The Melbourne Writers Festival will cut its duration to four days when it returns in September for the first in-person festival since the onslaught of the pandemic.
The opening night will take place on Thursday September 8th and the festival will end on September 11th. Artistic director Michaela McGuire, whose first festival was canceled last year after Melbourne’s sixth lockdown was extended beyond its scheduled start date, said she wanted to create a more vibrant festival by bringing closer all events. She also revealed that MWF’s first in-person event since the pandemic will be with acclaimed American novelist Hanya Yanagihara, author of A little lifewho will perform at the Capitol Theater on May 23 after headlining the Sydney Writers‘ Festival.
“It will be easier for festival-goers to go from event to event and really be able to indulge in the festival experience, especially after two years without a live festival,” she said.
McGuire promised a concentrated program that would feature around 250 Australian and international writers in 120 events. The festival will take place at the State Library, the Capitol and Athenaeum theaters and the Wheeler Center.
McGuire said the move was unrelated to the festival’s finances – “we’re doing well” – and didn’t say whether the change in format would be permanent. But she said it made a lot of sense: “We’ve been wanting to change the format for a while – it’s something that’s been discussed over the last four years at MWF.”
Admittedly, interstate publishers welcome the change; they have long complained about the structure of a festival that ran for 10 days over two weekends.
“Once we changed the grid and looked at how many events we could fit into which locations, we realized it would be almost the same number of events and authors we had planned for last year. anyway,” McGuire said.
She expected up to 30 international guests to appear in September: between five and 10 in person; another handful via live video link, and others who would appear in MWF Digital, the festival’s pre-recorded interviews.
There will be two days of programming for primary schools on September 1 and 2 and programming for secondary schools on September 8 and 9. The full program will be announced on July 27, with a guide published in age July 30.