barbican’s The Pit from 11 – 15 February 2014. The 13 February show is a BSL-interpreted performance, and ticket-holders will also be treated to a special post-show talk.

On 15 February there is a screening of the award-winning 2008 film about the life of Jack Charles, Bastardy. Filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson followed Jack over seven years – gradually blurring the line between director and accomplice as Charles continually traversed the criminal and acting worlds.

This event is a remarkable opportunity to witness the colourful and uncompromising life of a roguish Australian treasure, in his own words.

For more information and tickets see

‘Steeped in decades of our history… a warm-hearted, very entertaining evening.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘An inspiring journey of resilience and reconnection’ The Age

Catch a preview here:

By Samantha Cox

The sounds of the waves and burnt warmth of the Australian sun came to London this week, as Australian author Fiona McFarlane launched her debut novel, The Night Guest. This hypnotic tale explores ageing, love, dependence, fear and power, set against a backdrop of coastal Australia.

At the launch, hosted by the Australian Women’s Club and the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts, McFarlane discussed the thought processes behind her novel and read a passage to the audience. The book is, she said, about many things: ageing and vulnerability; imagination, memory and nostalgia; and even the shadow of colonialism that hangs over the South Pacific.

The Night Guest tells the story of Ruth, an ageing widow whose life in a remote Australian beach house is disrupted when a carer comes to live with her. However this isn’t the only new guest. Ruth begins to hear a tiger prowling around the house, which brings back memories of a childhood spend in Fiji, long ago.

Speaking to Kim Forrester, editor of the blog Reading Matters, McFarlane explained that she deliberately avoided stereotypes when exploring the relationship between carer and cared for. Instead of “a feisty Downton Abbey old woman, or a sweet old lady” she aimed to paint a nuanced portrait which deals with “ideas of ageing, mental decline and memory”. The tiger, which Ruth hears but never sees, doesn’t just reflect her state of mind but her attempts to process the life she has lived. “Ruth’s life in Fiji was extraordinary,” McFarlane said, “but she’s lived an ordinary life since then. She wants something extraordinary at the end.”

McFarlane became interested in memory and nostalgia when writing her PhD thesis, but it wasn’t just this which influenced her work. The idea for the book came from a conversation with a friend who was researching Victorian children’s fiction, in which “exotic animals from far-flung corners of the empire” were common motifs. Eventually, the animal in Ruth’s story came to mean more than that as well. “The tiger represents terror and wonder: the two poles of human experience,” McFarlane explained.

Forrester observed that McFarlane masterfully mirrors Ruth’s own confusion in the language of The Night Guest, which doesn’t draw clear lines between what is ‘real’ and what is imagined. One audience member concurred that the novel was startlingly powerful in its depiction of old age and, in a question and answer session at the end of the book launch, those who had read it were unanimous in their praise.


We’re thrilled to announce a special collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature and Intelligent Life magazine, which sees the return of Eleanor Catton to London for an exclusive event in which Robert Macfarlane, bestselling travel writer and Chair of the Man Booker Prize judges, will interview Catton for the first time.

Last October, Catton, a 28-year-old New Zealander, became the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize. Her epic 832-page murder-mystery The Luminaries (Granta Books), is set in the New Zealand gold rush of 1866. Combining intricate plotting with compassionate wisdom about the human condition, it  has been praised as ‘dazzling, luminous, vast’, ‘carefully executed, relentlessly clever, easy to read’, and ‘breathtakingly ambitious’.

How did she do it, and what comes next? Just two of the questions Robert Macfarlane will pose in what promises to be a thought-provoking interview with with one of the most talented young novelists at work today.

The event also marks the release of the 2014 Australia and New Zealand Festival programme, with tickets on sale to the general public from April 3rd.


Event Details:

WHEN: Thursday 3rd April, 2014
TIME: From 7pm-8.30pm
PRICE: £12 / £9 concessions
WHERE: Union Chapel, London

Getting to the Event

The nearest train station, tube and overground station to the venue is Highbury & Islington station. For detailed directions to the venue click here.

Event Partners


The Economist Intelligent Life


One of Australia’s most loved novelists, the award-winning author Tim Winton, will open the Festival on 29th May 2014, it was announced at the Launch at Australia House on Monday November 25. Winton has been named a ‘Living Treasure’ by the National Trust and awarded the Centenary Medal for services to Australian society and literature.

