There are so many fun things to do in Perth, many of them free; from cycling the many bike tracks to walking along the river, to enjoying beautiful Kings Park, but for me one of the best things is to attend a festival. There are loads of wonderful Australian festivals and the Perth Writers Festival (actually part of the much bigger and much longer Perth Arts Festival) is no exception.
If you love books and writers and mingling with famous authors it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Perth if you’re searching for interesting things to do in Western Australia around the end of February each year – in 2018 it runs from 19th to 25th February.
As we reach a time in our lives when hopefully we have a little more time to ourselves, and a little more disposable income too perhaps, there’s nothing more pleasurable than attending a writers festival, being exposed to new ideas and being inspired by authors to buy a few books – and getting them signed! #fantime
In 2014 I was lucky to interview a heroine of mine – Robyn Davidson who wrote Tracks about her epic journey across the Australian outback with four cranky camels and a dog called Diggity. Read the interview here : Robyn Davidson. The Camel Lady
Fun Things to do in Perth for Storytellers
The setting of the Perth Writers Festival is for me supreme. It’s held on the site of the University of Western Australia where there are magnificent old buildings to wander around in a shady wooded setting, and the Swan River is just across the road. How I love Tropical Grove. What a wonderful outside lecture hall under tall palms and fig trees.
Then there are all the topics that a writers’ festival covers. Ideas to get you laughing, crying or thinking and take you out of your comfort zone.
From crime to period romance, from big ideas to global and local politics, to social issues. There’s debate, and you’ll discover things you hadn’t thought about, and you’ll laugh a lot too.
We understand the world better through storytelling and during the wonderful Writers Festival there are plenty of writers sharing their experiences of witnessing historic events, their lives and great stories.
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Interesting concepts at a Writers Festival
Contemporary issues such as the consequences of closed borders, lessons to be learnt in humanity’s darkest moments, the plight of refugees and the writing discipline itself were put under the microscope, mulled over, dissected and discussed at last year’s festival.
But the Perth Writers Festival is not all about writers, it’s about readers too. It’s always choc-a-bloc with people perhaps like you and me who love nothing more than to sit down with a good book and find out how books actually get written.
Why is this festival top of my list of fun things to do in Perth?
It’s most definitely for me one of the top fun things to do in Perth each year, and I meet up with loads of friends and literary acquaintances and often some of the writers, bloggers, and readers that I’ve met online too.
I love the variety of lectures and discussions. I adore the hallowed atmosphere of UWA. I enjoy wandering around soaking up the bookish days. I get amusement from deciding which food truck goodies I’ll imbibe between sessions. I love perusing books at the large onsite book store. I enjoy getting books signed by the authors. I love catching up with friends for lunch in the cafe to talk books, or sip a glass of wine at the end of the day sitting on the balcony overlooking the lawns.
It also opens my eyes to new books. Books which perhaps otherwise I may not hear about.
And in no particular order, I bring you 5 of what I think are fabulous literary books to get your hands on.
City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence
Big ideas writers and provocateurs like Ben Rawlence explore the global refugee crisis and activism through fiction.
Ben Rawlence is an agitator for social change. He wrote City of Thorns about a refugee camp in Northern Kenya. It’s home to half a million people.
To the charity workers it’s a humanitarian crisis, to the government it’s a nursery for terrorists and to the Western media it’s a dangerous no- go area.
But to many it’s just their home. A last resort.
Ben visitd Dadaab Refugee Camp or City of Thorns as a researcher for Human Rights Watch. Over four years he came to know many of the inabitants from new arrivals to those born and raised in the camp.
In City of Thorns he interweaves the stories of nine individuals to reveal the fascinating social structure of the camp.
Songs of a War Boy by Deng Adut
The bestselling biography of Deng Adut is on my list of books to read.
Songs of a War Boy is the inspirational story of a young man who has overcome unthinkable adversity to become a lawyer, refugee advocate and NSW Australian of the Year. Deng’s memoir is a reminder of the power of compassion and the benefit to us all when we open our doors and our hearts to those fleeing war, persecution and pain.
“Sudanese child soldier, refugee, Australian lawyer, and man of hope, Deng Adut was six years old when war came to his village in South Sudan. Taken from his mother, he was conscripted into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He was taught to use an AK-47 then sent into battle.
Shot in the back, dealing with illness and the relentless brutality of war, Deng’s future was bleak. A child soldier must kill or be killed. But, after five years, he was rescued by his brother John and smuggled into a Kenyan refugee camp. With the support of the UN and help from an Australian couple, Deng and John became the third Sudanese family resettled in Australia.
