Review: Perth Writers Festival – Day 2, Saturday

If I had to describe Saturday in one word, it would be this: hot.

It reached 39 degrees C in Perth on Saturday. Admittedly, given that the University of Western Australia is situated on the banks on the Swan River and was thus relieved a little by an early afternoon breeze, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Still, it was sweltering hot for the majority of the day.

It made me feel especially sympathetic for the international guests, in particular those from the cooler climates such as England. In the first panel on Sunday morning one of the presenters referred to Saturday as the ‘heat wave of 2017’. Despite this heat however, the panelists didn’t falter in entertaining audiences with deep and insightful discussion.

Offbeat: 11:30am-12:30pm, Writers Central.     4/5

After a superb presentation of spoken word poetry, this panel dove right into a discussion of contemporary (or classic, depending on who you speak with!) issues such as race, class colonialism, and identity. Omar Musa, Ziggy, L-Fresh the Lion, and Inua Ellam all spoke about what influences their poetry as well as their desire to motivate change. They also discussed how poetry can inspire action and whether that inspiration alone was enough when you feel really strongly about an issue. Omar phrased this personal concern quite eloquently, saying that as a poet, he didn’t feel like he embodied the meaning of an activist – particularly when there were people risking their lives for the same issue.

All four artists spoke with passion and clarity throughout the session, encouraging the audience to consider what issues required more public discussion. I found their conversation on the role of language in framing and re-enforcing certain cultural approaches and viewpoints particularly fascinating. Enthralling discussion overall.

Casualties of War: 2:30pm-3:30pm, University Club Theatre.     5/5

In this panel Patrick Cockburn joined Marwa al-Sabouni in a discussion of the causes, subsequent events, and – as the title suggests – the casualties of the Syrian War. Patrick’s experience as journalist specialising in the Middle East complemented Marwa’s first-hand account of living in Syria as the war unfolded extremely well, leading to a very informative debate. The panelists discussed in length the economic and social fall-outs and influences of the conflict that has dominated headlines around the world.

What I found especially profound in their discussion was the respect that radiated between the two, despite their often differing opinion on why the war in Syria came about and was still continuing nearly 6 years later. What both of them did agree on however – and seemed to resonate as an important issue with the audience as well – was the prevailing damages caused by the pervasive nature of outside influences in the country’s internal matters.

In all, this was a fascinating panel that I could have happily continued listening to all afternoon.

Literary Detectives: 4:00pm-5:00pm, Dolphin Theatre.     4/5

In this panel, Melissa Ashley joined Kate Summerscale in discussing how one goes about researching a historical novel. Even though I was initially drawn to this panel because Julia Baird  was to be speaking and she had to pull out at the last minute due to illness, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Both Kate and Melissa’s stories on how they came to be interested in their individual topics and how they sourced information on those topics was intriguing. As someone who is attempting to research a historical project myself, I found their conversation quite inspiring.

Perhaps due to my own similar research in the topic of historical asylums, I found Kate’s input to the discussion of particular use. I was surprised to hear of the detail and length she went to in her research. I was also surprised at the wit and humour of the two panelists, this was certainly not a droll history lecture at any point!

The most profound quote of the day for me was Marwa al-Sabouni’s answer when asked if the end of the Syrian War was approaching: “Yes, because it is now turning from the business of destruction into the business of rebuilding.”

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