Review: Perth Writers Festival – Day 3, Sunday

Unlike the day preceding, Sunday was not a day to stay indoors. With beautiful sunshine and a calming breeze the resulting temperature was nothing short of perfect for a festival.

Left, Right, Left – The March of Politics: 11:30am-12:30pm, Octogon Theatre     4.5/5

In this panel, Lee Zachariah, Thomas Frank, and Troy Bramston were joined by host Andrew Burrell in a discussion about the perils of politics. Exploring the changing political climates of America and Australia, this conversation was extremely topical and as such resonated loudly with the audience. The four panelists discussed the nature of political parties, especially how new independent parties are changing the traditional approach to policies and action within mainstream parties. They also discussed the important matter of political leaders – what attributes one needs and what our current leaders are lacking.

What was particularly admirable in this session was the way the panelists explored complex issues in a simple and accessible way. We often see political discussions transcend a layman audience’s understanding, and as such lose confidence and interest in that being discussed. This was certainly not the case here. Instead, the panelists presented a well-informed and educational debate whilst still maintaining a great sense of humour.

The People’s Party?: 2:30pm-3:30pm, The University Club Theatre     3/5

Covering  a similar topic as the mornings panel, this session had American political analyst Thomas Frank attempting to explain why the 2016 American election turned out the way it did. In particular,  he sought to explain the result in terms of the disconnect now evident between the working class ‘blue-collar’ American and the major political parties. Although a little preachy at times (Thomas himself referred to his speech as a sermon at the end) it was an informative session in all, with many references to statistics and frightening circumstances being discussed and analysed.

Closing Address – Marwa Al-Sabouni: 7:00pm-8:00pm, Octogon Theatre     4.5/5

In the closing address of the Perth Writers Festival 2017 Syrian architect Marwa Al-Sabouni discussed the role of architecture in conflicts and war. Accompanied by images of architecture from her homeland before and after the damages caused by warfare, Marwa’s speech was simultaneously enlightening and devastating. She discussed the architectural transformation that Syria has recently undergone and how those changes have drastically affected the religious, commercial, residential and natural places in the country. She also touched on the social and economic consequences of such changes.

Of key concern to her was the re-zoning and separation of certain aspects of life. Previous to the war, old parts of Syria’s cities would merge homes, mosques, churches, markets, and schools all on the same street, layered together to create a harmonic and tolerant community, for the most part accepting of any differences. Now however, Syria has been torn apart by war and those threads of an all-inclusive community have been broken along with the buildings and city layouts that they all once called home. Marwa argued that current re-building projects in Syria are failing to acknowledge the important role this sense of encompassing community plays in a society of differing cultures, multiple religions and a vast array of backgrounds. After all she stated, ‘a built environment only becomes a home through belonging and sharing‘. She described how leading architects and city planners are now categorising and separating people according to their distinctions, thus creating a complex and strained society fueled by external political pressures and internal hardships. In all, a fascinating speech that left one with much to think upon after leaving the room.

Most amusing moment of the day?

When discussing why mainstream political parties need to return to the conservative centre in Left, Right, Left, Troy Bramston and Lee Zachariah tried to sum up the pointlessness of voting for a One Nation-like Liberal party or a Greens-like Labour party, arguing that if you really agreed with their far-right or far-left policies you would simply vote One Nation or Greens instead of a ‘sort-of-like-them-party’. Eventually Lee stated:

“It’s like McDonald’s having a salad menu!”

If that didn’t make any sense… you just had to be there.

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