Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival offers sneak peak including headliners Andrew O’Hagan, AC Grayling

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Jane Caro with Brian Brown in one of the festival's "in conversation" events last year.
Camera IconJane Caro with Brian Brown in one of the festival's "in conversation" events last year. Credit: Daniela Tommasi

Excitement is building for regional WA’s literary event supreme, with the headline talent for May’s Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival announced this week.

British luminaries Andrew O’Hagan and AC Grayling join a star-studded Australian line-up that so far includes veteran broadcaster Wendy Harmer, actor-author William McInnes and best-selling author and TV host Holly Ringland.

Festival director Sian Baker said it would be her first festival hopefully without the shadow of COVID-19 hanging over proceedings and which previously forced O’Hagan to attend as a virtual participant.

Harmer would act as the festival emcee for many of the events and Ms Baker said local audiences were thrilled to have her and McInnes along.

“They are already very excited about wondrous William because his breakfast is already booked out,” Ms Baker said.

“It’s so cool to have Wendy and she is going to host the festival too.”

The Margaret River festival, to be held May 17 to 19 between the Melbourne and Sydney writers’ festivals, also unveiled its first fundraising event this week.

Award-winning author, academic and activist Bri Lee will launch her new book The Work in conversation with Gillian O’Shaughnessy in Margaret River on April 18.

Tickets went on sale for the showcase on February 15, for just $20, with the talk followed by book signings likely to include dog-eared copies of her Ned Kelly Award-winning non-fiction memoir Eggshell Skull.

Ms Baker told the Times putting the festival schedule together started with identifying a “wish list” of talent and then working with publishing houses, agents, and often the authors themselves to check availability.

“May is literally festival season. It’s jam-packed,” she said.

Ms Baker said she was thrilled to have this year’s literary stars making their way to Margaret River, with the festival having no set theme this year apart from showcasing the region to national and international audiences.

Philosopher, prolific author and social activist Grayling was described as a “rock star of British philosophy” and will launch his latest book Who Owns the Moon? In Defence of Humanity’s Common Interests in Space during the festival.

Following on from his focus on ethics and the ancient Socratic question of how to live a good life, Grayling’s latest opus explores the many prickly dilemmas around Earth’s relationship with its moon and other planetary interests.

More down-to-earth is Scottish writer O’Hagan, whose famed novel Mayflies was expected to draw punters to events he’ll feature at throughout the festival.

While visiting Margaret River, O’Hagan will also launch his latest work Caledonian Road, described as a “brilliant state-of-the-nation novel”.

More details were still to come on the full festival program when it launches on March 22 just before tickets go on sale on March 25.

Ms Baker said a host of additional big-name Australian talent were still to come.

Signature events already confirmed included dinner with Professor Grayling at Voyager Estate on May 18 and a dinner with Ringland at Busselton’s Shelter Brewing on the same night hosted by author and TV presenter Julia Baird.

Baker said the full line-up would include a stack of intimate special events and chances for audiences to get up close to their favourite literary celebs.

This year’s festival features free events on the Friday as well as fixtures for young readers, families, and regular library-goers.

A new aspect this year will be the launch of the New Narratives program Ms Baker designed to harness WA talent.

Eight selected WA writers would lead public workshops during the festival helping budding, novice and emerging authors sharpen their skills across a range of different areas.

For more information, visit mrrwfestival.com.

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