Jacqueline Dutton Looks at the Australian Travel Writing Festival

Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Festival of Travel Writing we talked to festival director Jacqueline Dutton about the event. “The thing that is different is that this is a themed festival,” Dutton explains. “Larger festivals can be hard to navigate so there is a global trend now to have a more focussed approach. This is a more intimate type of event where you can meet people going from session to session not only other attendees but with the writers themselves.”

The program is based around three distinct themes: Dynamic India, Multicultural French Travellers and Travel on Two Wheels. As Dutton sees it “These are all topical themes for Melbourne today – from our new bike share initiative to raising awareness of intercultural issues.”

As a scholar of French language, Dutton is looking forward to the Congolese author Alain Mabanckou, because “he’s got such a fresh new voice - he’s already made it big in France and will take the English speaking world by storm.” She’s also anticipating Riding Around the World featuring two cycling travellers. “They’ve done incredible rides around the world in conditions you wouldn’t want to witness, never mind ride a bike through.”

There’s also two free events - Travelling Poets featuring two New Caledonian poets alongside Melbourne’s own Kevin Brophy, and Travelling Desires & Vicarious Pleasures a showcase of University of Melbourne postgraduate students on the aesthetic dimensions of voyaging through texts.

But for Dutton the real treat is a talk by Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler in which he’ll introduce a little known travel pioneer, Thomas Coryate. Dutton says “I was amazed to discover that Coryate was one of the first backpackers in the early 17th century. Tony gives us both his historical background but also a personal insight into the traveller’s itinerary as he’s walked in Coryate’s footsteps and made the pilgrimage to his gravesite.”