Other artists announced at the launch, attended by 300 people, include Clive James, Anthony McCarten, Anita Heiss, CK Stead, Ed Hillyer, Emily Ballou, Emily Barker, Evie Wyld, Fay Weldon, Fiona McFarlane, Fleur Adcock, Geoffrey Robertson, Joe Ducie, John Pilger, Judy Corbalis, Julianne Schultz, Kate Forsyth, Kathy Lette, Kim Scott, Lucy Christopher, M L Stedman, Mark Dapin, Meredith Hooper, Nicholas Shakespeare, Paula Morris, Robert Dinsdale, Romy Ash, Stella Duffy, Tony Wheeler and William Shawcross.

Academy Award winning screenwriter, producer and director Jane Campion has also confirmed as a Patron of the festival, which will take place at King’s College, London from the 29th of May to the 1st of June 2014.

The Festival is proud to confirm News UK as core media partner, part of News Corp, and publisher of The Times and The Sunday Times. The Times is one of the world’s most respected newspaper titles and The Sunday Times is the UK’s number one Sunday paper.

The Festival is being supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts for the next three years, and by New Zealand’s arts funding body Creative New Zealand. The Australia Council provided seed funding to scope and develop the project, and will continue to be integral alongside Creative New Zealand funding to the Festival’s ongoing development.

“It is a very exciting initiative which will increase the visibility of Australian books in international markets. This festival will provide a great platform for our writers to connect with readers and reach new audiences around the globe.” says Jill Eddington, Director of Literature, Australia Council for the Arts.

“Creative New Zealand is delighted to be supporting the inaugural Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts with our Australian colleagues.” said Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright. “The festival will raise the profile of literature from our two countries, and give our expat communities and Londoners the opportunity to personally engage with Australasian writers, stories, food and wine.”

The Festival was launched at the Australian High Commission on Monday, 25th November by The Hon. Mike Rann, Australian High Commissioner to the UK. He was joined by New Zealand High Commissioner to the UK, Sir Lockwood Smith.

The Festival, which is produced by Amphora Arts, is in the process of establishing itself as a separate charitable company. As part of the launch announcement, the festival’s first two Trustees were announced, along with the intended formation of a new Advisory Group that brings together a dynamic combination of individuals to support the growth and success of the festival in its first year. The Festival has appointed Bill Samuel, Director of Foyles Bookshop, and Liz Calder, a co-founder of Bloomsbury Publishing (and a resident of Christchurch for many years), as Festival Trustees.

The launch couldn’t have taken place without many of the festival’s key supporters. We’d like to thank the legendary Adelaide-brewed Coopers Beer, and the family at Brown Brothers who have been making wine in Victoria for more than 120 years (with the third and fourth generations of the family going strong this is a brand that is steeped in history).

Thank you also to Skye Gyngell for lending her tremendous culinary talents. The launch was supported by the state governments of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. We’re very fortunate to have Agent-Generals who also recognise the importance of promoting the diverse cultural events happening in their different states in Australia and abroad.

The full Festival programme will be launched at a special event end-March 2014, in conjunction with the New Zealand High Commission. More details will be announced in January.

With thanks to our launch partners and supporters:

Launch supporters

There was a real buzz on the roof gardens and terrace of The Lyric, Hammersmith as the booktrade, representatives of expat organisations around the UK and the great and good members of the public gathered for the first preview event presented by the festival ahead of its formal launch. The wine flowed (courtesy of sponsor Stanley Estates) and the delicious BBQ food sizzled. A cohort of imposing Māori’s from the London-based group Ngāti Rānana opened proceedings with songs and a fearsome rendition of the Haka.

Kathy Lette welcomed all in her inimitable style (and suitably patriotic star-spangled frock), alongside Stella Duffy who took the chair for a whirlwind tour of Antipodean storytelling with readings and conversation from Courtney Collins, Hannah Kent, Craig Silvey and the recently-crowned Man Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton. Music was presented courtesy of indie-rock wordsmith Ben Fletcher, and two award-winning short films: Warwick Thornton‘s “Nana” and Taika Waititi‘s “Two Cars, One Night”.

With the food already sold out before the interval, the authors/artists mingling informally, chatting and signing their books and CDs.

“We couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions – nor writers and performers – for our opening event” said Jon Slack, director of the festival. “The expat community was out in force but there was a fantastically positive response from our British friends and colleagues as well, which plays nicely into our goal of creating a ‘global festival’. My hope is that the Literary BBQ has shown people the richness of content they can expect to see next year.”

We made a video about the BBQ here:


We took some photos too

[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157635332695982″ type=”gallery” captions=”off”]

All photos (c) Elixabete Lopez



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