I want to start by thanking all of you for being part of Sydney Writers’ Festival. It’s a rare and wonderful time that brings all of us together to bask in the ideas and discussions on everything under the sun. Ben Okri has said, ‘a story is like an interval in the enchantment of living’ and I think the Festival has been a bit like that for all of us.
Over the last week there’s been so many unforgettable moments: Helen Garner and Richard Flanagan getting standing ovations; audiences transfixed by Mohsin Hamid’s address on life in the time of permawar; Helen Macdonald’s luminous closing on nature’s role in teaching us how to live; Robert Dessaix on all things Enid Blyton in the Curiosity Lecture Series; Alan Cumming getting the whole Opera House to sing It’s Saturday Night on Broadway; Omar Musa with his stunning prose poem and Richard Tognetti playing the exquisite del Gesù violin; Ali Cobby Eckerman moving people to tears in Give Me Back My Mother’s Heart; Anthony Horowitz giving a world first reading of his new James Bond novel; Ben Okri charming the entire theatre with his tales of magic and myth; the brilliant evening of feminist mischief and the night of the nerds; the conversations at the hotel bar and the many antics at the Late Night Salon. Then there was Andy Griffiths who was so very generous signing books for 7 hours for hundreds of adoring fans. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many children eager to ask a question, stampeding to get to the mics at David Walliams’s events.
It was incredibly heartening to see all ages high on writing and ideas. Throughout the Festival I was touched by the appreciation and warmth of readers for the writers. There was a lot of laughter and debate, and it was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many people from around Australia coming out to appreciate these extraordinary writers.
The Festival has also been a time for people to catch up and for writers to meet each other, to start conversations in an event and perhaps continue them in a bar – and who knows what personal and professional ramifications these connections might have.
Jemma Birrell Sydney Writers’ Festival Artistic Director May 2015