On a chilly day in Melbourne, plunger pots full of delicious coffee scented the air, enticing authors, volunteers, journalists and special guests alike in the Wheeler Centre performance space. We were gathered here together to celebrate the launch of the Melbourne Writers Festival program for 2014.
Michael Webster, MWF Chair and patron of the arts, lead the speakers, followed by Andrew Abbott, the Director of Arts Victoria, Rohan Leppert, City of Melbourne Councillor and Lisa Dempster, MWF Director / CEO.
Speeches were short, anticipating an exciting festival – a banquet – set before us, enticing us to select our dishes of choice. International and local, news-worthy and current affairs, escapism and challenging; diverse flavors cater to every taste. The program includes events for all ages, some safe and some challenging. Books will be launched. Tours and investigative events use social media to explore the city, enticing the more active. Free events cater to the financially challenged. Industry events include master classes, seminars and more for professional development.
The 2014 MWF program is available in electronic (PDF) format and on MWF’s website.
MWF’s website has menu options to help you delve into their spectacular program scheduled from 21 August until 31 August 2014:
- Connect & Explore
- World Literature
- Local Luminaries
- The Agenda
- Art, Design & Innovation
- Food, Wine & Travel
- Music & Performance
- Children & Families
- Industry Insights
Some of the events piquing my interest feature Space Oddity Commander Chris Hadfield, controversial authors Salman Rushdie and Helen Garner, Queer literary events, Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) and steampunk author Michael Pryor. There are so many more enticing events, I’m almost overwhelmed.
At the close of the launch, people chatted, enjoying the morning tea laid out; Hobbits would have been relieved to see elevenses on the table. Michael Pryor was among the attendees at this program launch but, sadly, not in his steampunk costume. Gradually the crowd dispersed, waiting for the opening…
Michael Webster has a long and distinguished career in publishing, communication, arts and rights management, and education, working in senior management positions in the publishing industry and in academia as a senior lecturer at RMIT University where is now an Adjunct Professor. He has also served on a range of industry and community service boards. A member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council in the 1980s, he was on the Board of Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) and was its Chair from 1999–2002. In 2000 he introduced Booktrack (now Nielsen Bookscan) and managed its successful integration into the Australian and New Zealand book trades where it revolutionised the electronic data collection and analysis of sales. A recipient of the George Robertson Award for services to the book industry, he has consulted on various aspects of publishing and communications, and also served on many industry committees. These include the Foundation Committee that led to Melbourne becoming UNESCO’s second City of Literature. (From the MWF Website.)
Andrew Abbott worked for several years in Arts Victoria before leaving for the Department of Policy and Cabinet where he held various senior positions. He moved on to a few other departments before returning to direct the DPC. In 2014 Andrew took up the position of Director of Arts Victoria. (Based on the Arts Victoria website.)
Rohan Leppert is a music teacher, composer and member of the Greens (political party), living and working in Kensington. At the City of Melbourne, Rohan is Chair of the Arts and Culture portfolio and Deputy Chair of the Finance and Governance portfolio. Rohan is a strong supporter of programs that promote community and creativity and has a commitment to involving the community in Council plans and decisions as much as possible. He has a particular passion for supporting, promoting and improving access to Melbourne’s vibrant arts scene. (Slightly modified and copied from the City of Melbourne website.)
Lisa Dempster is the Director of Melbourne Writers Festival. Prior to joining the Melbourne Writers Festival, Lisa was the Director/CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival (2010–2012), and founder of its innovative online programming arm, EWFdigital. Lisa is a professional writer and editor, with book titles including The Australian Veg Food Guide (2010), Neon Pilgrim (2009), and The Words We Found: 21 Years of Voiceworks Magazine (2009). Lisa formerly worked as a small press publisher, running indie outfit Vignette Press for five years before selling it in 2011. In 2012, Lisa curated an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, ‘Future Bookshop’, which explored how Australians will be reading, writing and publishing in the future. She also undertook an Asialink residency with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali. Lisa has been a lifelong bookworm, and has travelled widely in search of literary and other adventures. (Bio provided by MWF agent.)