Welcome to Literature & Ideas 2021
A word from curator Sisonke Msimang
Planning a festival in a global pandemic seems both absurdly optimistic and vitally important. Tempered by the awful reality that coronavirus has taken an unimaginable toll around the world, we undertake the urgent task of celebrating the gift of life. As you will see in our program this year, the two need not conflict.
We are thrilled to be able to gather safely in Perth’s most iconic buildings to talk, listen and share. Perth Concert Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre will be most welcoming homes for this year’s Literature & Ideas events.
Our choice of these great performance venues is not accidental. After months living online and isolated last year, we will revel in coming together to share the conversations, laughter and camaraderie that can only happen face-to-face in inspiring surroundings. We will celebrate the best WA writers, along with interstate and international guests, in venues that will be buzzing with stories and adventurous ideas.
Thoughts of nostalgia (for a pre-pandemic past) and desire (for a virus-free future) will inform many of the discussions – along with a deep dive into the life-affirming significance of Bilya (river), the theme of the 2021 Festival.
We begin on Saturday 13 February, with A Day of Ideas – a reflective and considered program of conversations about Derbarl Yerrigan, the mighty Swan River, and its role in making our city. A series of four interconnected panels across the day, A Day of Ideas will centre on the experiences of Noongar people in the history, present and future of the place we call home.
On 20 – 21 February, we take over the glorious, freshly-restored His Majesty’s Theatre with a rich program of 30 events for Literature Weekend in the City. An array of brilliant local writers – and international and national special guests joining live by video link – will take centre stage in a series of sessions curated specially for a Perth audience.
Our Literature Weekend offers a fully theatrical experience, an invitation to step away from the small computer and phone screens to take in authors on the big stage and in the smaller, more intimate spaces of The Maj. A select number of authors from other states will join us live on the big screen – Victoria Hannan, Robbie Arnott, JP Pomare, Nardi Simpson, Laura Jean Mackay and Richard Fidler. The incomparable Julia Gillard will join us from a studio and two powerhouse international authors – Britt Bennett and Maaza Mengiste – will speak to us from New York. For those of you who thrive on the Q&A sessions of book festivals, rest assured that every session will be moderated in the flesh by a real-life Perth human who will field your questions. In a special bonus this year we’ve made it easy to buy a ticket to watch some key sessions from home if you can’t make it on the day.
In the lead-up to our weekend at the Maj, we have free events running in Joondalup and Fremantle where you can meet some of our incredible local writing talent. And we will bring the program to a joyous conclusion on Sunday 28 February with our Wild Things takeover of Perth Zoo, an incredible family day of stories, music, adventures and plenty of animal magic.