Steve Grimwade’s Festival Favourites

Putting together a festival is a massive undertaking and new director Steve Grimwade has put together one of the biggest programs in the event’s history. But what events is the festival director looking forward to?

He’ll begin with the Opening Night: Eight Writers: Eight Ways to Be Human. “This is the perfect way to open the festival: it speaks of the breadth of what the festival has to offer and what’s at the heart of all great writing: our shared humanity.”

Some of the best events this year have come from collaboration and Meant to Be Spoken: A celebration of playwrighting is just one of many Grimwade is eagerly anticipating. “This is one of our partnered events - this time with the wonderful Tashmadada - and it promises to be one of the most exciting explorations of playwriting in some time. We have a stellar cast of local, national and overseas guests and they’ll all be reading from their own work and then having a free-for-all discussion.”

But Grimwade’s also not afraid to put on his flares with Living in the 70s, an event featuring Francis Wheen and Australian literary landmark, Frank Moorhouse. But Grimwade believes “Francis Wheen will be the ‘surprise’ package of the festival for many people. I’ve already had numerous people I respect express great joy that he’s part of this year’s festival and yet he remains lesser known to the majority. Wheen’s most recent book is Strange Days Indeed an exploration of the paranoia behind the 70s.”

Himself an editor and publisher, Grimwade brings his enthusiasm for new journals. “I’m very excited about the Launch of Asia Literary Review, a very beautiful magazine, an important magazine and a sister-publication of Granta in many respects… Given Melbourne’s pre-eminence in Australia in the realm of lit-mag publishing I hope to launch a special issue of an international magazine at each festival.”

And rounding out his top five is one of the festival’s quirkier events: Bittersweet. Grimwade explains its fusion of food and poetry: “We’ve engaged 10 different poets from across the festival program (and, indeed, from across Australia), and they are all providing us with small excerpts of poems that will be printed on to small scrolls – scrolls which resemble those little sugar sachets you get when you buy a takeaway coffee. So, with each coffee or tea you buy from Fed Square cafes and restaurants during the festival you’ll get a free poetry scroll. Poetry and coffee? What better way to celebrate writing in Melbourne?”