NT Writers Festival returns to Red Centre

The 2023 NT Writers Festival returns to Alice Springs (Mparntwe) in Arrernte Country for four days of thought-provoking discussions, immersive events and powerful performances celebrating language, culture and story shaped by place.

Held at Olive Pink Botanic Garden and a handful of other venues across Alice Springs from 1-4 June 2023, the festival brings together an exciting line-up of Territory, interstate and international artists to explore the theme of mwantye-le awaye | listen deeply.

In Arrernte, mwantye-le awaye means to listen closely, to give things attention. Deep, careful listening entails an openness or receptivity – to other people and ways of being, to other species and the land around us.

NT Writers Festival Artistic Director Rita Horanyi said this year’s theme had been developed in consultation with the 2023 Festival Advisory Committee –  Sylvia Purrurle Neale, Dani Powell, Meg Mooney and Gabriel Curtin – and Arrernte Elder, Kumalie Riley (who also translated the theme).

“The theme speaks to a whole raft of pertinent issues facing us in this moment: truth telling and the need to reckon with the country’s troubled past; the need to listen and heed the warnings of the environment in a time of climate crisis; and the challenges many of us face in taking the time to listen to ourselves and others in a world full of distraction and misinformation,” she said.

“The act of listening also reminds us of the essence of storytelling, of what we do at festivals like this – gather together to share knowledge, wisdom, truths and experience.”

A number of events at the festival explore truth telling and the need to challenge dominant narratives of the past. With around 80 artists and 40 events, storytellers from Darwin to Papunya to Canada will share their insights and knowledge.

Esteemed filmmaker Rachel Perkins appears in-conversation about her remarkable documentary series, The Australian Wars, while Wiradyuri author, Dr Anita Heiss AM, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, and Alice Springs-based author, Christopher Raja, appear on a panel on the way historical fiction can unsettle accepted narratives of the past.

Australian-born, but US-based, Geraldine Brooks also appears in-conversation about her latest historical novel, Horse. It is the first time since before the pandemic that an international author will appear at the festival in person, a development made possible thanks to a partnership with Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Another international voice joining the program is rising literary star Billy-Ray Belcourt. A poet, writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation, Belcourt joins via livestream from Vancouver and will appear on a panel and in-conversation about his debut novel, A Minor Chorus.

In another highlight, author and Uluru Statement from the Heart campaigner Thomas Mayo is joined by journalist Kerry O’Brien for a conversation about their book The Voice to Parliament Handbook.

Other highlights include: a bus tour of Mparntwe with Traditional Custodian Doris Stuart Kngwarreye; and a talk with senior Arrernte language teacher, botanist and ecologist Veronica Perrurle Dobson AM, and scientist and poet Meg Mooney, about the plants in Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

The NT Writers Festival is supported by Northern Territory Government through Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC). The full 2023 program, which also includes a children’s program, launches today, 26 April, with tickets to all events on sale online from 6pm.

NTMEC CEO Suzana Bishop said the NT Writers Festival was just one of the events NTMEC supported through the Event Funding Program, which helps support and grow the Territory’s events industry.

“The festival is an important channel through which Territorians can learn, discuss and share ideas with writers and thinkers from across the country and the world. It’s an opportunity for the next generation of writers to be inspired, and network with other creatives,” she said.