Despite physical injuries and ongoing mental trauma, Deng seized the chance he’d been given. Deng taught himself to read and, in 2005, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws at Western Sydney University.” Hachette
Deng was 2017 NSW Australian of the Year, and is now a lawyer and advocate for the disenfranchised. He’s helping refugees in Western Sydney. His story is a reminder of the power of compassion and what can happen when we open our doors and hearts to those. fleeing war, persecution and trauma.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan, by Tim Cope
Tim Cope is an Australian adventurer, author, filmmaker, trekking guide, and public speaker who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria. He has learned to speak fluent Russian and specializes in countries of the former Soviet Union.
Tim’s been living a nomadic life and has spent the best part of a decade travelling to traditional parts of Central Asia and Russia. He was recently awarded a Peace Medal from the Government of Mongolia and has a special affinity with the nomadic societies of the Steppe. He’s been sharing his latest adventures from the remote desert to high glacier capped peaks.
“Inspired by a desire to understand the nomadic way of life, Australian adventurer Tim Cope embarked on a remarkable journey: 6,000 miles on horseback across the Eurasian steppe from Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, and the Ukraine, to Hungary retracing the trail of Genghis Khan. From novice rider to travelling three years in the saddle, – accompanied by his Kazakh dog, Tigon – Tim learnt to fend off wolves and would-be horse-thieves, and grapple with the extremes of the steppe as he crossed sub-zero plateaux, the scorching deserts of Kazakhstan and the high-mountain passes of the Carpathians.” Tim Cope Journeys.
Along the way Tim was taken in by people who taught him the traditional ways and recounted their recent history: Stalin’s push for industrialisation brought calamity to the steppe and forced collectivisation that in Kazakhstan alone led to the starvation of more than a million nomads. Today Cope bears witness to how the traditional ways hang precariously in the balance in the post-Soviet world.
Five years in the making, On the Trail of Genghis Khan is Tim’s personal story of adventure, endurance –and at times tragedy-, and eventual triumph. Intelligently written, it is a narrative full of romance, history, and drama that ultimately celebrates the nomadic way of life —its freedom, its closeness to the land, its animals, and moods.
Shrill by Lindy West
Lindy West is a columnist at The Guardian, a contributor to This American Life, and a freelance writer whose work focuses on feminism, social justice, humor, and body image.
Lindy West is a very funny, outspoken woman. She’s humorous, vulnerable and charming and debunks the myth that feminists can’t be funny.
She’s a Seattle based writer, performer and activist. She’s been called ‘an essential (and hilarious) voice for women’ by Lena Dunham. She’s an outspoken writer who doesn’t hold hold back when it comes to issues of feminism, social justice and body image, her articles and tweets generate plenty of discussion and and criticism in the online sphere.
Her memoir Shrill consists of a series of essays that share her life, including her transition from quiet to feminist-out-loud, coming of age in a popular culture that is hostile to women (especially fat, funny women), and how keeping quiet is not an option for any of us.
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
I loved this book by Armando Lucas Correa and read it very quickly. It’s a literary mystery called The German Girl that spans Nazi Germany to contemporary Cuba, exploring the plight of the Jewish Germans on the ship the Saint Louis as they fled Nazi Germany.
It looks at the consequences of closed borders and reminds us of the lessons that history should teach us through humanity’s darkest moments. The Jewish Refugees on board the Saint Louis thought they were fleeing Nazi Germany and had visas for immigration into Cuba. But they were refused entry in Havana, the permits were rendered unacceptable. Most of the refugees consequently died although some gained access into other countries.
“Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in swastikas and Hannah is no longer welcome in the places she once considered home.
A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St Louis, a transatlantic liner that promises Jews safe passage to Cuba. The Rosenthals sell everything to fund visas and tickets. At first the liner feels like luxury, but as they travel the circumstances of war change, and it soon becomes their prison.
Seven decades later in New York, on her twelfth birthday Anna Rosen receives a package from Hannah, the great-aunt she never met but who raised her deceased father. Anna and her mother immediately travel to Cuba to meet this elderly relative, and for the first time Hannah tells them the untold story of her voyage on the St Louis.” Simon & Schuster
At last year’s festival Armando showed us a very moving short video of the ship being denied access in Cuba. It was heart wrenching. He contacted some of the people who survived and interviewed them, and what they had to say was humbling.
Armando’s humanity shone through in his session. He himself is a refugee and an immigrant.
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